Surname Saturday 2.0: The Olsens

The Olsen Family

The Olsen family is one I knew almost nothing about for the first ten years of my research into my family tree. It has now become the first line in my search for information.

In 2001, I took a class in women's studies, and our final project was to research three generations of one of our family lines, and write a paper about it. Being a genealogist, this was exciting for me, as I already had the names at my fingertips. I ended up choosing my grandmother, Nana, and her mother Oline, as well as Nana's younger daughter. I chose her because I knew her mother had died when she was very young. She was one of the few great grandparents I knew little about. So I interviewed her, and in doing so, I set out on a path that I am still on today.

Maren Sofie Olsen was Oline's mother, and so in researching Oline, I have come to know quite a bit about her life, and with each piece of information I learn, I find myself more and more fascinated.

Maren was born to Ole and Birthe Marie Larsen, who were married in the Soro district of Denmark, which is near the centre of Sealand, the larger island that makes up Denmark. When she was still young, or possibly even before she was born, her father left Denmark to come to America. This was common enough for the times, as was the fact that he never sent for his family after he settled in Minnesota. I believe his wife had little contact with him after he left.

She already had two older sisters when she was born, though I am uncertain of living arrangements while she was growing up. It is my suspicion that she was probably seen as just an extra mouth to feed in a household that already had three and no husband to make money. That, of course, is only my assumption, but I do know that like many young girls in Denmark at the time, she was sent out to work from a young age.

At some point in her early to mid twenties, Maren met Rasmus Hansen, who was either married or recently widowed. His first wife had died childless, so the two eventually married, and together had 6 children. They had a small farm in Fjenneslev, which is almost exactly the centre of Sealand, and things were going well until three years after their youngest child was born. At that time, Rasmus fell sick with a respiratory illness, and soon died, leaving her with four children under the age of ten. Their eldest was not yet thirteen.

It's been a fascinating story to learn. I often find myself wondering what Maren was like. The third child of an abandoned woman in a time when children were still more commodity than treasure, especially when it came to those who were barely surviving on their own. Which isn't to say people didn't treasure their children, but childhood just wasn't as protected as it is now. And then to marry a man who had just lost his wife, not to mention that she had had the same name as the poor woman, and then to be left with a young family to raise, and a farm to keep up…she did not have an easy life.

I've still got a long way to go, but I'm looking forward to it. Every time I look into this side of the family, I find more, though I have yet to get past Maren's father on this side. Her mother, on the other hand…well, that can wait until I cover her side of the tree.

The Olsen line is as follows, for those interested:

* Ole Larsen and Birthe Marie Schroder married 1851. They had one daughter together, Maren Sofie Olsen.

* Maren Sofie Olsen married Rasmus Hansen in 1881. The couple had 6 children:
+ Herman Hansen, born 1882, married Marie Jorgensen in 1908, and the two had two children and 6 grandchildren, and at least 7 great-grandchildren. Herman died in 1969.
+ Maren Hansine Marie Hansen, born 1884, married Hans Peter Larsen in 1906, and the two had 5 children, 4 grandchildren, and at least 3 great-grandchildren that I am aware of. Maren died in 1968
+ Julie Oline Hansen, born 1886, married Holger Hansen in 1918. See below for descendants. She died in 1929.
+ Hans Kristian Hansen, born in 1890, married Mary Katherine Shawler Deats in the US. He was the only other family member to come to the US aside from Oline and their grandfather. He died in the late 1980s.
+ Johanne Kirsten Hansen, born 1891, and apparently committed suicide in 1916.
+ Ole Hansen, born 1892, died 1910.

* Oline and Holger had three children:
+ Margaret Hansen, born 1919, married Sam Hillinger in 1948, and they have 4 children, 6 grandchildren, and their fourth great-grandchild was just born this month. She died in 2010.
+ Marilyn Hansen, born 1923, married Luther Weare in 1954, and they have 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.
+ Torben Skow Hansen, born 1925, married Eileen Hoban, and they have 2 sons. He died in 1996.

* All of Oline and Holger's descendants live in the US today.

What I don't know:

* I would love to know the names of Ole's parents. I can assume his father's name was Lars, but beyond that I have no other info. I would also like to find out when he left Denmark and came to America, and whether he lived anywhere other than Minnesota. I also need to track down where exactly in Minnesota he lived. We have a general location, but haven't been able to narrow it down. I also need to find out when he died.

* I would love to know more about Maren Sofie's life. I'd like to know when she began working outside the home, and where, though I know that might be difficult to find at best. I would also love to know when and how she met Rasmus. And one last thing about her—I'd love to know if she went by Maren or Sofie or something else entirely.

* This point actually should have gone on the Hansen line, but since it occurred to me now, and she's her mother's daughter, I will put it here. I would love to know what happened with Johanne Kirsten, and why she might have committed suicide.

* But most of all, I want to know more about Ole's ancestors.

Other information about this branch of the family:

Brick Wall Posts -
Brick Wall Update
Brick Wall Update
Old Surname Posts
Where We're From Posts
Where We're From – United States
Where We're From – Denmark
Other -
Olsen family history
Interview with Uncle Hans
Womens History Month -- Week 3


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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.