Drops of Our History
ANNA MARIA's POEM as 8 1/2 years

Anna Marias Poem – 2014



Stars shoot by the moon

all shining and shimmering

listen to the cracking of the stars

and the shining shimmering of moon

brighter than the sun or a light night.

Take away the light of day in a black sack

little stars escape through the holes

they make in the black sack

the night has on its back.

Star light star bright

First star I see tonight

Star light star might

make my wish come true tonight.


Anna Maria – Como Primary School – Western Australia


ME AND TONY ( my American Uncle )


My uncle Tony ( Anthon in Danish ) lived in the US. He was one of my dad’s two elder brothers. I met him three times. First in Denmark in 1964, then in Minnesota ( Albert Lea ) in 1965 and last time in Denmark in 1967.

When we met in Denmark I was the interpreter, at least in the beginning of the visit. My parents never spoke English. And Tony had forgotten most of his Danish. But each time it came back – step by step.  So after a month in Denmark he was ok in Danish. Speaking Danish with a strong American accent. Very charming.

Tony was very fond of his native Denmark. Especially when he was in the US.  When he came here the first time in 1964 he was SO surprised, that so much had changed. He had forgotten that it was exactly 50 years, since he left.  At home in Albert Lea he was so Danish that when I – together with a friend – came to visit him and Alta in the summer 1965 he met us at the bus station. We had arrived with the Greyhound from Minneapolis and before that been 3 days and nights on the trans-Rocky Mountain train from Portland, Oregon. So the only thing we wanted was a shower and some sleep. But Tony took us instead to a number of Danish places to see. And bought Danish pastry ( Wienerbrød in Danish ) and Danish Cherry Heering wine to drink with it.  He could not know that none of us liked that stuff.  But it was, of course, a very nice gesture.  We had a good morning meal. And finally we got our bath and our sleep. We slept like bears J

Later in the day we met the whole family, who all came to the family house in Albert Lea. Lorraine ( Lorrie ) and Wallace with their five great kids. And my very nice cousin Gerard ( Jerry ) and his very nice and very pretty wife Judy.  They had just been married that summer.  Alta’s very old dad was also there.  We had a GREAT day and talked about everything over a couple of meals – at least.   The day after we visited Lorrie and her family in their place in Mankato ( I believe it was ).  I never met Gerard and Judy anymore.

Tony as a child in Himmerland in Denmark.

Tony ( Anthon ) was born on February 14, 1895 in Grynderup on his parents’ farm. On Valentine’s Day. But that concept was not invented at that time. And certainly not in Denmark.  He had a two-year older brother Kristian ( Chris ), who also later emigrated to America.  Tony’s full name was Anthon Gerhardt Thøgersen.   Anthon was probably taken from his dad’s brother Anton, who was born in 1974. It was normal in those days to name kids after relatives. And his big brother had already been named after his father and grandfather ( Niels Kristian ).  Where the name Gerhardt came from is unknown. It was and is not a very common name in Denmark. And in my family history, which goes back to 1573, I never met it.   Gerhardt is of German origin and means “a strong and brave spearwearer”.  Later Tony’s son got the name.

In his childhood Tony was the special darling of his mother Marie.  She cared for all her six children. But Anthon was the closest. So it was a hard day for her, when he as 18 years old young man told her, that he wanted to emigrate til America.  She only accepted it, because he promised her to come back in 5 years.   As we know he did not. A world war came up. And after that the possibility was not there.

Before Tony left Denmark he worked in a number of farms. Also on the farm in Grynderup, which was owned by his dad’s youngest brother Theodor. This was no success. The reason is unknown. But Anthon ran away from the farm, because Theodor  often gave him a slap.  When Tony and Theodor met again in 1964 in Denmark they both had a good laugh about it.

Tony left with the Danish steam ship “Frederik VIII” from Copenhagen in January 1914. It was the first trip of this new ship.  And it was the last emigration ship from Denmark before the War. The voyage to Ellis Island, New York, was delayed on the way because of bad weather. And it had to go to the Azores in the mid Atlantic to get more coal.  Tony was on the Azores on this 19th birthday.

When he arrived in the US and had passed the immigration control in Ellis Island he continued with the railway to Iowa. To a farm in Battle Creek, where his big brother Kristian already worked. I believe it was a farm owned by other Danes, so the language was no problem. Kristian and Tony did not know one word of English, when they arrived in America. But this was normal for immigrants. Almost all of them came from the ryral areas in Europe and had never learned foreign languages of any sort.  Their – also Tony’s – school was 7 years ( from 7 to 14 years of age ). They went to school every second day – altogether 3 days a week. He was ( like his brothers and sisters ) lucky to have a very clever teacher, Mr. Ulrich.  Everybody admired him and learned a lot. My dad talked about him all his life.  The school was built in 1892 in Grynderup and was about 1 ½ km away from the farm.  Only 1 teacher, who handled all topics – which in particular was reading, writing, arithmetic, history and religion.


