Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

My brother and I often got the matching outfits to wear for special occasions. My mom sewed many of our clothes. We had lots of these "made to share" photos, too. Hey, at least it's in color! Now, where are the jelly beans?

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 29, 2013

Danish Census Records Rock!

Taking the genealogical trip to Denmark at first seemed daunting, but I have a fair amount of data to use in my search for Knud Rasmus Knudsen. [Danish Post #4]

Fortunately for me, and all you Danish researchers, there are lots of censuses to choose from. Lots. I haven't figured out the reasoning - and maybe there is none - but Danish censuses were recorded often! Not that I'm complaining. The Danish records span the period 1769-1930 in 22 different censuses. We have to find Knud in there somewhere.

The best database I found for records is the Danish State Archives. They have a specific site dedicated just to census records...that have been transcribed and indexed! If I haven't yet mentioned in this series how awesome Danish records are, consider this my big shout out! Go Denmark!

Visit the website at Dansk Demografisk Databases. As I mentioned previously, there is always a link to English on the page. The right side of the page gives typical user tips and special character usage. The link at the top left "What's In The Database" will show what years and locations have been transcribed.

Sally's Tip: You will need to know at minimum in what county your target person might be located. You cannot perform a search without county. Note also that if a person had three names, use all three to search. In my case, I found that "Knud Knudsen" does not deliver the same results as "Knud Rasmus Knudsen." I will touch on Danish naming in a future post.

In the census database, I tried various data entries to see what the output would be. We know Knud arrived in Chicago in 1891, so I started with the 1890 census of Aarhus. Entering "Knud Knudsen" gave me exactly zero hits. As I investigated, not all of 1890 is complete. On to 1880. This time I got two very similar results: a boy aged 12 born in Bjerager parish and a boy aged 14 born in Aarhus city. And both of their fathers were Rasmus Knudsen. Hmm, dilemma. I am pretty confident that my Knud is the older boy. We have two instances noting his birth as December 1865, making him exactly 14 for the 1880 census. On my trusty map of Denmark, I find that Bjerager is a farming community in Aarhus county, but far outside Aarhus city. I'm going with Knud #2.

Here are the results of my search:

And here is what happens when you click "Show Household":

This is very exciting! I will keep checking on older censuses and see what I can learn about this potentially ancestral family.

More in the next post...

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Dansk Nationalfest

This is one of my favorite pictures from the Knudsen family, but I have no idea who is in it!
The pennant in the upper left corner reads "Dansk Nationalfest 1911"

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Monday, March 25, 2013

Making History (and Mom Cry!)

This is a digression from my typical postings, but a little bragging is in order. My children are both top quality runners (if I do say so!) and this past weekend, my oldest, a high school senior, did his team, his family, and himself proud!

Competing in the (unofficial) Illinois Indoor State Championships for track and field, my son and his teammates won the 4 x 800m relay. Their time: 7:58.10! They finish the indoor season as the #1 Illinois relay, the only team to break 8 minutes, and the #30 fastest in the US! He came back an hour later to finish 9th individually in the 1600m in a time of 4:25 - his personal best. He has faced much adversity in his high school running career and we couldn't be more proud and thrilled for his success!

second from right in the cool socks
making a bit of his own family history

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 22, 2013

Let's Regroup Before Denmark

My family's Danish adventurer, Knud Rasmus Knudsen, left Denmark and ended up in Chicago, Illinois. So far in my investigation of Knud's Danish roots, I have some certain clues and some suspected clues. One of those is an immigration record in Denmark. But before getting too excited, let's regroup [Danish Post #3] and list the facts I have:

Gravestone in Cedar Park Cemetery with dates 1865-1927
Cook County Death Certificate with death date 18 Apr 1927

1920 Chicago, age 54, immigration 1891
1910 Chicago, age 44, immigration 1889
1900 Chicago, born Dec 1865, immigration 1890

New York Passenger lists, Ship Eider, landing 7 Jul 1891

Danish Emigration Archives, born 1865, leaving Aarhus, emigrating 22 Jun 1891

Cook County Death Certificate with birth date 9 Dec 1862
Father is Rasmus Knudsen

We have all encountered data that isn't quite a match due to poor reporting, sloppy handwriting, and even creative aging! In Knud's case, his data is extremely consistent. Before exploring records in Denmark, I want to make sure I have a good handle on the facts as gathered. I feel pretty good now, looking for Knud Rasmus Knudsen, son of Rasmus Knudsen, born in Aarhus on or about December of 1865.

Here we go!

More in the next post...

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Knud and Kristine

Kristine Karen Nielsen and Knud Rasmus Knudsen

c 1920's probably in northern Illinois

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Irish Lines

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Sláinte!

