I need to add some backstory here so the rest will make sense…
Back in July, I serendipitously ran across a book that was written about my 4th great grandfather, Hans Ancher Kofoed. This ancestor is on my dad’s side (my Swedish ancestors are on my mom’s side.) Hans immigrated in 1857. Through this book, I discovered that I had ancestors (including Hans) that had lived for many generations on a little island in the Baltic Sea called Bornholm. Bornholm is just south of Sweden, but is part of Denmark. When I discovered this, it was about 6 weeks before our Sweden trip and so we rearranged our plans a bit to make it possible to go to Bornholm for a day.
A couple of weeks before our trip, I was trying to find out more details about my Bornholm ancestors so that we would have some specific locations to visit. I knew some information about Han’s childhood farm, but I wanted to see if I could find the location of Cecelia’s (Han’s wife… and my 4th great grandmother) childhood farm.
The only information that I had was a photo from Family Search that someone had taken in 1954 and I knew from the book that the name of the farm was Lille Myregård (in Bornholm, all of the farms have names).
In my google searching, I found a Bed & Breakfast that was named Lille Myregård and I was so excited and thought that maybe it was the same place! I emailed the owners and told them my story and attached the photo. They responded and said it wasn’t the same place.
I was bummed. I asked a couple follow up questions, juuust to double check, but they didn’t respond for a few days. So in the meantime, I did more research and tried to see if I could find more info, but I wasn’t finding anything. I eventually just decided that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for so oh well. We could at least go see Han’s farm.
Then 3 days before our trip, I got a response from the Bed & Breakfast place. Again, they confirmed that this wasn’t the same place, but this time they suggested asking on the Bornholm Facebook page about it to see if anyone could help me. They gave me the name of the page (which was super helpful since it was in Danish and I wouldn’t have known what to search.)
I joined the Bornholm Facebook group and then posted my story and photo, not really expecting to get much of a response. … but to my surprise, I got tons of comments. Several people sent me links to pages that had more information about Bornholm farms. One of the websites even had several aerial photos of the farm. So cool!
On several of the comments, a woman named Irene was tagged, with the commenter asking if she had lived there at Lille Myregård. Irene responded and confirmed that yes, she had been born on this same farm and grew up there. I thought that was so cool! Even though my 4th great grandmother hadn’t lived there since the early-mid 1800’s, it was cool to hear about someone else who had lived on the same farm, somewhat recently (in the last 40 years).
Irene messaged me personally and said that she wanted to meet me and would like to show me around Lille Myregård… well, the land at least (the house/buildings had been torn down a few years ago because they were falling apart). Of course I agreed! Getting to hang out with one of the locals is always a neat experience.
Now continuing on from part 1…
After Hammerhus, we met up with Irene and went with her, and her brother, Axel, to see the farm that they grew up on (and where my 4th great grandmother, Cecelia was born and raised in the 1800s.)
The house and other buildings are no longer there, so it is just the land and Axel owns it now and farms it.
Irene spoke English pretty well so we were able to communicate with her somewhat easily, but Axel barely spoke any English so he tried to communicate with us by writing down dates and using the few English words he knew.
Axel was very excited to show us the old photos that he brought… photos of the farm and what it used to look like, photos of his dad growing up on the farm, etc. He would point to the photos and then point to parts of the land to describe what used to be where.
After looking around the land for a little while, he pulled out a pedigree chart (with a handful of generations) that he had handwritten. He pointed to a name, “Ane” (who I saw to be his 2nd great grandmother) and then in broken English, he said “Ane… Cecelia… Sisters.”
I was so surprised! We’re cousins! Irene and Axel are my 4th cousins, 2 times removed… which sounds kind of distant, but isn’t really that far when you consider that my 4th great grandmother and their 2nd great grandmother are sisters! 🙂
I was not expecting that at all. I guess I hadn’t considered that the land might still be in the family after all these years since it’s been about 200 years since Cecelia lived there (she was born in 1815.) Later that day, Irene showed me a certificate that lists all of the past owners of Lille Myregård (the farm) and how it has been past down through the generations.
My 5th great grandfather (Cecelia and Ane’s father) was Jens Hansen Munch. Since Ane was the oldest child, the farm was passed down to her… and then on down through the next few generations until it now is owned by Axel. So cool!
It was so interesting to feel a shift in feelings and bond as we went from strangers to literal family in a matter of a few minutes. 🙂
After spending some time on the farm, we went over to the church that Cecelia had attended and was christened in.
Then we went over to Irene’s house to have lunch with her and her husband, Henning. She fed us a traditional Danish meal of Smørrebrød… which means “smear bread”… you smear butter on bread and then put toppings on it to make an open face sandwich. (this is also common in other Scandinavian counties)
After lunch, we went to see the farm that Hans (my 4th great grandfather) was born and raised on. Irene had arranged with the owners for us to come see it. The original house and one of the barns is still standing so it was neat to see those in real life. 🙂
We also went over to see the church that Hans had attended and was christened in.
We finished up our Bornholm adventure by going back to Irene’s house and hanging out with her, Axel, and Henning for a little while. We looked at the pedigree chart a little bit more and a few more old photos.
We then said our goodbyes and headed to the ferry so we could head back to Sweden (and then on to Copenhagen to fly back home.)
This part of our trip was such a pleasant surprise. I know for certain that there was a lot of Heavenly and Ancestral assistance to orchestrate all of these details, especially considering that until a few weeks before our trip, I didn’t even know that Bornholm existed or that I had had ancestors from there.