Hansine Margrethe Kjøller Schrøder, ca 1903-1904
Sometime following her divorce from Hans Christian Schrøder, Hansine Margrethe returned to Bornholm and settled in Rønne with her parents, Jens Peter Kjøller and Anna Magdalena Jensen (also written as Ane Malene Jensen). Hansine’s son, Axel, leaves Vestermarie and moves in with them probably between late 1890 and 1891. Up until this point Axel had been living with his aunts Ane and Jane and Jane’s husband, Hans Christian Skov in Vestermarie where he is listed on the 1890 Danish census taken mid year.
Most likely one of Hansine's sisters, ca 1880 reproduced 1902
The photograph above is a copy of an original photo and it is likely of one of Hansine’s sisters, Ane or Jane Caroline who was married to Hans Christian Skov. The resemblance is most noticeable in the mouth and nose. Not many pictures survived the journey from Denmark to America and those that did are not always identified.
The Skov’s had seven children of their own and had been fostering Axel since he was 2 or 3 years old. It was not unusual for children to be fostered out with relatives at what seems to us today a very young age. The family would not have thought it strange to leave such a young child in the care of an aunt and uncle where he could grow up with cousins close to his own age. Axel would have been about 13 or 14 years old when he moved back in with his mother.
Rønne, Bornholm, Denmark, 1982
Hansine’s brother Hans Georg, who had married in 1881, was also living in the same town. It appears that they together with their father may have joined the newly formed Dairy Co-operative on the island. Hans Georg is listed as a dairyman and Hansine is identified as being in the milk trade business. The Co-operative was first established in the 1880s on Jutland and later spread to other parts of Denmark. It allowed people to pool their resources, use communal grazing land, have access to the latest most modern equipment, trade and sell milk, eggs, butter, cheese and other dairy products for a small fee charged by the co-op. In return the members could get better prices for their own goods. Many people took advantage of the new system and it proved quite profitable for those who had several cows and it still managed to help the small farmer or cottar as well.
Hansine seems to have been very savvy financially and she, her father and her brother did have a sufficient herd of milk cows to do well under the co-operative system. It also looks as if she had a divorce settlement of some significant amount that allowed her to be more or less independent. After he retired from his farm in Vestermarie and moved to the town of Rønne, Hansine’s father, Jens Peter Kjøller entered into the cattle breeding business. This partnership between daughter, son and father permitted them to take full advantage of the Dairy Co-operative and provided a decent income for the extended family. It is also possible that the two sisters and son-in-law still living at Vestermarie may have been part of the family partnership. Today approximately 95% of all Danish dairy products come from the Co-operative members.
Information about the Danish Dairy Co-operative can be found here:
The Rønne church records show Axel’s confirmation at age 14 in 1891, hence it is possible to determine that he was living with his mother at that time at least long enough to take the classes and examinations for confirmation or his records would have been at Vestermarie Church instead. Axel is listed on the Danish naval roles in 1896 and 1897. In those days the Danish navy trained the sailors on sailing vessels not steamships so he would have learned how to sail a true large military sailing ship.
Axel in a sailor uniform, ca 1898
Oral history stories have him sailing as a cabin boy when he was 14 years old but the records show only his entry into the navy at age 19. The family stories tell of one shipwreck but there could have been two since one story or incident involved a ship carrying a cargo of salt and another seemed to be about a navy ship. One family story says he was tied to a barrel or piece of wood during a storm at sea. The ship he was on went down in the storm and was he pulled out of the sea by a rescue vessel.
The same ship or possibly another wreck with a rescue at sea had him impressed, or as the story goes, he was “Shanghaied.” This second incident would have been when he was about 20 years old. He worked on that vessel until he was able to jump ship in Valparaiso, Chili. Once in Chili he found work in the nitrate mines until he could get another ship and work his way up the coast of South America eventually landing in Seattle, Washington in 1898 or 1899 where he decided to stay. It is thought that it was during his time working in the mines that he contracted TB which he had the rest of his life. His route from Denmark would have meant that he came in a sailing ship around Cape Horn or the tip of South America.
