Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hans Christian Schrøder

Hans Christian Schrøder, ca 1876

This is the only photograph that we have of Hans Christian Schrøder, the father of Axel Schrøder, who was born 8 October 1852 in the city of Odense, Odense county, Denmark. His father, Julius Schrøder, had been married first to Elisabeth Agertoft in 1846 and had one son, Villads (sometimes written as Willars) Peter, born in 1847. Elisabeth died shortly thereafter. Julius next married Karen Marie Jespersen in 1850 and they had a son, Carl Frederick Andreas, born in 1851. Hans Christian was the second child of this union. Three more children were born to Julius and Karen, Elise Cathinka in 1854, Julius in 1856, and Frantz Steenberg, in 1857. Karen died before 1860. Julius married the third time to Johanne Marie Jensen and they had a daughter, Karen Kristine in 1863. Johanne died shortly after the birth of her daughter. Julius then married a fourth time to Lovise Augusta Henrietta West in 1877 and they had one son, Karl Godfred born in 1877. Coincidentally Axel was born in 1877 making his half-uncle the same age. Julius, who was born in 1818, would have been 59 years old at the time of his fourth marriage.

Our Norwegian families have for the most part been farmers but our Danish family is different. They were tradesmen mostly. Hans Christian was a baker and candy-maker, his father Julius was a wool dyer and his grandfather, Carl Frederick (sometimes written as Frederick Carl) born in 1780, was a bookbinder. Before that Carl’s father, Niels, was a courtier, the "groom" or keeper of the great chamber for Carl von Linstow at Ørbæklunde.

Ørbæklunde, Svendborg, Denmark
[photo: Google images]

I have a feeling that this may have been a secretarial position of some sort. Appointments of this nature were often awarded to relatives or close friends. When von Linstow died his widow moved from the estate into the city of Odense taking her late husband’s attendants with her. However, when she remarried all of her former husband’s retainers were dismissed so Niels was without employment. He had found apprenticeships for his sons but he, his youngest children and wife found themselves living a much reduced life style. Niels, who was born in 1739, would have been close to 50 years old when he was listed as a pauper, different than a beggar or living abject poverty in that it usually referred to a person who was older and would be considered retired or a pensioner today not someone who was completely destitute. Nevertheless it was a far cry from the life he had had when he was in the employ of von Linstow. Niels died in 1800 and his son, Carl Frederick died in 1851.

Julius had four wives and a total of 8 children some of whom did not survive childhood. For those sons who did live he purchased apprenticeships. Villads was sent to live with his mother’s brother
who was living in the neighboring county of Svendborg and where his grandfather, Villads Agertoft, was a schoolteacher. We know that Villads got a fairly decent education for that time from his grandfather. He became a tanner and moved to the city of Rønne, Bornholm where he worked, married Annine Kristine Kruse, and fathered five children none of whom survived infancy.

Hans C. was apprenticed as a baker and confectioner and left home as a young boy to live and work with a master baker in another town. There were several other apprentices living there at the same time ranging in age from young boys like Hans, to young men who were almost ready to set out on their own. Even though the children were apprenticed out and lived away from each other, sometimes at great distances from one another, it appears that it was a close knit family and they did keep in touch with one another including the half-siblings. Carl Frederick Andreas I think became a shoemaker, Julius Jr. died as an infant, and Frantz Steenberg Schrøder may have also become a shoemaker. Unfortunately with so many individuals having the same names it is often difficult to correctly distinguish one from another but I keep trying and will attempt to update as new information comes forth.

After Hans completed his apprenticeship he followed his half-brother, Villads, and moved to Bornholm.
Bornholm is a small island approximately 20 US miles long by 15 US miles wide. Nexø is a port city on the southeastern side of the island while the largest city on the island, Rønne, also a port city is across the width of the island on the southwestern side. There are two direct roads from Nexø to Rønne. One passes quite close to Vestermarie where his future wife, Hansine Margrethe Kjøller lived. The second road runs further south and goes through Nylarsker. A third way would have been to go through what is now the planted forest of Almindgen that would have been in the very early stages of woodland growth when Hans lived on Bornholm.

Forest on Bornholm near Hammerhus

Today Almindgen is a fairly large forest or park in the middle of the of the island. A man walking at a good pace could make the trip from Nexø to Rønne in about five hours or a little longer. It would take less time by horse or carriage.

Hansine Margrethe Kjøller, ca 1876

Hans and Hansine were married in Nexø in 1876 and that is where their son, Axel was born. Immediately following the birth of Axel the family left Nexø and moved to Vestermarie where Hansine’s family lived. Vestermarie is a small farming community so it was not surprising to find that they did not stay there long. Hans would need to live in a town or city as a baker and confectioner if he were to succeed.

Vestermarie and outlying fields

Hans and Hansine left Axel at age 2 or 3 years with his grandparents and his aunts and uncles and moved to Helsingør in Sjælland. It is an overnight boat trip from the island of Bornholm to København and Helsingør is at least 50 km north of København making it a substantial distance from Bornholm. It seemed strange to me at first that his parents would leave Axel at such a young age but considering how young the apprentices left home (sometimes as young as 5 but usually about 10 years old) it would not have seemed so strange to Hans C. Visits between Axel and his parents would have been rare if at all. When they got to Helsingør Hansine lived with a piano teacher and his daughter in an apartment house and Hans moved into the equivalent of dorms at Hollands Mill, a school of some type. He may have been getting specialized training in baking or candy-making.

Harbor at Gudhjem near Nexø, Bornholm

While living in Helsingør Hansine gave birth to an unnamed baby girl in 1880 that died the same day she was born. Within five years Hansine and Hans divorced (almost unheard of in the early 1880s) and she moved back to Rønne and with her parents. Her son, Axel, now about 8 years old, remained on the estate in Vestermarie. Hansine was expecting another child by this time and gave birth in 1885 to boy, Camillo, who lived about 2 months and then died. When Axel was a teenager he moved from Vestermarie to Rønne to live with his mother and where he was confirmed in the cathedral there.

Rønne, Bornholm as seen from the ferry

Following the divorce Hans married a second time to Ana Jensine who was living in the town of Farum near Helsingør. They had two daughters, Julia Katinka and Octavia Eleanora.

Octavia and Julia, ca 1902

We think this picture is one showing Axel’s two half-sisters, Octavia and Julia Katinka, as no other family connection to Denmark can be found except through the Schrøders and the picture has the name and address of the photography studio on it in Denmark. He did receive letters and cards from a relative named “Cathe or Cathy” after he moved to America and it is believed that she was Julia Katinka. Hans did have an uncle, Jens Christian Severin Schrøder, who was a shoemaker and who lived on Jutland. Hurup is on Jutland so it is possible that Hans and his second family moved near this uncle especially if his uncle helped him find employment.

Hans Christian may have been a baker and confectioner by trade but oral history stories suggest that he wanted to be an artist. Two small watercolor paintings have survived the years and are the only examples we have of his artistic talents. This scene is from København.

København scene, watercolor on paper, 5" X 7", ca 1880s
[attributed to Hans Christian Schrøder]

Country lane, watercolor on paper, 4" X 8", ca 1880s
[attributed to Hans Christian Schrøder]

The death date for Hans Christian has not yet been located. While the Norwegians in our family tended to stay for generations on the same land if they could these Danish tradesmen appear to have been constantly on the move. During his lifetime, Hans crisscrossed his country making it very difficult to find his records. As more and more records are digitized it becomes easier to search by computer so it is hoped that at some future date all the pieces of his life will be uncovered and put back together.

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