An American seeking her Danish Roots
Leah is a self-employed, hard-working winemaker from Oregon at the west coast of the United States. Last spring she and my husband Henry had found each other at “My Heritage”, and both were very excited to find out that they shared the same great-grandfather. His son immigrated to Iowa in 1893. This farm day worker travelled out in the unknown with his wife and two young girls. In Iowa, they got three boys. (One of them was the grandfather of Leah who is the first cousin to Henry’s grandfather.) Leah’s grandfather was a cowboy but so respected that he was asked to be the sheriff of the community. Leah’s father was the first in the family to go to College. They settled down in Oregon.
Photo ©Leah Jorgensen
One year after they found each other at the internet Leah took the long journey to Denmark and Norway to have a look for herself which kind of country her ancestors came from. She arrived in Copenhagen at her grandfather’s birthday!
Pictures from tracing the ancestors in the northern part of Jutland called Himmerland.
Henry never was used to anybody being interested in his family. Leah made a change to that. She repeatedly mentioned the blue, blue eyes of her father and looked at Henry smiling. The same blue eyes!
Most of his family were hardworking farmers and people without high training. Henry was the first in his family to take an academic education and works as a scientist in pig nutrition. The family members have not written letters or memoirs, so Henry has spent years searching for names and addresses in various files and online resources. As a child, he dreamt of having relatives in the States. Nobody talked about their emigrated family members, so he found out himself through his searching. Leah is 41 years old, and Henry is 71, but they share so many interests.
- Their love for finding names and locations of the family members of eight generations
- They both like microbiology and science
- Share interests in plants, flowers and animals
- They soon found out that they suffer from skin rashes, eczema
- Both have worked hard on farms
Leah told us of the distinctive traits of her father’s family, the Jorgensens in the States. They were hard-working, silent with a dry sense of humour and very faithful in helping other people. Her father is good at handicrafts and can build and fix “anything”. The rest are like him very easy-going people. That was a “Jorgensen” thing. They had lost track of the Danish ancestors’ story from Denmark because no letters or memoirs were kept. Before Leah was born her parents were stationed at a military base in Germany and to visit Denmark would have been easy. But as they didn’t know anybody in Denmark they chose to visit Norway instead as Leah’s grandfather and his brother married two Norwegian sisters. The Norwegian part of her family had left Norway in the mid-1800s due to a landslide in 1811. Nearly all the population of Vik north of Bergen had immigrated to the States because of this disaster.
I could tell Leah that Henry and his sisters are extremely helpful to other people and that they are very patient with small children. That is a Jorgensen thing.
As Leah’s father builds things so does Henry and what would I do without him fixing everything? That’s a Jorgensen thing.
We had prepared a very tight schedule as we wanted her to see both Copenhagen, the island Funen and Jutland and to meet people. When she saw Henry’s handwritten itinerary plan she burst out
“This is like my father’s handwriting”
It showed up that the Jorgensens in Denmark and back home also held their armed crossed while sitting.
I also learnt a lot from Leah.
- She was delighted and calm at the same time
- She was goal oriented and very organised
- Her joy in finding relatives and the places of the distant ancestors was inspiring
- Building a good character was essential for her to and a must for her choice of relationships
- She is hardworking building up her business
- She didn’t change her attitude under pressure ( We saw her nearly miss her flight at our local airport)
From the few days in Copenhagen