Hansine’s father, Jens Peter, died 22 August 1900 and her mother, Ane Malene, died 16 October 1902. Hansine had lived with them and had taken care of them for at least five years by the time her parents passed away. From the quality and quantity of goods she brought with her to America and the fact that most of the items she brought are dated to about the time she left Denmark, it is most likely that she inherited a fairly substantial amount. Her sister Jane Caroline would have most likely kept the property in Vestermarie, her unmarried sister, Ane, would have continued to live with Jane and help with that large family. Hans Georg remained in the city of Rønne but also most likely received some inheritance when his parents died.
Another family story has always held that Hansine came in a sailing ship around South America bringing with her trunks and barrels of goods including dishes and woolen cloth. However, in 1903 when Axel sent for his mother to join him in the United States the passenger lists show Hansine purchasing a ticket on the Scandinavian American Liner, SS Norge, on the 17th of April 1903. A closer examination of the lists indicate that she canceled that ticket and later purchased another one, dated 4 May 1903 also on a Scandinavian American Liner, SS United States. The SS United States was a new steamship, only one year old, when she was a passenger. Hence while Axel was on a sailing vessel his mother was on a modern steamship. Just another example of how oral stories can contain kernels of the true events but often some things get jumbled in the retelling as years pass. Nevertheless, it is these family stories that help us get a sense of the character and lives of our ancestors. They provide color and richness to the basic dates and facts. As more information becomes available we can make corrections and additions as needed.
The picture at the top of the page shows Hansine at 50 years old when she left Denmark to begin a new life in America. Her occupation/income and social standing is given as “rentier” which translates roughly as a person living on investments or a person of independent means. This photograph of her taken shortly before she left Denmark seems to confirm that definition. As one observer noted, "She looks every bit the part of the grand dame."
Below are a few pictures of some of the lovely things she brought with her when she left Denmark. A few of these things have survived the years. Some of the items we have photos of and accounts of but other items are no longer in the family. She arrived in New York on 15 May 1904 so she bought the ticket about a year before she actually left Denmark. No connecting ticket has been found and the records show the SS United States continuing on from New York City to Seattle, Washington therefore she must have stayed on the ship to complete her journey.
Here above is a large Rörstrand (ca 1890s) hand painted urn, it has butterflies and strawberry blossoms on the front, Nubian heads on the sides, and sheaves of grain on the reverse side. Originally it was one of a pair but an attempt to turn the matching urn into a lamp by drilling a hole in the bottom resulted in breaking the urn. Rörstrand founded in the 13th century is one of the more famous Swedish porcelain factories still in use today.
An interesting thing about the coffee cup and the pot was the pattern of wear on the gold trim of both the cup and coffee pot suggesting that Hansine was left-handed. Marks on the bottom of the coffee pot and the saucer (ca 1890s) show those pieces to have been made by C. Tielsch & Co. of Altwasser, Silesia, Germany a porcelain factory founded in 1845 and operating into the 20th century.
The white painted flowers on this porcelain tray (ca 1890s) are Edelweiss and the blue flowers look like Gentian. If the red flowers were here in the United States and not in Europe they might perhaps be Penstemon with the sprigs intertwined as Baby’s Breath. There are marks on the backside of the tray but those marks have not yet been matched with a porcelain factory. Because of the Edelweiss it is probably of Austrian or German manufacture.
A wind up Celesta Music Box that has several metal disk records, ca 1890s.
Axel and Anna had a small cottage built for Hansine in the backyard of their home on Yale Avenue East. Anna indicated in her journal that it was not easy having her mother-in-law live with them but somehow they managed. Hansine was used to being waited on and Anna ended up having to do many things for her that were difficult and unexpected chores. My mother said that Anna had to carry Hansine or move her from the bed to a chair on some occasions and that resulted in Anna miscarrying two children during the final couple of years of Hansine’s life.
Here below are a couple snapshots taken that include Hansine during that time. She died from a stroke 9 May 1920 and after being ill with pleurisy for 2 months prior to her death.
Hansine with her grandson, Bill, ca 1913
Hansine in the garden, ca 1918
Some of the material posted here originally appeared in "the family gathering" newsletters, Vol. X, issue 1, March 1987, page 122-125 and Vol. XVI, issue 2 (51), July 1993, page 152. Some new information has been added that was not known at the time the newsletters were sent out.