Interview with Uncle Hans

This is transcribed from a typed manuscript of a visit my grandmother and her siblings had with their mother's brother Hans Christian Hansen in 1987 shortly before his death. As I've mentioned before, after their mother died when my grandmother was nine, they lost touch with the rest of their mother's family. This was the only chance they got to talk to him in person since discovering he was still alive and living in the US.

The notes were written up and then typed by my great-aunt Marilyn, my grandmother's sister. I tried to add some visual clues to who is speaking using bolding on the names when it's Q and A, and italics when it's my aunt's explanations. Any notes I have made are between square brackets [].


The following is a transcription of my shorthand notes of both information and direct quotes of our conversations with Uncle Hans the days of April 25, 26, and 27, 1987.

Uncle Hans' maternal grandfather homesteaded in Minnesota, and Uncle Hans and a friend (of his or his mother's) went to Minnesota in July 1912 from Denmark. He stayed until 1914, when he went to Canada. My notes are confusing on the following people and relationships and I plan to try to verify various points when I visit Denmark. My notes read

"In 1912 I went to Northwood, Iowa with a friend of Mother's and then to Minnesota with a cousin. Mother's dad had homesteaded in Minnesota (grandfather and uncle of Hans). Then I went to work for my cousin. He had 2 children born here. The grandfather and uncle were dead. The uncle had one boy and one girl. Oscar Olsen was the uncle; Tina was Oscar's sister. Tina never got married. She went half cuckoo when she and her boyfriend split up. Hans worked for Oscar in Minnesota on his farm. His father had 60 acres. Grandfather had 80 acres. They had cattle on the little farm. I did general farming."

Torben: You worked with horses, didn't you?

Hans: I had a stable in Cleveland for a while out toward Berea, near the airport, across the river. I could see all the air shows. I could stand at my stable and see everything going by. I watched one fall down in the Thompson Trophy races. He got killed.

Question: Were you in World War I?

Answer: No. I was in Canada. Never got in the Army. I was in the National Guard.

We then went through Uncle Hans' photo album, and the following are comments made in the order in which pictures were discussed.

That's my wife. We lived across the street from the church. Her name was Katie.

I delivered milk in Copenhagen. (A picture of Hans driving a wagon)

Armstrong picture of a ;young woman
: That's an old flame.

Alsted picture: The preacher's house.

Colored snapshot: Ingrid and Elene. Ingrid is Hans' neice in Denmark (Fjenneslev) and Elene is Hans' stepdaughter. Hans said, "Ingrid and Poul had one child who died."

Next: Sister Marie and her husband Larsen. They had 6 children. (I believe this was a picture of the entire family). The childrens' names were Swen, Fritzoff, Ingrid, and ? ? ? Hans could not remember.

Another group picture? Perhaps of Hans' brothers and sisters. This led to a discussion of how many there were. Their names in order of birth were:
Joan or Joanne, who drowned [ed: Johanne]
Ole, who drowned when he was 16 or 18

Herman's children were Frede and Ulla. Herman died of the flu and is buried in the same churchyard as my mother [ed: I believe that this is Hans's mother that is being referred to here]. Marie had Ingrid. When Rasmus [ed: Hans' father] died, Herman was 12 years old, Marie 10, Oline about 6, Hans was 4, Joan [Johanne] was 2 and Ole 6 months old. Rasmus was about 47 when he died.

Next picture
: Oline and a cousin.

Copenhagen picture: Anna (a cousin), Marie, Larsen and their kids (Catherine?), brother Herman and his wife.

Lady in white dress: "An old flame in Denmark."

Ohio friends – mother and daughter.

Herman and wife.

Framed colored picture: Stepson's son and family.

Under Herman and wife: Family group of children and grandchildren.

"I came in from Canada in 1923 and I sneaked in the back door to surprise her (meaning his sister Oline). I didn't know she had a baby. You [ed: my grandmother] were in the buggy out on the porch with a cheese cloth over you so the snow wouldn't get on you – 98th Street and Lorain on the second floor. One night they wanted to go to the show so I had to take care of you, and after a while you started yelling and I didn't know what to do. So the lady next door, she had no kids, so she came in and settled the whole thing. She knew what to do."

"I got my American citizenship papers her in Omaha. I married only once. At 53. I didn't want to be an old dried up bachelor."

"I worked for the National Guard, and they were affiliated with a riding school; that's where I got the job. My sister didn't live very far away and that is where I went over to have dinner once a day. (This must have been in Cleveland). It was a light field artillery unit and the rain made it slippery there and the horse fell down and the street car ran over my foot, I think, but it wasn't me. No, it was that the horse fell on my foot." (This was in response to Torben's questioning of him about a bandaged foot Hans had when Torben visited him once at the riding stable.)