At war.

When settled in the US Kristian and Tony decided to join the US Army. The US was at war with Germany from 1917, not least because German submarines were attacking and sinking also American ships in the Atlantic.

Tony was sent to basic training in a so-called Boot Camp in Texas, before he left on a ship for France in June 1918. He probably arrived at La Rochelle, which was the big arrival port for the American Expeditionary Force in Europe.  The front was in Eastern and Northern France, so all troops were sent there. While Kristian and his unit was fighting dramatically in the trenches, Tony and his division belonged to the reserves, and they actually never came in battle with the Germans, before the Armistice took effect on November 11, 1918 at 11.00.

The US forces stayed in France until sometime in 1919. And Kristian and Tony ( who did not know each others’ whereabouts or whether they were both still alive ) each asked for permission to travel to Denmark to see their parents. During the war they had irregular contact with their parents through the Red Cross. And apparently they had told them, that they would try to come to visit them after the war. Therefore, their mother Marie – when the war was over – walked every day for some weeks the 4 km to the train station to meet them. She believed every day, that they would arrive with the train. But they didn’t.  The military authorities refused to let them go. They required that they first went to New York to be decommissioned. Then they could go where and when they should like to. But then it was impossible for them, also economically.  Instead they both got American citizenship as a gratitude for their military contribution to their country.   And one thing more:  they had both learned English in the army. Also very important for the rest of their life, of course.


Loosing his mother.

Back from the army Kristian buys a farm in Battle Creek in Iowa – a big farm he owns and develops until his death in 1963. He married Danish Petra ( Patsy ) in 1932. She brought two kids into the marriage. They had no children together.  Later Petra became insane and spent her last 20 years in a mental hospital in Iowa  ( 1941-61 ).

Tony came back to farming, but left it soon after and took education as an accountant.  He married Marion in 1926. Her ancestors came from Germany.  They got two children – Lorraine in 1928, and Gerard in 1934.  Lorraine got her name, because Tony had served in the region of Lorraine in Eastern France, when he was in the army during the war.

Tony moved to Manketo in Minnesota with his family.

Tony was in frequent contact with his parents and sisters and brothers in Denmark.  Many letters crossed the Atlantic.  Both ways.  I happen to have many of them.  Lorraine gave them to me. She had found them in her father’s trunk. And as they were in Danish she could not read them. And nobody in the American family couldn’t either.  These letters are a treasure for me. It gives me a lot of information I never had before.

His parents were still owners of the farm in Grynderup, where all their kids were born and raised. But in 1935 they sold it to their son Alfred ( my dad ) and moved to a small house some km away. They were both in bad health. 

Marie suffered a cancer in the stomach. A very serious one. And she died in early February 1936, 64 years old.

When Tony receives the information that his mother has passed away he was very sad. Lorraine once told me that this was the only time she saw her dad crying.

One month later, in March 1936, Tony’s sister Mathilde dies. And in October the same year Tony’s dad Niels dies from tuberculosis.  So within 8 month the Thøgersen family had lost 3 members.

When the surviving children were going to share the heritage from their parents Kristian and Tony decided that their share should stay in Denmark and be reserved for the education of Alfred’s children ( if he got any ).  He did: ME and my younger brother Hans.   It was not a large amount. But it was a very welcome and helpful support, when I went to boarding school in Viborg for the gymnasium in the years 1960-63.   I told Kristian and Tony how grateful I was for their support, which I will never forget.

During World War II

Denmark was invaded by the Germans on April 9, 1940. After that date it was no longer possible to have contact with the family in the US, though the US only joined the war at the end of 1941. My dad Alfred married Jenny, who since 1935 had been his housekeeper.  It was in October 1940.   Life during the war was difficult. But there were hardly any fights in Denmark.  This was not known in the US, at least not by Tony and Chris. Tony wrote after the war that he was afraid that everybody had been killed by the Germans.  Actually only about 200 Danes lost their lives due to the war.  But the fear was there.

As soon as Denmark was liberated in May 1945 the correspondence started again.  One of my dad’s first letters had 9 pages. I have it in my archives. He told about everything which had happened during the “five dark years”. Also that he had married.  When Tony offered to have some clothes prepared for them my dad sent the measurements of the two of them. And when he had written down the measurements of my mother he added: As you can see, it is a solid wife I have got!  I am not sure my mother had agreed to that phrase!

