Hometown Histories – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – Mary Park

My great grandmother Mary Park was born in 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Aside from Frankfurt, it is likely the most well-known birthplace in my family history. Her parents, Elizabeth and Robert Park came to the US in 1883. They had nine children while living in Philadelphia; seven of those children survived to adulthood.

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, and has the fifth largest population in the US. It was founded in 1682 by William Penn, and was created to serve as the capitol of Pennsylvania Colony. It currently covers an area of just over 141 and a half square miles. In 1890, the year before my great-grandmother was born the population had just passed the million mark. In 2014, it had reached 1.5 million, though at its height in 1950, it was over two million.

A panting supposedly showing William Penn and the Lenape signing a treaty
Before Europeans arrived in the area, it was the home to the Lenape (more commonly known as the Delaware) Indians. They had a meeting place which is within the boundaries of the current city that was known as Shackamaxon, from the Lenape term Sakimauchheen, meaning "to make a chief or king place." It was where the tribe crowned their sakima (their term for chief) and kitakima (clan chief). Some suggest it means "the place of eels," as it was an important summer fishing spot for the natives. Accounts say that William Penn signed a treaty with the Lenape in 1682 for the land, though no absolute proof has ever been provided. The Lenape were soon pushed out of their homelands, heading north and west as the Europeans pushed inland. Both the US and Canada have formally recognized the tribe. The tribe split into groups, and are now settled in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and southwest Ontario. New Jersey has also recognized two Lenape tribes within their boundaries, and Delaware has recognized one as well. There are other Lenape groups throughout the northeast and midwest, though they have less recognition than the others.

Philadelphia was instrumental in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the US, and served as one of the nation's capitals during the Revolutionary war. The city hosted the First Continental Congress, which was an important step in the War, and the Second Continental Congress, at which the Declaration of Independence was signed. It also hosted the Constitutional convention, which was a vital step to founding the US government as it now exists. After the war was over, it also became the fledgling country's temporary capital while Washington DC was under construction. It served as the Capital from 1790 to 1800.

The city is home to many of the US's firsts: It was the birthplace of the US Marine Corps; home to the first library, which was built in 1731; the first hospital, built in 1751; first medical school, founded in 1765; first stock exchange, built in 1790; first zoo, built in 1874; and first business school in 1881. It also boasts over eighty colleges, universities, and trade schools, including the University of Pennsylvania that claims to be the oldest university in the US. It is also home to many national historical sites relating to the founding of the United States, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, along with homes of many well-known figures such as Edgar Allan Poe and Betsy Ross.

Due to its location on the east coast, many immigrant groups came to the city, a number of whom stayed in the town, making it a major industrial center. Textiles, locomotive works, shipbuilding companies, and even the Pennsylvania Railroad were centered there. The first major immigrants were German and Irish, The boom caused by their settling in the city lead to an extension of the city area by another two square miles. Unfortunately, with immigration came a rise in nativism, which is a form of prejudice that suggests that those coming from other countries to live in a new area are less good or important as those who have lived there for a longer period of time. This was used particularly against the Irish immigrants to Philadelphia. At first, the backlash was more against the new Catholics fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, but it quickly encompassed all Irish in the Philadelphia area. The Irish and fugitive slaves were the bottom rung of Philadelphia society for many years, which lead to several riots, including the Lombard Street Riot in 1842 and the Philadelphia Nativist Riot in 1844. Today, Philadelphia has the second largest Irish American population in the US. Its Saint Patrick's Day parade is the second oldest in the country.

An engraved image of one of the riots in Philadelphia
By the time my great-great grandparents arrived in the area, this had died down a little, as more diversified groups had come to settle in the city, but the attitude did not fade for many years. When things became difficult in the early 1900s, Irish were one of the groups who were lashed out against once more. Though my family were Protestants, the fact that they were Irish meant they faced as much backlash as their Catholic neighbors. So finally, sometime in either 1910 or 1911, the family left the country and returned to Ireland, settling in Belfast.

When my great-great grandparents Robert and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Park came to Philadelphia, it was doing very well as a city. The worst of its growing pains after the Civil War had ended, and opportunities were open for all. Unfortunately, the life of an immigrant is never easy, even in an established community. Robert and Lizzie started their family soon after arriving. Unfortunately, their first two children were lost within only a few years. It took them four years to truly get their feet under them, when their son and Robert's namesake was born. The rest of their children were all born healthy, and Robert began to make good money as a carpenter in the area.