Of my eight great-grandparents, three are of full Irish ancestry.  Using my basic math skills, that makes me 3/8ths Irish.  In other words, 37.5% of my DNA is probably* green.
*No scientific sources for that fact!


from County Tyrone
oldest known ancestor is Daniel McBride, born circa 1805
his son Daniel, born circa 1840, left Ireland for Birtley, County Durham, England
he married Mary Ann McAleer in Birtley
Daniel, Mary Ann, and son Joseph arrived in Illinois in 1880

Daniel had two known siblings:
Jane (c1838-1912), married Michael McCormick in Durham
Edward (c1843-1903), married Ellen Dinnery in Durham
and two more likely siblings:
Bridget (c1831-1893), married Samuel Lee(s) in Magherafelt, Ireland
Alexander (c1835-1902), married Mary Monaghan in Durham


from unknown county in Ireland
oldest known ancestor is Joseph Kerr, born circa 1790
his son Robert, born 1829, left Ireland for Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland
his son Robert, born 1853, wife Sarah Donaldson, and baby Margaret arrived in Illinois in 1876
Robert worked in the coal mines of Braidwood, Will, Illinois


from County Westmeath
immigrant and oldest known ancestor is Thomas, born circa 1840, died 1915
arrived in Illinois as a child with unknown family members
settled in Lockport, Will, Illinois during height of I and M Canal construction
married Mary Ann McWeeney in 1865

I need help with these lines!

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 15, 2013

Danes Across the Pond

My series of posts on discovering my husband's Danish roots has taken me through Chicago on the way back to Denmark. My previous posts [Danish Post #1] [Danish Post #2] outlined the demographics and family structure of Knud Rasmus Knudsen and Kristine Karen Nielsen.

Searching passenger records gave me one entry as a very good candidate: Knud and Kristine landing in New York on 7 July 1891. They came aboard the ship Eider. Tracing the trip back to Denmark was my next step.

We all 'do' our research differently. Me? I like to jump in with two feet. I ventured over to Cyndi's List to see what Danish record types might be available online. There were lots of great choices. Go Denmark!

Sally's Helpful Been-There Tip: Do not fear that you will never understand any records because they are in Danish or written in old European script. Those are both true statements, BUT...most online Danish archives or records sites have at least a basic English counterpart. Just look for the little England/USA flag on the page for translation. No worries, I'll share my tips, too! Onward...

Let's focus on one helpful site I encountered: the Danish Emigration Archives. Seems like the logical next step! Read the Information page to learn why these records exist. In a nutshell, during the mid-1800's, farming opportunities were getting scarce, the world was changing, and the Danes left home like other Europeans. This database is actually compiled from police records. Don't worry: your ancestors weren't in trouble with the law! The police records were kept to help ensure emigrants were not being ripped off by the travel and ticket brokers. This was a way to record legitimate business transactions. And if your ancestors left Denmark, you may very well find them in these records.

Back to my family's ancestors, Knud Rasmus Knudsen and Kristine Karen Nielsen. From our US census record search, we learned Knud worked in some sort of trade (hardware, tinner) and was born about 1865, possibly in Aarhus. On the DEA site in the Databases tab (see below), I started plugging in the data and tweaking it based on the results. Using just 'knudsen, knud' resulted in 91 hits, but adding 1891 as an emigration year whittled it all the way down to six possibilities.

This screencap is the search page. Note that it is in English and gives suggestions in English as well. However, like many databases it is easier to use broad search terms rather than too many specifics. In this case, there are also transcription challenges. For example, if I use 35 as an age, I will only get exactly those results. I stick to name and year, if possible. See? Go broad with your terms!

Optional Database Fun: Enter your town into the 'Destination' without a person's name. You will be amazed at how detailed these records are! I found emigrants to all of the small towns near me. Research can be a beautiful thing!

Here is the results snip showing my most likely result:

The name, age, last residence city and destination city all match perfectly. The date of June 22 is 16 days before the landing date from the passenger list - the perfect range for a transAtlantic voyage.

But what is a blikkenslager? It is a pipe fitter! Win!

More in the next post...

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Knud in a Boat

Knud Rasmus Knudsen in a small boat

check out the flag!
(this must be the nautical version of personalized license plates!)

probably taken along the Fox River in northern Illinois
where the family was rumored to have summer property
circa early 1900's

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Danes in Chicago

When we last left the tale of the Knudsen's in Chicago...well, they had recently just arrived. Reviewing what we know, my husband's ancestors were Knud Rasmus Knudsen and Kristine Karen Nielsen of Denmark. [Danish Post #1] They came to Chicago in the early 1890's and had at least 8 children in Illinois.

Knud Knudsen was some sort of tradesman. The 1910 census of Chicago categorizes him as a tinner in his own shop. The other census records show:

  • 1900, Chicago: hardware owner, immigrated 1890
  • 1910, Chicago: tinner, own store, immigrated 1891
  • 1920, Chicago: hardware store owner, immigrated 1889

Knud died in Chicago in 1927. His death record abstract confirms most information:

"Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 05 Mar 2013), Knud R. Knudsen, 15 Apr 1927.