I was also mentioned in this long letter. In the middle of it – 1 line. Something like this:  We have got a son. He is a noicy one!   That was all!  In another letter a couple of years later my dad wrote:  Our boy is running after me everywhere and shouting DAD !  

The 1950ies

I remember that we often talked about the family in Minnesota and in Iowa.  We got many pictures – of everybody, of the houses, of the cars, of the country. Very interesting indeed.  From time to time we had photos taken by a professional photographer to send across the ocean.  We did not own a camera. And once a year a company took photos of the farm from the air. This was also sent to the US.

My other uncle, Regnar, had a farm about 30 km away. They often passed by. And now and then it was decided to make a phone call to Minnesota and to Iowa. It was never done. It was complicated. You should order it – and then the line would be ready a day later or so. It was expensive.

Each year we got a parcel for Christmas from Tony and Marion. With sweets for Christmas. With presents for my parents. And not least:  nice presents for my brother Hans and me.  These presents were always the last ones to be unwrapped.  It was a very nice gesture.

The 1960ies

This was the decade when things started to happen more actively.  First the sad ones:  Tony’s wife Marion died in March 1961.  My uncle Regnar died in May 1962 – quite young. And uncle Kristian ( Chris ) in Iowa died in October 1963.  My dad was very sad about all this. Of course.  My dad and Tony inherited quite an important amout after the death of Chris, as he had no children.  I remember that my parents originally had planned to buy their first car.  But this never happened.  Most of the farm burnt down in December 1963. And the money from Chris was instead used to modernize and enlarge the family farm.

Already the following year – in September 1964 – Tony made his first visit to Denmark since he left 50 years earlier. He brought his new wife, Alta. And they stayed for a month with my parents on the farm.  I wasn’t there when they arrived. I took part in a youth congress in Germany. So my brother of 14 years had to be the interpreter. It went well. And step by step Tony was able to understand and speak Danish.  Alta managed to discuss very efficiently with gestures, laughs and English words.

One of the problems which arose that Tony wanted to rent a car. But it had to be a car with an automated gear. They did not exist in that part of Denmark at that time. So it had to be ordered from Copenhagen.  In the meantime Tony tried a car with a normal gear. But he never got used to it. The car jumped and stopped all the time he had to get going.

Tony also met a lot of old friends from his Danish years.  He thought they were all very old – which they were.

His visit to the old church in Grynderup ( from the 12th century ) was especially moving for him. He spent a long time at his parents’ graves. And inside the church he could immediately remember exactly where he was standing for his confirmation in 1909.

After the stay with my parents I remember Tony and Alta went to Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris and London. A tour of Europe, which they liked a lot.  In England they hired a car to go outside London. I remember that they were very fascinated by the English name for a “traffic circle”. They call it a “roundabout”. Then were actually so amused by that word that when they saw a traffic circle ahead of them they stopped and asked somebody for directions! Not to get the directions. But to hear the word “roundabout”.  This really gave them a kick!


The following year – in the summer of 1965 – I came to Minnesota. I had been participating in a United Nations conference in San Francisco and was on my way home with the train all the way to Washington DC.  With a stop for some days in Minnesota. We had some lovely days in Albert Lea, where I stayed in the house with Tony and Alta.


The visit to Denmark in 1964 was so successful that Tony and Alta came back in 1967. Again for about a month. And stayed again with my parents on the farm.  They went on many visits. Also to me and my small family in Aarhus. My son Claus was just 1 year old.  We lived in the southern part of the city. I remember that I drove to the north of Aarhus to meet them and guide them to us. While I was waiting I was very surprised all of a sudden to see a car coming against me on the bicycle track.  Tony apparently thought that this was the road. Nothing happened. And I managed to get them safely through the city.


This was the last time we all met. Tony died in 1970. And my dad passed away in 1978.  But before that the correspondence intensified to everybody’s pleasure.


My visit to Albert Lea and to Battle Creek in 1983

Many years later – In 1983 – I came back to Albert Lea. I was at the end of a EU speaking tour through the US. I rented a car in Minneapolis airport and drove down to Albert Lea. It took me longer than expected, as the US had introduced new strict speed limits. But I found the town. And after asking a number of people I also found the cemetery, where Tony, Marion, Alta and my cousin Gerard were buried.  A moving moment, indeed.


From Albert Lea I decided also to find the grave of uncle Chris in Iowa. I did not know exactly where his village Battle Creek was. And nobody else knew it either ( on gas stations etc. ).  I drove all the way to the west of Iowa, as I believed it was around there. So it was.  I finally found it. Now, where was the cemetery?  I asked every elder person in the streets and in the shops if they had known my uncle, who died 20 years earlier. I actually found a few who knew him. And who all had very nice things to tell about him. They told me where his farm was. And one of them drove in front of me to the cemetery where his grave was. Mount Hope, it was called. 

