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Mads (M.C.) Christian Jensen & Maren (Mary) Mikklesdatter

by Patricia A. Johnson

October 2005

2005 was a great year for genealogical breakthroughs and one of the most surprising for me was finding out more about my 3rd great grandparents, Mars and Maren Jensen.

What I knew before May 2005:

Their daughter, Jencene Caroline Jensen, married Eugene Casey and had one of my great grandmothers (we all have 8 of them). I had always known this couple as Mars and Mary Jensen, born in Denmark. I knew they immigrated to America in 1857, settled on a farm in Nodaway County Missouri, and died in Council Bluffs, Iowa and were buried in Fairview Cemetery there. I visited their graves in 1997. I knew they had three daughters that survived them. I had more or less figured that these facts would be all I ever would find out. With nothing more of a clue than "born in Denmark" it seemed impossible to ever find out more. Especially as complicated and unfamiliar as Danish research is. Stories of the patronymic naming system had made it a place I didn't care to visit, research wise that is. But, like so many times in my life, when I say I will never go there - something decides that I WILL go there. In this case I am grateful that I did!!

In February 1869, M. C. Jensen bought 80 acres of rich farmland in Nodaway County Missouri for $800.00. On December 30, 1875 Maren (Mary) went to the Clerk of the County and had the title to those 80 acres put in her name. She claimed that her husband had abandoned her and she needed to have the land in her name since she was living on it. On May 2, 1882 both M. C. and Mary Jensen signed the deed that showed the sale of the 80 acres to Rufus Cordell for the sum of $1200.00.

Another mystery about these folks is, where did Mads Christian Jensen go in 1875? Somewhere far enough away that Mary didn't think he would return. But he DID return, they reconciled and sold their farm and moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Their three daughters lived in that area and it was natural for them to join them there.

What I know after May 2005:

One evening I was preparing a genealogy lesson for the ladies at DAR. One of the sites I wanted to feature was WorldGenWeb. Not having done much foreign research, I found it to be a lesson for myself. One of my immigrant couples that has long escaped detection is Mars and Mary Jensen. I decided to go to the Danish genealogical sites to prepare my lesson and get familiar with WorldGenWeb. Of course, I was positively, absolutely sure that none of my ancestors have ever been members of the LDS Church. This became a more powerful lesson -- never assume that you know everything possible about people! Because Mars (Mads) and Mary (Maren) immigrated during the height of the LDS movement in Denmark, I decided to test my assumption. The Scandinavian missionaries had great success in Denmark at that time. I found a web site that lists the LDS converts from Scandinavia. I put in Mars Jensen - no luck. I decided to put in Jencene Jensen (my gr great grandmother, their daughter). Sure enough I hit the jackpot! She was on the list at age 3 (the indexer misread 6 for 3) with Mads Jensen, Maren Jensen, Martha Jensen, herself and Willard Jensen. Mads was age 29, Maren age 34, Martha age 8, Jensine age 3 (wrong), and Willard age 1/4. They were passengers on the ship 'Tuscarora'. It said they were of Vensyssel and Mads was a mason. Hmm - could this be where I inherited an obsession with things being straight and centered?

I made a quick journey to the Public Library to look at a big atlas of Denmark. Suddenly I had an intense desire to learn more about the geography and places of Denmark. I found Vensyssel is at the northern most tip of Denmark in the area called "The Horns". Still, that encompasses a large area that is thickly populated with villages and parishes and districts. Oh dear, this was going to be a long learning process.

My next question was why is the father's name Mads, when his descendants think it is Mars? The main culprit is his daughter, Jencene Casey's death certificate. It clearly states that her father was Mars Jensen. The informant was her oldest daughter, Mary Belle Casey Fauble. Perhaps Aunt Belle (as she was known) misunderstood or remembered incorrectly her mother's father. It is a case in point of not always believing what you read! Several years ago I had asked a person in Denmark to look for Mars Jensen. He replied that Mars was NOT a Danish name. I didn't think much about it at the time, but now I remembered his comment and now I know he was right. In the US censuses he is listed as Marse, M.C., and Lars. Was the accent so hard to understand that the census taker heard these variations? The handwriting on the Marse entry leaves a little to be desired and I can see how an indexer would interpret the name as Marse, but now I can see where it COULD be Mads.

