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