Robert & Lizzie Park and friend ca 1917
Unfortunately, by the early 1900s, things were beginning to be rocky in the US again. Robert hoped that Roosevelt becoming president would help things, but it only seemed to increase the nationalistic fervor for some, so the family left and returned to Ireland. The family chose to settle in the Belfast area, as both Robert and Lizzie had been born in Antrim, and I believe still had family in the area. However, this was a tense time in Ireland, too. Even before World War I, sentiment against the English was already bad. Between the Famine and constant pressure from the English, particularly when it came to religion, many were desperate to separate from England. Luckily, one of their girls had married and moved to Canada. The family still felt angry over how they had been treated in America, so they weren't too quick to want to return, but she assured them that Canada was nothing like the US in that respect, so they soon followed her and settled in Vancouver, BC.

Mary Park
It was there that my great-grandmother Mary met and married her husband, Bjarne. The two raised two boys there together and lived mostly happily until his death in 1950. Afterwards, she lived in the house she'd bought with her husband, moving in her sister so she would not be alone. When the two grew too old to be living on their own, her remaining son (the other had died during World War II) moved her down to Washington so she would be nearby. She was never happy about the move, though, hating to live in the country that had treated her family so badly.

Park Family History
Park Family Tree

Hometown Histories – Henningsvær, Lofoten Islands, Norway – Bjarne and Henrik Bergithon Bordewick

My great grandfather Bjarne Bordewick, was born in Henningsvær in 1888. His father, Henrik Bergithon was there born in 1862.

Henningsvær is a small fishing village off the coast of Norway in the municipality of Vågen. It is part of the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago of small islands located between the 68th and 69th parallels north of the Arctic Circle. It is located primarily on the islands of Himøya and Hellandsøya. It is 74 acres (just over a tenth of a mile) large, and in 2013, had a population of 444 people.

It is a popular tourist destination as a fishing spot, and also offers climbing and diving for other tourist activities. Most stay in cabins called Rorbu. They small houses built for fishermen. They are built on land, but overhang the water, using posts to keep them up over the tides. This allowed access to the fishermen's boats when the cabins were in use. Cabins of this sort have been numerous in the area since as far back as 1100. Now they are used largely to house the tourists who come to the area, as most fishermen live on their boats when fishing in the area.

Henningsvær is the most famous fishing village in Lofoten. In 1842 (twenty years before Henrik was born), the village was bought by squire Henrik Dreyer. At the time, the town was less than 100 homes, including almost 80 fishermen's cabins. He quickly developed the village into a center of trade and fishing. He also established an infirmary with a resident doctor, as well as a chapel and a lighthouse. He also had a great deal to do with the first telegraph line being established in the Lofoten Islands. He passed away in 1882, and an English man attempted to buy the village. The public fought the purchase, leading to a political movement which led to the Nordland County Council taking control of the village by the middle of the next year. Unfortunately, soon after, fishing began to decline in the area, and the cod run seemed to dry up, not returning until 1920. It was this change that led to my family's departure from the town, leading to a long journey that would lead them halfway around the world.

The town is referred to as the "Venice of the North." Its major industry, aside from tourism, is cod. It is the center of the world's greatest cod fishery. During the winter, the harbor is filled with fishermen and transports to take the cod to their destination. The area has been considered one of the best fishing areas for centuries. North Atlantic cod congregate nearby to spawn, which draws anglers from all over the world.

one of the Henningsvær bridges
It is connected to the rest of the islands via the Henningsvær bridges. The two bridges are called Engøysundet Bridge and Henningsvær Bridge. Engøysundet Bridge is to the north. It is 636 feet long. Henningsvær Bridge is to the south. It is 843 feet long. They were opened to traffic in 1983. They are part of a chain of bridges which connect the Lofoten Islands together. They are box girder cantilever bridges made of prestressed concrete.

Henningsvær church is located on the island of Himøya. A church was first built there in 1852, just ten years before my great-great grandfather was born. Likely the family attended services there for much of Henrik's life, at least until he and his wife moved away.

The Bordewick clan's history in the Lofoten Islands begins with Henrik Bergithon's grandfather, Johan Petter Bordewick. He lost his father in a shipwreck when he was only three, and he began doing clerical work for a man who ran a trading post in the islands when he was old enough to make his own way. He eventually became the owner of the business. He was already married with two young children at the time, but the family grew quite quickly after that.