I still couldn't quite believe I had found my family on the ship's list for the Tuscarora. I had to find out more. I went to a wonderful site on the Internet that is read by many gracious people in Denmark, and they are so kind to us Americans. I stated my case and asked how I could find out if this was indeed my Jencene Caroline Jensen and her parents and siblings, and how could I find out where they came from in Denmark. By the end of the day I had my answer. Mr. Flemming Aasklint answered my query and had found them!! He found them in the 1855 Census for Taars Parish, Borglum District, Hjorring County, Denmark. From there he went to parish records and found Jensine Caroline Madsen's christening, her birth date 13 June 1851, (which I knew so I was convinced it was her), her parents, Mads Christian Jensen and Maren Mikkelsdatter. Next he found the marriage of Mads and Maren on 1 December 1850 in Ugilt parish (Maren's home parish).

Note that Jensine was christened with the patronymic name of Madsen because her father was Mads Jensen. About 1850 the Danish government dictated that Danish citizens would stop the patronymic naming system and start using a surname for the family that was the same as the father. It took several years for this to be accepted so many still used the old naming system. Another phenomenon about Danish research is that the women usually are referred to by their maiden name and don't lose their identity when they marry.

So with this wonderful information from Flemming Aasklint, I was convinced that this was my family. Next I wondered why they emigrated on a ship that was specifically hired for LDS converts bound for Zion in North America. Now I know that they DID convert to the LDS Church. I found the christening record of their baby, Erastus Levi Madsen in 1856. There was no Lutheran christening information, but a notation that he was a Mormon. The law in Denmark stated that every baby had to be recorded in the parish records. This was to be done even if they didn't get the Lutheran christening performed. Little Erastus died shortly after birth as he did not accompany the family to America in 1857. But he proved that the Jensen family definitely converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..

My next question was, what happened to cause this family not to travel to Zion (Utah). I learned that the 'Tuscarora' landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1857. The 286 people that left Denmark on May 30, 1857 were taken by railroad to Burlington, Iowa. From this point they were to scatter and find work to pay the expenses of the remainder of their journey to Zion. I will never know what happened to cause Mads and Maren to not go any further. Their last child, Minnie, was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1860. They stayed there at least three years. By 1868/1869 they were in Nodaway County Missouri.

Maren (Mary) was of Ugilt Parish in Vennebjerg District in Hjorring, Nordyjlland County, Denmark Mads was of Taars Parish in Borglum District in Hjorring, Nordyjlland County Denmark. The two home parishes are about 10 miles apart. Maren was the daughter of Michel Michelsen and Karen Mickelsdatter. She was born 14 Feb 1821 in Ugilt Parish. Maren died 7 May 1903 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She had her first daughter, Martha, out of wedlock with Jens Christian Mortensen. Martha was born 3 Apr 1848. Mads Christian Jensen raised Martha as his own daughter. She was listed as his daughter when he died 4 Aug 1905. On 1 Dec 1850 Maren and Mads Christian Jensen were married in her home parish of Ugilt. In 1900, on the census, she stated that she had borne 7 children and 3 were alive. I have found the names of all of her children but one.

Mads Christian Jensen was the illegitimate son of Jens Christian Madsen and Dorethe Christensdatter. He was born 3 Jul 1824 in Taars Parish. The fact that he was illegitimate didn't keep his records from being entered in the parish and his christening taking place with sponsors and witnesses. The same as any other baby in the parish. On one Danish census he is listed as "slegfredbarn". Once again I went to my Danish friends on the Internet. That word means an illegitimate child born of two single people. If Jens or Dorethe had been married to someone else he would have been an "horeunge" or a whore's child born of an adulterous affair. So in the ranking of illegitimate children, he was of a higher status. The Scandinavian people do not seem to have the prudish prejudices that we Americans have inherited from our English roots. At any rate, I am glad Jens and Dorethe had a baby boy - otherwise I would not have his genes and blood running through my veins. I would not be who I am, nor would my descendants.

Thanks to the wonderful people of Denmark that take pity on us Americans, I have now found six generations of Jencene Jensen Casey's ancestors. It was truly a miracle that I found them. I feel especially close to them. I have a gold pin that I believe belonged to Jencene. It was given to me when my grandmother, Hazel Windle Cary (her granddaughter) died. It is a gold bar with a sail boat on a body of water with windmills in the background. It looks to me like an item a six year old girl would bring with her to America. I don't know for sure, but I have decided that it was hers. I also have her sewing thimble, and it is so small I can barely get it on my little finger. I have her sworn oath to always be strictly temperate about alcohol. She and her husband, Eugene Casey were strict teetotalers. They also never went into debt for anything. They believed in saving until they could pay for anything, even a house. I have a letter that was written to her daughter, Belle Fauble, from friends in South Dakota. They described how delightful Eugene and Jencene were and how proud Jencene was when she got her hair "bobbed" at well over 80 years of age. How I wish I could visit with her. Jencene died 16 July 1937 when I was two years old.