Now, the next problem. Where is the grave? It is a huge cemetery. I walked up and down the rows of tombstones.  One after 1 1/2 hours I found the stone. Two small, nice stones lying down in the grass. One  with the name of Chris. The other with the name of Petra.  I had forgotten to buy flowers. So I left my business card as a hello! A strange thing to do. But the only thing I had.

Very moving too.

Now, it was already around 17.30. And I had a dinner invitation at Lorraine’s and Wallace’s house at 19.00.  I had forgotten that this was many hundred km away. So I only arrived there at 22.00.  Even though I am sure I had broken the US traffic rules in a big way all the way up there. This was all before the mobile phones. So only when I hit the outskirts of St. Cloud I asked a gas station to help me call Lorraine and Wallace. And he picked me up half an hour later. 

It had been a fantastic day.  And the very late supper was very good as well.


Visits by Lorraine and Wallace in Denmark and Belgium

Several years later Tony’s daughter Lorraine and her husband Wallace came to Europe several times. Also to Denmark. They met my mother and my brother, and they visited us in Copenhagen. Later they came to Belgium and paid us a visit in our home in Rixensart.   I had also visited them twice in St. Cloud in Minnesota.




Niels Jørgen Thøgersen


November 18, 2012  


Here I come……


My Goodness, I can already see her head – the midwife almost shouted. And shortly afterwards the baby girl arrived. The world had a new small citizen, Friday, August 13, 2010 around 10 p.m.

Aaav – a very hurting pain L   That’s how Cecilie felt it. She just managed to get a bit of aerial anaesthetics. There was no time for real anaesthetics in the spine like last time.

Why is it that it has to be so painful for women to give birth? Somebody once told me that the Bible somewhere says, that the reason is that Eve stole an apple in the Garden of Eden. The good Lord decided to punish all women thereafter because of that by making it painful for them to have babies. L Is that really true? Nowadays this is called harassment. Can God really be so cruel ?!

Others claim that the fact that giving birth is painful proves that God is a MAN.  Had God been a woman things would never have been arranged that way.

A woman some years ago – after she in great pain had her third baby – looked very angrily towards the sky and shouted with her fist pointing upwards: You really haven’t arranged this in a very smart way !

Being in a philosophical mood many women claim that if it were the man who had to give birth to children, each couple would only have one child – or less J

Back to reality: Women ARE very brave. Very brave indeed. We men only take part in the more pleasant part of having children J


Cecilie was certainly very brave last night. Salute to that !!

Our baby girl was born. Lovely girl – 50 cm and 3,2 kg. Didn’t cry much. And like her older sister she is born with a decisive curiosity. She looked around in the room and perhaps said to herself: Where have I landed ?!  Mammy’s nipples were the only thing, which could make her focus her mind on other things.

Sister ANNA MARIA was, of course, very excited about it all. She made a nice drawing for her baby sister before the birth last night. And I know how much this means to her. She made a special drawing not only for me, but of me, when we celebrated her 4 year’s birthday last March. A very nice and close-to-reality drawing, which we have put up in a key location in our kitchen in Rixensart.

Cecilie and Nikos had discussed the new arrival a lot with Anna Maria on beforehand. And told her that the new baby would come and stay with them FOR EVER.  And Anna Maria had already some time ago promised to help looking after her baby sister – also by getting up at night to warm her milk J   For months she has kissed her Mammy’s tummy as a personal welcome to her sister. She has for quite some time been very happy knowing that she would have a sister, not a brother. Absolutely her preference. When somebody asked her, if a boy also would be good, she reflected for a while and replied:  It will be ok  (  with the unsaid continuation if it HAS to be so L  ).

Last night – just before Mammy and Daddy left for the clinic – Anna Maria was really extraordinarily excited. She almost climbed up the curtains. Only when uncle Lasse read a nice story for her things got quieter.

Granny Karen is in Birmingham for a whole month to help out. And Lasse is there too now, also to represent the three uncles J

The date of the birth has for a long time been foreseen for August 13. It’s incredible how precise midwives can be in their predictions.  Friday afternoon Cecilie’s nice midwife ( from Northern Ireland ) came to their house to try to start the process with a so-called “sweep”. Later in the afternoon Karen took Cecilie for a walk in the neighbourhood  - also to start the process.  And suddenly around 9 p.m. the contractions started to be really strong and frequent. Off to the clinic in a hurry.  Nikos had been told by the staff in the clinic to leave Cecilie at the main entrance of the clinic while he looked for a parking place for the car. To avoid a possible doing-it-alone birth on the stairs Lasse came along.  And in the clinic they hurried to the delivery rooms, while the contractions got really strong.  That was when the very surprised words from the midwife were heard:  My Goodness – I can already see her head!