In 1846, Johan's wife, Leonharde Linkhausen, died in childbirth complications with their eleventh child. The eldest children took over care of their siblings, but eventually their father began to look for a new wife. First his eldest son, and then his second son, my great-great-great grandfather, Hans Henrik, left his household, despite promises that they would take over the business when time came for Johan to retire. When Johan finally remarried in 1860, Hans took his family and left the town to find his own way. So it was that he and his wife Kaja (born Karen Angell) moved to Henningsvær, where all their children were born.
Henrick Bergithon, aka Henry
My great-great grandfather, Henrik Bergithon, was raised away from his grandfather's household. I do not know if they had much contact with them during his childhood, but it is obvious to me that they had at least some contact. His father's third-half-sister, Leonhard Marine was only a year older than Hans, and at some point after Johan's death, the two fell in love and married. They, too, settled in Henningsvær, where they had three sons.

Leonharde, aka Harde
However, soon after their youngest son was born, Henrik and his brother Eivind made plans to make more money in a poor fishing economy at the time. They decided to try to set up a direct-route fish-selling venture. Eivind would stay in Henningsvær and fish, then send the goods to Henrik in Belgium where he would sell them to the locals. So Henrik and Leonharde moved their sons away from the islands. It was the beginning of a long journey for the family.

The Bordewick boys and a cousin who traveled with the family all the way to Vancouver
They moved to Belgium, but were quickly reviled by the Belgians, though the family story as to why is a bit garbled. Either they seemed to German or too English. Either way, the plans fell through, and the family moved again. This time, they settled to live near Leonharde's younger brother, who had established himself in Hull, England. They lived across the bay from him in Grimsby for several years as the boys grew up. My great-grandfather, Bjarne, was just taking his tests to enter Cambridge when the family moved again. One of her sisters had settled in Vancouver, and so the family settled there as well. It was there they finally settled for good. Two of their three boys married there, though my great-grandfather was the only one to have children.

Bordewich family history by Pat Bordewich
Bordewick Family tree

Hometown Histories – Fjenneslev, Alsted-Flinterup and Knudstrup, Denmark – Oline Hansen and ancestors

My great-grandmother, (Julie) Oline Hansen, was born in 1886 in a small farming community a little to the southwest of the middle of Sealand called Fjenneslev. Her father's line goes back at least two generations in that area. The area is directly on the border between two areas of Denmark, Sorø and Roskilde, and is the confluence of three small towns called Alsted-Flinterup, Knudstrup, and Fjenneslev.

Fjenneslev currently has just under 800 people living there now. As stated above, it is located almost directly between Sorø and Ringsted, but it is considered part of the Sorø Municipality. It has a train station and a very famous church. Oline and her siblings attended school near the church until their confirmation, then began working to support the family. There is a second church in Alsted, where Oline and her siblings were all confirmed and where both of Oline's parents were buried.

The Fjenneslev church was built in 1130, and features a large double tower. It is one of the country's most famous churches due to the legend of how the towers were built, and the land upon which it was built. Absalon and Esbern were the sons of the couple who built the church. Legend says that the towers on the church represented the two brothers, but fact seems to suggest the boys built the towers, possibly in honor of their parents.
Fjenneslev Church
The legend goes that Asger and his wife were still building the church when he was sent to war. She was pregnant at the time, and so he asked her to build a tower if she had a boy, and a steeple if she had a girl. When he returned home from the war, he saw two towers, and that was how he knew he had twin sons. The truth is that the boys were a few years apart in age, so it is far more likely they built the towers to memorialize their parents. An ancient stone was found at the church cemetary, which was uncovered in 1830 during the demolition of a dike there. It was re-erected in the churchyard in 1910. The text reads "In memory of Asger Ryg, Absalon and Esbern's father, this stone was erected to testify where Hvide land once was." Little remains of their family land today.

The Hvide family is a very important Danish Noble family from Danish history, of which Absalon and Esbern are two of the best-known individuals. Esbern (known as Esbern Snare) was born in 1127, and Absalon was born in 1128. They were raised with the future king of Denmark, Valdemar the first. Esbern helped to fight for Valdemar's right to gain the Danish throne while Absalon was learning theology in the University of Paris. When he returned to Denmark, he too became involved in the fight to put Valdemar on the throne, and was nearly killed when King Svend (also known as Sweyn)  attempted to poison Valdemar to get rid of him. Svend was defeated in 1157, and Valdemar ascended the throne. In reward for his help, Absalon became the Bishop of Roskilde when the old Bishop died.