"I came to Omaha in 1941. I met a fellow down south and he said 'Let's go to Omaha.' 'What's in Omaha?' I said. 'I know some people there.' So I went and have been here ever since."

Christjansen: "Oline and him they were neighbors in Copenhagen. He was a little short fellow. He had 2 or 3 daughters – Alice, Ellie and ?. They lived on Frederickspere (a suburb of Copenhagen) [ed: according to one of the Danes I talk with, this would actually be spelled Fredericksburg, though it is pronounced as spelled] in Denmark. They didn't know either one of us were here. But it just happened at a dance. She was sitting there and they were talking and they mentioned the town. And 'You know that?' 'Yes!' 'Maybe we are related.' After that we visited all the time. Yes, that's them, with the mustash. Alice, Ellie … They were both bigger than him. Then we visited back and forth a lot. He was a machinist."

Margaret's family: "They believe in lots of hair. That shows us off."

"I was in Georgia, close to Miami. Some woman she had some horses and had 2 or 3 stables and she sent me there. I ended up down there and in Tallahassee."

Question: "Do you get good meals here?"

Answer: "No, it's slop."


"I came from Canada to Cleveland in 1923."

"I had lots of hats. I always got my straw hats smashed up. I showed horses. The man I worked for had show horses."

"When I had a day off from the riding school where I was working I came and helped Holger build that brick house. I did whatever I could. I worked on the grounds. After it was built, I came along and fixed the lawns. In those days I came down from Canada. I got scolded because I went downtown without a coat on. Oline said, you have a necktie and coat on to go downtown to Public Square."

"Tante Magrethe [ed: Tante means Aunt in Danish. I believe this to be Holger's mother's sister, and not someone from Oline and Hans's family.] come from New York after Oline died [ed: in 1929]. She came and stayed a week. I talked a lot to her and the nurse during the burial at home. She told me she had a dog. I said I have one. I bet you don't have one like I have. They both were dobermans! He was there in my car. I visited every day and he ran home. I guess he got tired of waiting."

Uncle Hans remembered Oline's funeral and Torben saying "Where's my Mama?" He didn't understand. We told him "Your Mama is sleeping." He didn't understand.

The following notes are from conversation during perusal of a photo album Margaret brought along:

"I remember when we went on a picnic with Oline and Holger and he fell in the water. Oline could butcher a calf. She worked for some big people one time – she was the head cook – she said she butchered a calf one time. So she butchered the fish and built a bonfire and she cooked it. It was good. I remember that."

They talked about pulling Margaret up by her ears and clipping off her nose as a game Hans used to play with her.

Wrestling picture
: "I did a little wrestling. I couldn't fight but I could wrestle (pronounced rassle)."

"I only got one had [ed: hat?] now. No necktie."

"Oline was in a suburb of Chicago. I was out there once to see her. They had a name of a park, very well known (the name of the suburb). She was cooking for a family. I remember Michigan Avenue. It was winter and cold in Michigan along the coast. We walked out there together for a walk, her and I, it was really windy and cold, raw and murky. She was very close to the lake."

"I was in Cleveland when my mother died. The second time I come here. I hadn't been here very long when she dided. I must have been around 30, 33, maybe more. I was about 35. No, I haven't been back to Denmark since 1923. I don't have anything over there any more."

"Once a week I smoke a cigar. Whenever I feel like it. I do everything now."

"When I was in Northwood, Minnesota, before I knew it I had 3 or 4 horses and a coach and a mule. They sold it to me. I don't know what I was doing. I knew a well-to-do farmer who had mules. I gave him $50. His son looked at it and his son came and looked at it and gave me $100 for it. I auctioned them off before I left."

"Oscar was my uncle's son. Never got married. No relatives there any more."


Marilyn gave Hans a booklet on the Fjenneslev Kirke, and Hans remembered it very well and said the family used that church and also a second church in Alsted. "I was x confirmed here (meaning the Fjenneslev church) and went to school next door a few yards away from the church. My parents are buried in the other church in Alsted. I was 4 when my father died at 48. My mother died while I was over here. She had 6 kids before he died."

Hans was questioned about the family home: "We had a little farm, 3 buildings (in a U shape), all red brick with a little dormer in the roof. The other ones (buildings, maybe the barns) were clay brick. We had 2 or 3 bedrooms downstairs and one for my mother. The little ones slept with her when they were tiny. One side for the cows, one side for the horses (he must have meant the barns) and one little sleeping room for the hired man, and my brother and I sometimes slept there. I remember a hired girl. She slept up in the dormer. Oline was never much of a farmer. Marie and Herman did the most work. Oline took a job. We were pretty well acquainted with the Agriculture Minister and she worked for him doing housework. She cooked, washed, whatever was needed. He also had a home in Copenhagen, and she went there to work for him there. After she worked for them for a while, she went for more money."

