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