Liselotte and I were at a birthday party near Copenhagen, when we around 9 p.m. got the first message about the sudden departure to the clinic.  On our way home to Veddinge my Google phone rang, when we were near the village of Tuse west of Holbæk. Taking the car to the side of the road and with all emergency lamps blinking we god the lovely message:  CONGRATULATIONS – CONGRATULATIONS!

Nikos had managed to call directly from the delivery room though the midwife asked him not to do so. But behind a curtain he made a very quick call to Karen and Lasse whispering: The Baby is fine. Goodbye!

It was now time for a very happy and very warming SKAAL !! In Bournville with Norwegian Linie Aquavit and Irish Bailey. In Veddinge in Scotch Whisky and Australian White Wine !!

Warm Welcome in Our Family, Baby Girl!!

Niels Jørgen Thøgersen   ( Morfar J   )

A short introduction to our family

The Thøgersen Saga

   - as I see it.




It all began - in a way - on April 13, 1871.

It was a Thursday. Spring had just begun in rural Northern Jutland, the continental part of Denmark. Ane Kirstine (28 years) gave birth to Niels. Her first child (of five) with her new husband, Anders Christian Thogersen (35 years).


They lived on a medium-sized farm almost in the centre of the village of Grynderup, which has been in existance since the medieval ages, at least. The small roman style church next door is bearing witness to that effect. The farm called "TOFTEGAARDEN" was built around 1800 and consisted of four buildings typically constructed in a quadrangle. And also typically it had a thatched roof.


The parents of Niels were of course, very proud of their son. The future of the Thøgersen family was almost guaranteed. They were married on July 16, 1870. But the background was somewhat special and certainly sad.


In 1863 Ane Kirstine married her first husband, Niels Jensen Gundersen. They had 4 children, a boy and three girls. Only the two girls survived their first year, and their father died suddenly 42 years of age in 1869. The girls were 4 and 2 years old.  As farmer Niels grew weaker from his illness he hired around 1867 a young man to help him on the farm. This young person was Anders Christian - my great grandfather.


14 months after the death of her first husband widow Ane Kirstine married Anders Christian. It was very common in those days to remarry. She had a farm and two very young daughters to look after, and no such thing as public assistance of any sort existed. So she decided to marry again hopefully also following her heart. Nine months later on April 13, 1871, my grandfather Niels was born. He got his full name (almost) from his mother's late husband: Niels Jensen Thogersen. Also a very normal habit.


Niels lived most of his childhood on "Toftegaarden" with his two older half-sisters of course. Later four younger brothers and sisters followed: AnthonChristian  born 1874, Kristine born 1877, Kirsten Marie born 1880 and finally Theoder  born 1884.


Niels  went to school as did all his sisters and brothers, in a small village school 1,5 km away. But only 3 days a week, and only for 7 years. That was how education was organised in Denmark well into the 1950'ies by the way. He was taught his mother-tongue Danish, his arithmetic and his religion. However, already from the age of 10 he had a job - as had most kids in those days - namely to look after the cattle and the sheep.

In the meantime his father, Anders Christian, became a highly respected farmer in the small village community and even beyond. He was very good at farming and he was involved in many civic activities. He was also known to be a very determined person. Once he had made up his mind, it was very difficult to change his views. You might call him stubborn.


Niels - his son - was hired as an assistant-farmer at a neighbouring farm, but when he was 20 years old he decided to "emigrate". His travelled to Sjælland (the island of Zealand) the eastern part of Denmark about 250 km away - a very considerable distance in those days. What tempted him to go is not known, but a brand-new train link at least made it easier to travel. He was employed at a very big farm.


While he was there (in 1892) two very important things happened. Firstly he fell in love with the daughter of the local gardener. Her name was Ane Marie Pedersen, called Marie. She was 20 years old then, and not only did Niels fall in love with her! He also made her pregnant! The second important event was that he drafted as a soldier and joined the infantry on April 10, 1893. His son was born on April 13, by the way his very own birthday. So father and son never forgot each others' birthday for the rest of their lives.


In the meantime Niels was doing his best at the garrison in central Copenhagen about 70 km away from Marie who was staying in her parents' home with the baby boy. His name was Niels Christian Johan Thogersen. Always called Christian or Chris. He was a cute little boy. We have a nice photo of him as a 6 month old baby.