Oline was born on a little farm in Fjenneslev called Stubbegaard. According to the census records I have been able to find, and the stories I have passed down to me by my grandmother and great aunt, it was owned by at least three generations of her family. In the 1870 census, it shows Rasmus, her father, as the farmer, with both his first wife (he was married before he married my great-great grandmother) and his parents in residence. They are not in the 1880 census there, but are located elsewhere. And after Rasmus's death, the farm then passed on to his eldest son Herman. It is no longer owned by the family, but I like that we can trace it back at least that far.

Oline (back left) and her siblings, ca 1900 or so
Oline's life was a simple one when she was young. Likely she helped out at the farm when she was not at school, along with her siblings. However, when she was still a girl, her father grew ill and died of a respiratory illness. She was eight, according to my notes. She and her two siblings found their work load at home greatly increased. Oline soon decided she was not cut out for farming, and found a job with one of the neighboring families. The name of the man who was the head of that household was Ole Hansen, who was already heavily into the politics of the area, if not already Minister of Agriculture.

Ole Hansen
Ole Hansen was the first non-noble to act as Minister in Denmark. He was born in 1855, and died in 1928 in Copenhagen. He was the son of Hans Olsen, who had been Mayor of the area he was born in. In 1883 he started his rise in politics. He was elected to the Bringstrup Parish and from 1886 to 1891 he was the chairman. In 1895 he became a member of the Sorø County Council. He served there through 1910. In 1890, he was elected to the parliament. He was Minister of Agriculture from 1901 to 1908, when he resigned, but was elected again in 1914 and served there until his death in 1928.

Oline's father died in 1895, so she likely began to work for the family before Ole became Minister. I know that she moved with them to the outskirts of Copenhagen, as she lived in Frederiksberg for a short time before moving to America. She settled in Chicago for a few years before travelling back to Denmark to visit her family in 1916. It was on that trip that she met the man she would marry, Holger Hansen. After returning to America, the two continued to court, and in 1918, they married and settled in Cleveland together. My grandmother was born just a year later.

Oline, my grandmother, and Holger, ca 1920
The couple had a good life together, adding two more children to their family, and living in a small community of Danes in the suburbs of Cleveland, which included both friends and family. Unfortunately, their happiness did not last. In 1929, Oline grew sick, and soon died of pneumonia. Mv grandmother was only nine. I'm sad to say that the family lost track of Oline's side after that. Holger lost touch with her brother, the only family member here in the states, and her children were too small to be in touch with her family back in Denmark on their own. However, in the 1980s, my great aunt decided to reconnect to the family, and she and my grandmother and their brother were able to visit their Uncle Hans (Oline's brother) in Omaha before his death in 1989. My great aunt also went and visited the family back in Denmark soon after, and got to see the family farm and meet the remaining family in the area.

Absalon (Danish to English)
Esbern Snare (Danish to English)
Fjenneslev (Danish to English)
Fjenneslev Cemetary (Danish to English)
Fjenneslev Church (Danish to English)
Fjenneslev Church (Danish to English)
Hvide (Danish to English)
Hansen Family Tree
Ole Hansen (Danish to English)
Sweyn III of Denmark

Hometown Histories – Hindskov, Thyregod, Vejle, Denmark – Holger Skov Hansen and ancestors

I am now in the murkier parts of my ancestry. There are still a few major cities I will get to write about, but after this generation, nearly all of my ancestors came from small towns or villages. While I want to visit many of these areas I will be writing about, they are mostly small towns now, like Czudek, and therefore hard to find out information about. I will do my best, though I will probably generally be relying on history of the country in general and of the larger area to give me a view of the area. In some cases, I do not even know for certain the area is a town or not, so I will try to make it clear if I can. If you are from these areas, please do let me know if you have more specific information on family or on the history of the area. I'd love to hear about it.

My great-grandfather, Holger, was born in 1891 in a place called Hindskov near the town of Thyregod in the municipality of Vejle, Denmark. As it is such a small place, it is hard to find specifics on the area, so I will focus on the larger Thyregod area. He, his father, and his grandfather were all born in there.