My next step was searching passenger lists. I couldn't find a marriage record in Cook County, Illinois, and wasn't sure if Knud and Kristine came individually, as a married couple, or with members of their own families. Maybe they met on the journey! 

Using the census data I had, I narrowed the database to search:  

Knudsen (soundex)
arriving 1891 +/-5 years

There were two potential Knudsen records in the passenger lists. The first was a man alone, no occupation listed, and no other identifying information. The second, who arrived in New York on 7 July 1891, had a wife named Karen! She was 3 years younger! And there was also a notation on the passenger list in the "Date and Cause of Death" column next to their names. Wait, what?! I tucked that one away.

Now I have pretty good details for the Knudsen's in Chicago. I have since found considerably more information, including obituaries and vital records, so have verified without a doubt that this is my husband's family. While I'm glad for the information, it isn't quite as exciting as delving into international records. The next step was learning about Danish records, and hopefully more family history. Are you ready? Let's go to Denmark!

More in the next post...

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Knudsen

I recently posted about researching a Danish family line. Here are the gravestones of Knud Rasmus Knudsen and Kristine Karen (NielsenKnudsen. They are buried in Cedar Park Cemetery, just outside Chicago in present-day Riverdale, Cook County, Illinois.

Knud R. Knudsen
1865 - 1927

Kristine K. Knudsen
1868 - 1941

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fearless Females: Sally, Meet Sally

Today's "Fearless Female" blog prompt at The Accidental Genealogist asks if there is a particular ancestor you were named for, or if you have interesting and unique female names in your tree.

My given name is Sally. It wasn't short for a name like Sarah or Sylvia. It's just plain Sally. As a kid, I didn't like it very well because it was just too unique and pretty old-fashioned. As an adult, I love it because it is unique! Thanks Mom and Dad.

If I was named after someone, it wasn't knowingly. I worked on my mom's Spencer line in Michigan when I was fortunate to live there for a few years. One afternoon, I had enough time to visit the famous (to me) Rowley Cemetery in Locke Township outside Lansing. As I drove into the u-shaped drive of the rural cemetery, it felt like a homecoming. In about three seconds, I spotted several Spencer stones. I knew my great-grandfather and his parents were buried here. I also found the next generation: my great-great-great grandparents. I sensed that he was probably the Wright Spencer I had found on some family papers, but I knew nothing of his wife. There on the white tower gravestone I saw:

wife of 
Mar. 9, 1895
75 Yrs 5 Ms & 24 Ds
1811 - 1899

That hit me like a ton of bricks and I probably did my first cemetery happy dance! Hello Sally, it is nice to meet you. From that point on, I knew my family's genealogy was my calling.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 1, 2013

Viking Blood

My family has been anxiously awaiting the new History Channel series Vikings, which premieres March 3rd. Perhaps it is because they are famously fierce warriors of long ago. Perhaps it's because my family are fans of the Minnesota Vikings football team. Most likely, it is because the men in my family really ARE Vikings. I, sadly, can only claim Viking-ness through marriage.

A considerable part of my husband's genealogical background is Danish. As much as he thinks he is a descendant of King Canute, I suspect the family came from humbler origins. He forgets you can't just skip from 2000 AD to 1000 AD to claim your ancestors.

His great-grandparents were natives of Denmark who emigrated to Chicago via New York City in 1891. When I began researching his Danish family, I had very few clues to help. I really knew nothing about Scandinavia in general or Denmark in particular. I did have one scrap of paper written in an elderly hand with two names and what I assumed were cities:

  • Knud Rasmus Knudsen   Aarhus
  • Kristine Karen Nielsen   Sjylland

These were most likely his immigrant ancestors. My first stop was a map. Sure enough, Aarhus was a large city in Denmark. What was meant by "Sjylland" was less clear. Next I checked the census. It took a lot of searching, and I mean a LOT. Try finding a foreign name with multiple spelling options and before online indices in...Chicago. I knew that some of the family members ran a hardware store. On the 1910 census of Chicago, I finally found the family.

And sure enough, there is Knud R. Knudsen working as a tinner in his own shop. This census gave me a number of good clues: date of immigration, names of children, and pretty clear confirmation they really came from Denmark.

So I had a family in Chicago:
  • Knudsen, Knud R., 42, born Denmark
  • Knudsen, Kristine K., 40, 9 children, 8 living, born Denmark
  • Knudsen, Anna E., 16, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Nils R., 15, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Frederic H., 12, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Knud J., 10, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Olivia, 7, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Kristine, 5, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Marie, 4, born Illinois
  • Knudsen, Ewald, 1 3/12, born Illinois
I have learned quite a bit more about my husband's great-aunts and great-uncles. But I really wanted to 'cross the pond' and see if I could find them in Denmark. I love a challenge!

More in the next post...

© 2013 Sally Knudsen