Military service did not last very long in those days. Niels returned by mid-November 1893, and on November 22 he married Marie in the local church of Bjernede on Sjælland. It is a very famous church by the way. The church is a round building dating from the middle-ages and the building not only served as a place of worship but also as defences.


Niels and his small family soon needed other sorts of defences. They could not stay in her parents' home, because it was simply too small and already somewhat crowded with other young daughters and their off-spring. So the three of them took the train back to his home village, Grynderup, in North Jutland. Imagine young Marie who never lived anywhere else but on Sjælland, now arriving with a very young husband and a new-born son in a totally new environment, meeting her new mother-in-law and father-in-law. It was no fun at all. Niels' father, Anders Christian, was furious. Not only had his son married without his consent, but he had married a girl, who did not come from a solid farm! Not surprisingly the relationship between Marie and her father-in-law never turned out to be outstanding but remained cool.


But here they were, the young family. Grandpapa finally decided to give them the choice between two alternatives. Either take a rather northern and infertile part of his farm in Grynderup or receive the lump sum of 1000 Danish Kroner. Quite a considerable amount at the time. They chose the first alternative.


The offer included the construction of a small farm-house, with habitation in the western part and room for cattle, horses and pigs in the eastern part. The house was ready in 1894. The walls were made from solid stones found in the area of the farm. One difficulty arose because grandfather Anders Christian strongly objected to the house becoming bigger than his own house. Although they had found timber which would have permitted the construction of a wider house with more up-to-date dimensions the answer was NO! They were forced to shorten the timber. The following generations of our family consequently had to content with these narrower conditions.


The new farm with no name of its own had about 20 acres of land. Half of it was already cultivated, the other half was covered in heather and had to be prepared for cultivation. Only a year after the house was finished a lightening struck and a good part of the house was destroyed. Marie and young Christian were in the kitchen when the accident happened. Marie's eyebrows disappeared but apart from that nobody was hurt. The farm was quickly rebuilt.


Soon there-after a second son Anthon  was born. Anthon Gerhardt  was his full name and his birthday was February 14, 1895. A Thursday in the heart of the tough Danish winter. Anthon was born in the small bedroom in the western part of the house. By the way in the very same room where all his younger sisters and brothers - and later I was born. The local midwife assisted at the birth, but no doctor was present.


A year later the first daughter Anna Kirstine (called Stine) was born on June 28, 1896. The next child was also a girl Mathilde (called Thilde). She arrived on February 17, 1900. She was followed by my father Alfred Henry (called Alfred) born on February 23, 1902. The final and last child was Regnar a boy seeing the light of day on September 12, 1905.


The final result: Six children, four boys and two daughters, all living on the small but solid farm in Grynderup with their parents. They did not get around very much. No cars of course!

And no bikes either! Marie and Niels never learned the noble art of cycling. Yes they had one or two horses and a carriage, but it was very rarely used. Every move needed walking. In 1892 the railway had arrived nearby, but in no way would they use it. It was much too dangerous and much too expensive. Yet they made frequent visits to the nearby town of Hobro (10.000 inh.). The distance of 15 km each way was - of course - made on foot.


The grand-parents Anne Kirstine and Anders Christian  lived on their old farm approximately 2 km away. But contact was scarce. The tough start in 1893/94 still prevailed, and the poor relationship lasted as long as Anders Christian lived. He remained as stubborn as ever all his life. When he passed away in 1902 (from cancer) at the age of 66 relations became closer. The children loved their grandmother very much. They very often paid her a visit coming home from school, which was only 400 m from her farm.


 A new school had been opened in 1892 and it was very popular. The teacher - there was only one - Mr. Ulrich was very qualified, very tough, but both stimulating for and popular with the pupils. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he taught the "older" classes (10-14 years) and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays he handled the "younger" classes (7-9 years). Most of the children had jobs to look after too. Like my father, who started working on a foreign farm when he was 10. So very often a small nap was needed during school hours. But did Master Ulrich see, hell broke loose.


These were the happy years for the Thøgersen family. The parents working hard on the farm developing it and making it a more fertile place. The children grew up and one by one they had to take up work at neighbouring farms to bring home extra money for the family. Life was hard and busy, but from time to time there was fun too.

A postcard in my possession sent to 16 year old Christian refers to great fun at a local dance. A photo of my father Alfred some years later shows him at an Aalborg show all dressed up, almost like a Chicago gangster from the 30ies. Later he told that the proud show-off did not last long. A dramatic rainfall, the worst of the year, made his hat and suit all soggy and he looked more like a drowned mouse than a Chicago gangster. Brother Anthon it seems also had his good times out and about or so he told us. But he also told us about one of his farm jobs where he was beaten up by the farmer himself. It was by the way his uncle Theoder who was the bad guy. Not surprisingly he left the job only to meet his uncle again 50 years later. This, however, happened under much more pleasant circumstances.