About school: "We went to school at the same place that you see in those two pictures, there was a school next to them. We were about 14 or 15, then we were confirmed. Some of us got confirmed at Fjenneslev and some of us were confirmed at the other church. No more school after being confirmed. Then I had go to to work at somebody else's farm."

In Cleveland: "When I was in the National Guard in the riding school I went up the street, I gave him a quarter and he spun the wheel and I won a live turkey. I took it out to her house (Oline's) and put it down in the basement, it was tied up. So the next morning she butchered it and got it ready to eat, and me and another guy came up to eat it."

Torben: Do you remember the West 25th St. market?

Hans: I shopped there. I came to one guy and I knew the owner, we were good friends, this was a little side market so he didn't miss anything. He said 'Give him a good price.'"

Question: Why did you come to the United States?

Answer: Why did Columbus come? I came with some … . . My grandfather was over here (he was over 80 years old) and my uncle. So I went with this guy, landed in New York. Went through Ellis Island. From New York I went to Northwood, Iowa by train. There were 3 or 5 others of us. We stopped in Chicago. A fellow came with me. He was kind of aggressive. We got into a bar and got a beer and he went down to the other end, he said 'Come over here,' and we got a free sandwich with the beer."

"Oline came later to the United States. I wrote letters home. She asked me to help her come over. She landed in Minnesota, then went to Iowa and stayed a few days and went back to Minnesota but didn't stay there very long, then went back to Northwood and got a job and stayed there a long time. I was working on a farm. She worked in a home in town for a while till she got a better job. Then all of a sudden, one time I visited her in Mason City, Iowa. I was on my way one time, I had a one-cycle motorcycle. It stopped and stopped, so I turned around and came back. Another time I took a train. Northwood was 20 miles from the state border of Minnesota, between Albert Lee, Minn. And Mason City, Iowa. I visited Oline in Mason City and also in Chicago."

"I think it was my mother who told me 'Eat this and it will make you big and strong and plenty lazy.' I never got big and strong but I got plenty lazy."

The following is what I can glean from the tapes:

Marilyn read to Hans the letter she received from Frede in Vetterslev. Hans acknowledged that he was Herman's son, and Ulla is his sister. Hans never visited in Vetterslev. There was discussion about "the old family home," and Hans said Ingrid would know it, exactly,
"She lived there; that's the only place she lived since she was born, I guess. It's the same home as (unintelligible), just a little ways from where she was born. That her home. It was sold."

I gave him the message from Frede about he had driven Hans to the station in 1923. "Yeah, I remember that. He was just a little bit of a runt. You know, we learned to drive when we could walk. Yeah, he took me, I remember, I tipped him a quarter. It was a horse and wagon. It was in 1923, I remember. Wasn't that when you were born? (I (Marilyn) was born in 1923.) I get mixed up. I thought you were born on Lorain. (Margaret said she was born on Lorain, in 1919.) In 1919? Ohhh, I didn't think she had two kids when I came in from Canada. You were sitting out on the porch, and the baby buggy, it was snowing, and it had a cheese cloth over it because of the snow, and I sneaked in the back door, I wanted to surprise her, and that was you."

"I stayed in Cleveland over a year and then I went home and came back in 1923."

"And when I was in the National Guard, that was on the corner of Detroit Ave. and ?, they were affiliated with a riding school (and then he tells about going to his sister Oline's once a day for a meal.) Then the story about the accident to his foot. We talked about the week Torben spent with Hans at the riding academy one summer when he was about 7 or 8 years old. Hans did not remember, but he did correct Torben's memory about where they slept – in a bedroom in a house, not over the stable. Do you remember Rose, Holger's second wife? He was asked. "Rose? Yeah. How did they come out on that. They didn't get along so well." He was surprised to learn that they "stuck it out." He remembered they had a little bar once (the one on 106th St.).

Question: When did you come to Omaha?

Answer: 1941.

The rest of the tapes either seem to be redundant with my shorthand notes or else unintelligible. Perhaps one of you can add to these preliminary notes and one of us can write up the chronology. I am sending the tapes on to Margaret with these notes.

With Love,

And that's all of it.

A fun side-note about Uncle Hanses. I have four great-great Uncle Hanses total spread out two branches of my family tree. Hans Christian above was Oline's brother, but her husband Holger had two brothers named Hans—Hans Jorgen and Hans Knudsen. And on my mother's side of the family tree, her father's father had a brother named Hans Heinrick, a name that had been passed down their family line from the first Norwegian Bordewick, Hans Heinrich.

And that's just one "generation" of my family tree…I don't think I'd want to count up how many Hanses I have throughout my tree… Especially since both Holger and Oline were Hansens before their marriage.


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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.