When your ancestor’s name is John Smith…

Or, in my case, the Danish equivalent of John Smith: Jens Jensen, my paternal great-grandfather.

I know almost nothing about him: he came to the United States in 1900 with my great-grandmother, Thyra Amalia [1] Martinsen, and their son Oscar; by 1910 [2], he was farming in Platte, Nebraska and supporting a family of five–wife Amelia, and children Oscar (10), Johanna (7), Marie (6), and Florence (3); by 1920 he has disappeared–separated from my great-grandmother, perhaps divorced. There are stories of his drinking and squandering of money.

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It’s a long way from Denmark to Hooper…

Almost 4,500 miles, to be exact. My Great-Great-Grandpa Martin Martinsen made that journey twice (three times if you count the journey from Hooper back to Denmark). He was 42 when he first set sail, six years after his wife died. His seven children followed as soon as they could afford passage.

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