The two pairs of grand-parents played an important role in the life of the family, each in their very own way. Niels' parents lived as described earlier in the same village of Grynderup. When Anders Christian died in 1902 frequent and warmer relations were established. Grandmother Anne Kirstine soon sold the farm (to her son Theoder) and had a small house built just a few yards away. From this house she looked after the first telephone switchboard in the area. It had 12 subscribers. She was assisted by her daughter Kirsten Marie until her death in 1924. She was a sweet and very caring lady much loved by the young generation.


However, a lot of very dramatic events had happened a long time before Anne Kirstine passed away.


The first event was the emigration to America. Ten thousands of young Danes left for the US every year, most of them young men. This emigration started already in the 1880ies. They did not leave because of famine or other disasters (like it was the case for the Irish and the Swedes). They decided to go looking for a better life than the one they were offered in rural Denmark. They did not speak a single word of English. They had simply never heard it, but they took jobs with Danish farmers already in America, in particular in the Mid-West.


17 years old Christian started contemplating about going. He knew people who had already settled in Iowa. So he made up his mind. The local farmer whom he worked for organised a big party for him, and a few days later he said good-bye to his parents (42 and 41 years of age) and to his younger sisters and brothers (18, 16, 13, 11 and 6). One of his uncles took him to the train, and he promised to return 5 years later.


He left Copenhagen on February 20, 1913 on the ship "Hellig Olav" (Holy Olav), and he arrived in New York (Ellis Island) on March 5, 1913. The total number of passengers on the ship was 584, and Christian's cabin had number 461. Most of the passengers were Danes.


Having been cleared by US Immigration at Ellis Island, Christian boarded a westbound train together with a lot of other Danish immigrants. He arrived safe and sound at the Danish farmer in Iowa and started working. Not least he started making money. All his savings from Denmark had been spent on the voyage.


His letters to the family in Grynderup started tempting his younger brother Anthon. He wanted to go too. His parents were worried, especially his mother Marie. She never said it, but it was obvious to everybody that Anthon was here favourite child. And now he wanted to go west too!



The decision was taken. On February 5, 1914 Anthon left Denmark on the ship "Frederik VIII". It was her virgin voyage, and she arrived safely in New York only on March 1, 1914. The reason for the long trip was that she had to make a detour to The Azores to take more coal on board. They had simply miscalculated the amount of coal needed to make the trip. A total of 436 passengers was on the ship, and Anthon's cabin had number 434. Anthon celebrated his 19th birthday on board. Interestingly this was the last emigration ship to sail from Denmark before the First World War broke out on September 1, 1914.


But Anthon reached his final destination, and he found his brother in Battle Creek, Iowa and he found the farm to work at. The family in Denmark received nice and warm letters about the new life in America.


But trouble was soon to start. The war did not directly touch neither Denmark nor The US. But communication became more and more difficult between the two countries. When the United States entered the war in April 1917 any contact became impossible. Yet the parents in Grynderup heard that both Christian (24) and Anthon (22) volunteered to the US army. But having been informed about that they received no further news. It was impossible due to war secrets. The fact was that Christian went to a "boot camp", "Camp McArthur", Waco, Texas and Anthon to New Mexico and to Texas (as a sergeant). Finally both of them went off on a ship to France. They went off to the front.


Looking at the documents about their military service a number of interesting details can be added.


Christian enlisted in the US Army on May 9, 1918 in Sioux City, Iowa not far from Battle Creek. After the basic military training in Texas he left the US on August 17, 1918. The voyage by sea was very dangerous. In 1917 Germany had declared the so-called "unlimited submarine war" in the Atlantic Ocean which meant that any ship could be attacked and sunk without warning. However, all ships transporting troops were accompagnied by US battle ships, and most vessels including that of Christian, reached Europe safely.


Christian belonged to the 7th Army in the American Expeditory Forces. His regiment was the 34th Infantry Regiment and it served the last 2,5 months of the war at the front east of Paris and south of Luxembourg. The Germans had launched an all-out attack along that front from September. It was mere hell with colossal losses on all sides. Chris' regiment was heavily engaged in battles around places like Chateau Thierry, Thiaucourt, Rembercourt, Jaulny and Bouillonville. Most of them are near and around Verdun one of the bloodiest battlefields of the war.


On November 11th, 1918 the terrible war was finally over. A general armistsice was agreed. Millions of young men had died. The whole north eastern part of France and a good part of western and southern Belgium was totally destroyed. The German Army withdrew to Germany. The allied army including the American stayed on for some months.