Hindskov, from what I have been able to find, seems to be a small farming community just south and to the west of Thyregod. I don't believe there was anything much there aside from the farms, though now it houses a wind farm and a recycling business that recycles cardboard and plastic. The name of the town literally means "deer forest," though I have been unable to find out why it was named this.

Thyregod Church
 Thyregod is a town in South Jutland with a population of about 1400 today. It is the northernmost town in southern Denmark. The name of the town is made of two Danish words: Tyr meaning ox, and Guth, meaning God in Old Danish. In the 1800s, Thyregod was a local center of farm commerce, and even had an inn and a poorhouse. Roads led out from town in many directions, enabling farmers to bring their goods there to sell. There is a church that was built in the 1100s, which is located right in the middle of the town. By the 1300s, it was established as a village, and by 1688, there were six farms in the area. In 1888, the town got a dairy as well, in 1900 a co-op agreement between the farmers and the grocers, and in 1903 a technical school opened there.

NFS Grundtvig
One of the most important people from the town of Thyregod was a man by the name of Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig. He was confirmed in Thyregod Church. He was one of the most influential people in Danish history, giving rise to a form of nationalism in the last half of the 19th century. He also influential to the rise of the co-op movement, which made it far easier for farms to sell their produce and livestock. He was a churchman, philosopher, poet, teacher, and politician, and greatly influenced the way Denmark is even today.

My first absolute date for Thyregod for this branch of the family is in 1822, when Knud Knudsen, Holger's great-grandfather, married his wife, Ane Marie Hansdatter there. I assume they were the ones who began the farm that my great-grandfather grew up at. Ane's family has even more generations in Thyregod, going back three more generations, meaning that my family lived in that area for at least seven generations. Some of Holger's siblings' descendants still live in the greater area today.

Knud and Ane's son, Hans was born in 1824, and is the first to be listed as being born in Hindskov. Hans's son Jens Christian, my great-great grandfather, was born in 1858. They all farmed that land, though it was not a hardy existence. Jens made money doing masonry in the area, and taught his sons the skill, one of which was my great grandfather.

One of the main things to affect the family were the Schleswig wars. The wars were fought over the lower part of Jutland where it meets up with Germany. Both countries felt the territories were theirs, and eventually erupted into war not once, but twice. The first war took place from 1848 to 1852, when one of the cities in the area in question set up their own provisional government rather than adopt the Danish constitution. Denmark won that war. The second took place in 1864. It was a direct result of the first war, with Prussia and Austria invading the area after the Danish king died without an heir acceptable to Germany. By the end of the war, Denmark seceded the State of Schleswig to Germany. As an interesting side-note, the second war took place just after the creation of the Red Cross, and so this was the first war where they took part in helping those hurt by the war, as well as working as a neutral intermediary between the parties.

Hans would have been 24 at the time of the first war, and had died before the second began. I do not know if he was involved in the war, though I do not believe he was. Jens was born only six years before the second war began, so I am certain he was never involved, and as he was the eldest of his siblings, I know they were not involved either. I do believe one of their relations died in one of the wars. Despite their distance from the area actually under conflict, they were nevertheless ready to defend what they felt was their country, whatever it took.

Holger and most of his siblings before he left for America
As I stated, Jens Christian made extra money for the family by doing masonry in Thyregod, and taught the skill to at least one of his sons, my great-grandfather, Holger. In the nineteen-teens, when the train station in Thyregod was planned, they managed to get a contract to do some of the bricklaying, and this was how my great-grandfather made the money that allowed him to come to America. The station house he helped build was formally opened in 1914  and still stands today.

Thyregod Station
Holger made many visits back to see his family after coming to live in America. Most notably a trip he took in 1916, where he met a young woman travelling from Chicago to the middle of Sealand, where she had been born. Holger and Oline, the woman he eventually married, fell in love on that trip. When the boats were blockaded shortly after their arrival in Denmark, Holger travelled from Hindskov to Fjenneslev, where her family lived, and courted her. When they returned to America, the two settled in Cleveland and married, raising their family there together until her death in 1929.

Their daughters visited with their father's family a number of times while they were growing up, and even travelled to that part of Denmark when they came to Europe to help in the cleanup after World War II. They stayed very close with their father's family through their lives, and because of that, Holger's family line is one of the most well-traced lines in my family tree today.
Maggie (center) and her sister Marilyn with a cousin and several of Holger's siblings.

Hansen Family Tree
Thyregod Station (translated from Danish)

About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.