Family Tree Breakthrough!

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Sankt Peders Church, Slagelse, DenmarkYay!  After almost 8 years, I was finally able to break through a genealogical wall on my mother’s mother’s line.

I know they were from Denmark.  However, that side of the family has last names like Nielsen/Nelson and Jensen (think Smith and Jones in America). Trying to figure out which Hans Nielsen and which Maren Jensen are “mine” has been looking for a needle in a Danish haystack (country-sized).  Their own grandkids gave up on a trip to Denmark back in the ’60s to trace them as the phone book in Copenhagen had 100s of Nelsons/Nielsens/Jensens alone, and they didn’t even know if they came from that area to begin with.

All of Hans’ and Maren’s records/census data in the US I’d found to date just had “Denmark” for place of origin.  Unfortunately, when looking in Danish records, you need to know the church/parish they belonged to find any info, so with no city/parish name, there are waaaay too many records to search through randomly, church by church, hoping to get a hit and knowing it’s the right Hans Peter Nielsen or Hans Peter Nelson.  (He and his children used Nelson in Minnesota, so I haven’t even been sure which it really is, doubling the records to look through.)

Today I was cleaning up some of the extra, multiple copies of names that Ancestry adds when you use “alternate name” citations. (I’ve sent them a suggestion re: handing those, but nothing to date.)  I noticed that I had my great-great grandfather’s emigration record, but it was in Danish.  I’d only used the dates in my tree back when I found it.  But, after having looked at a lot of Danish records over the years, I was able to suddenly read a few more of the fields.  One of them said “Slagelse” near the word “Sogn.”  I knew sogn means “parish” and thought, aha!

I checked on Google, and yep, there’s a city in Denmark called Slagelse.  That finally gave me a city name – his last known residence.  I thought, maybe there’s some record in that city for the Census in 1870 or a church record in that area for him.

There were plenty of people in the 1870 census in Slagelse named Hans Nielsen, but without a birth date listed (they only put approximate age), I didn’t know if I had the right one.  Usually, you’d check by the parent names or sibling names, but that’s what I didn’t have and was looking for in the first place.  So, I decided to go through Slagelse church records next.

There were 3 churches, so I tried Sangt Mikkels first.  No luck.  Then I tried the 2nd one, Sankt Peders.  (See photo above.) BINGO!  I finally found his birth registration with his exact birth date and finally have his parents’ names!!  Yippee…  By the way, he was baptised as Hans Peder Nielsen, so yet another name.

The neat thing is, once you have a birth record in Denmark, a lot of times you can keep going back a few generations fairly easily if the family stayed in that general area.  The birth records will give you the parents’ names as well as where they were living/ from and sometimes their ages.  That way you can reduce your search to just a few church books.  I traced my father’s Danish line for about 6-7 generations that way as they remained in the Rakeby/Hjorring area for centuries.  We’ll see if Hans’ family stayed put, too.

Now the only ancestor line I don’t have that far back is Hans’ wife’s info.  I just have to find her emigration record, and hope it, too, has her origin city…  Fingers crossed.

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