Christian   left France with his regiment in June 1919 and the s/s "Agamemnon" and arrived in New York on June 18th, 1919. They went to Camp Merrit, Bergen County, New Jersey.  It was from here that Christian gained American citizenship on August 8, 1919. As the papers reveal: 25 years, height: 5 feet 6 inches, blue eyes, brown hair.


In the meantime he had already continued in June to hos home state Iowa and had got his "honorable discharge from the United States Army" on June 26, 1919 in Camp Dodge, Iowa.


Whether Chris left a bit of his heart back in France is hard to tell. But a photo of a very lovely young lady was kept by him forever - and is now in our possession. On the back you can read: "A remembering of your friend Berta M., Thionville, September 1919.


The war itself had been such a terrible experience for Chris that he hardly ever talked about it ever since. If you have visited the site of Verdun and its surroundings it is perfectly understandable.


Anthon enlisted in the Iowa National Guard on June 18, 1917 in Ida Grove. He was sent to Camp Deming, New Mexico where he was promoted to sergeant on August 3, 1917. From here his regiment was transferred to Brownsville, Texas. In those years the US had some problems with Mexico who to some extend played games with the Germans. Therefore the Texas-New Mexico boarders had to be well looked after.


Anthon left on September 17, 1918 on a ship to France. His regiment took part in the battles in Lorraine, in German: Lothringen.This region had been the subject of a permanent dispute between France and Germany for centuries and it changed hands many times. The population had a Germanistic background and normally spoke a German dialect. After the Franco-German war in 1870-71 Lothringen also became a part of Germany. But after the First World War it became French. It has remained so ever since, except during part of the Second World War, when Germany annexed the region in "Das Reich" for a few years.


For Anthon and his comrades the war also came to an end on November 11, 1918. The big guns were silent, and life in the war zones started slowly again. Anthon returned to the US with his regiment on July 16, 1919 and had his "honorable discharge from the United States Army" on July 23, 1919 from the very same Camp Dodge, Iowa where Chris had his discharge about a month earlier.


In the meantime, what had happened in Grynderup, Denmark. The war had not directly touched the country, which was neutral. But it has to be said though that the southern part of Denmark, Sønderjylland (Southern Jutland), was very much involved. It was taken by the Germans in the war of 1864, and though the population of approx. 200.000 was 95% Danish the region was fully incorporated into Germany. Consequently the population was forced to contribute actively to the German warfare. Altogether 30.000 young Danish men were drafted into the German army. 6.000 were killed at the fronts. Their feelings for Germany were generally very negative and therefore many of them decided never to fire a real shot a the allied lines. They simply fired their shots in the air.


Anyway, Denmark as it existed at the time did not take part in the war. Many people though earned quite a lot of money by delivering for instance farm products, horses etc. primarily to the Germans. A special name was labelled to these individuals "The Barons of Goulasch", and they were as you might think not very popular with the general public.


Chris' and Anthon's parents were of course very worried about their sons. What had happened to them out there in the war? They in their turn of course knew that the war was tough and inhuman, but fortunately they had no idea of the ugly caracter of this war. It was in fact the first industrial war in world history with extremely efficient killing machines (f.i. the automatic machine gun) confronting soldiers led by old generals who still  lived in the past and who had no idea of how to direct a modern war. The result was fatal: Millions of young men killed, in a war, which had no purpose and had no significant result.


The Thøgersens did not know that, but of course the news of the general armistice on November 11, 1918 also reached Grynderup. Though everybody was happy, they were still worried. On November 22, 1918 the parents celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. 25 years of married life is a big family celebration in Denmark. But the family photo from that event clearly shows that everybody was very worried. They had heard nothing from their sons.


After some weeks the Red Cross finally managed to get a letter through from France. Everybody was relieved and anxious to meet eachother. The parents tried to get their sons to Denmark before returning to the US, but it was impossible.. The US Army insisted on all their soldiers to be discharged at home - not in Europe.


Mother Marie continued to believe that they would come some day. She actually walked down the road to the nearby mini railway station in Grynderup each time a train came in. She was convinced that they would arrive on one of these local trains. But no, they did not come.


Life started again in Grynderup and in Iowa. And a frequent contact by letter was resumed. Especially Marie was writing very often. Anthon wrote back more often than Christian. Anthon had by now moved to Mankato, Minnesota where he started a new career with different jobs and in particular through intensive education. Chris stayed in Battle Creek where he worked as a farmhand until he had saved enough money to pay the down payment for a 360 acre farm. This farm he spent a lifetime developing.

( to be continued)