Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bertelsens of Denmark

Of all my ancestors, I have the most information about the Bertelsens on my mother's side of the family. The last names followed the patronymic style, which was changing the last name each generation to incorporate part of the father's given name. Obviously this makes for incredibly difficult tracking, but luckily many members of the family have felt it to be important, so the research was done. The whole history through the 1800s was compiled into a booklet of which I have a copy. The next few posts will be excerpts.
"The ancient city of Viborg, situated in central Jutland and once the most important city on the peninsula, was settled long before Denmark was Christianized. It was approximately 27 miles northwest of here, in Lundo, where Niels Bertelsen, son of Johanna Iversen and Peder Pedersen, and Maren Larsen, daughter of Ida Johanne Johansen and Lars Christiansen, were born (see pictures above). The disparity in Niels' surname (Bertelsen instead of Pedersen) should be explained. The family pedigree chart shows the name Bertelsen as the surname of Niels's great- and great-great-grandfathers. Most likely his parents decided to break the long chain and revert to this less common name. He was, however, sometimes referred to as Niels Pedersen Bertelsen.
Next to the eldest in a family of 5 boys and 6 girls, Niels was compelled at the age of 8 to leave the small farm his father owned to herd sheep many miles away. Because he possessed a deep love for his home and family, and with the prospect of seeing them only at six-month intervals, this parting was very trying. His early life was spent in this manner until he was old enough to row a boat and engage in the fishing business with his father. Niels worked with his father until his marriage to Maren in the spring of 1831. Niels had a happy disposition; Maren, on the other hand, had a sterner nature. She came from a family comparatively wealthy in the world's goods. Her father spurned her choice of a husband, and when she married him anyway, disinherited her, giving her only $25 in keeping with the law. On April 20, 1832, their first daughter, Johanne Maria, was born (who is my direct ancestor). The couple left Lundo and moved to Staarup, Viborg County, where they rented a cottage. It was near the Skive Fjord, so Niels could pursue the fishing trade himself. Fortunately, Niels was an excellent marksman and was able to supply his fast-growing family with meat as well as ocean fish. There were also swans in abundance, and Niels was very proud that he could shoot 3 swans with one shot. Nine of their ten children were born here.
The leanness of the times forced many Danish parents to send their children away from home to work while very young. This custom, common though it was, always grieved the gentle Niels, who often shed tears when he bade goodbye to those of his children who were forced to take upon themselves the hard yoke of adulthood while still only youngsters. Yet the children never seemed to resent it."

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