One of the treasures I received from my aunt after my grandmother passed this year was a huge sheaf of letters from my great aunt to her sister (my grandmother) and vice versa, along with other letters from other family members.
Every time I read one, I learn something new. So much to record. It will take me years to go through them all, but I was going through the documents this week looking for something else, and I found another letter that sheds light on my great-grandmother Oline's maternal grandfather, so I wanted to share it this week.
June 23, 1987
Dear Maggie and Sam:
We hope you are enjoying a lovely trip and visit to your Chicago family and an interesting Elderhostel experience. If the gods be with you, Chicago and the Midwest will not be sweltering in the dog days of high humidity, although lately they seem to be having a spell of it.
Maybe you know this, but Karen Fischetti will not be back in Chicago until July 18, if I remember correctly.
As for Uncle HANS, he still seems to be well and with it in spite of his age. It's really amazing that he doesn't seem to wander mentally or show any signs of such impairment. Evelyn thinks so too, according to her letter which I am enclosing. She does have her hands full with Elene and Marcel, doesn't she. Ingrid asked about Elene – she and Poul had met with her and Hans in 1973 but did not meet Marcel and Evelin. I tried to tell them that Elene is not in very good shape.
As far as I could fathom, the family in Denmark were very puzzled about the idea that Sophie's father had gone to Minnesota and had never heard of Oscar or Tina. I told them also that Hans had said Oline went to Minnesota and Northwood, Iowa, first when she came to America in 1914. Then someone came up with the story of the coffee urn that someone gave to Sophie, and they laughed about it as if it were a bit of family scandal – as if this fellow went away to America and left her "a little present." I took that to mean he left her pregnant – and I think Karen even understood it that way. The following week we all had dinner with cousin Katherine and she had the urn, polished to a fare-thee-well and displayed atop a china cupboard. In our strange way of communicating, she said something like "Farvel, Sophie, versagod," handing her the urn. Sophie said Farvel to her son Herman, and handed him the urn with Versagod. And Herman handed it to someone else when he died, and now Katherine has it.
I gave the local historian Mr. Hansen, two more jobs to do: 1) to verify Oline's birth date, and 2) to verify the business of Sophie's father homesteading in America.
What we need from Uncle Hans is more specific information about Sophie's father in Minnesota: What his name was, the location (town name) of his farm, something clearer about the relationships of Oscar and Tina both to Hans and to Sophie, and anything else you can come up with.
There seem to have been many Danes in that area of the country. Quite coincidentally, that is the area where Ingrid's husband Poul had two brothers who made their fortunes in farming. One of them, Axel Hansen, died a millionaire, but his kids have already spent all the money. Of course this was said with some disapproval. His other brother, Kai, still lives in Clinton, Iowa, but Axel and Kai had farmed in Albert Lea, Minn., and Northwood, Iowa, two names Uncle Hans had mentioned repeatedly. When Ingrid and Poul visited in 1949, everyone on the streets spoke Danish, it seemed, but that is not the case any longer.
The fact that the family in Fjenneslev do not know about Sophie's father having gone to Minnesota might simply be because they have not been very much interested in keeping tract of the family until I came along trying to trace my roots. Now they are all hot for the subject and doing their best to come up with information.
It has now come back to my memory that someone was speculating on the possibility that Sophie had been left an orphan and was "farmed out" to live with another family. It seemed possible that her father abandoned the family to go to America, make some money, and send tickets home for the family to join him and then never did. That seemed to have been the case in numerous instances in those days. I know from Tante Margrethe telling me that that was the plan when Uncle Jack preceded her to America, and everyone in Denmark told her that she'd never see him again. Luckily, he kept his word and did send for her and the children.
Well, if you can make head or tail of this gibberish, I congratulate you. I shall be writing to Uncle Hans very soon and will try to put a bee in his bonnet that will start him thinking about this mystery so you can glean from him what you can.
Our weather in Idyllwild is gorgeous and I have gotten over jet lag. A and B are in their new home and painting it; M and D will move into theirs the weekend of the Danskefest picnic (July 11) so will not be able to attend. But Norman Kirk and his new wife may be with us.
Thanks again for your newsy letter, and have a good time. My love to Uncle Hans.
Handwritten on the last page by my grandmother:
Grandfather Olsen came here w/brother who married a ? + children were Tina and Oskar.
Homestead in Kassen Co in Minn.
20 mi N of Albert Lea.
Died when Hans was little.
So, when I add this to what I have from their conversation with Hans before, and what little I've been able to glean from online records, it sounds as though Sophie was either abandoned, or her mother died when she was young, and/or she was sent off to be a farmgirl to another family, which was the custom in Denmark at the time.
Sounds like this is why I had no information on her parents, given the fact that people tend to not talk about these sorts of scandals while anyone touched by them is still alive.
Doesn't conform the parents I have for certain from the records on Family Search: Birthe Marie Schrøder and Ole Larsen, but it gets me closer to certain that I have the right ones.
Also sounds as though Tina and Oskar/Oscar were the brother's children, and not a new wife Ole married.
Still, always exciting to get more information!