Saturday, January 25, 2014

Johan Roy Tolve Johansen

I wrote a story about my grandfather, Roy T. Johansen, in the third week of the "52 Ancestors" goal for 2014. This is the fourth week and I am writing another story about the same grandfather. He was born in February 1900 at Omaha, Nebraska to Danish immigrants, Johan Johansen and Juliane Hansen. He always wrote his name as "Roy T. Johansen" and on some records his name was recorded as Roy Thorvald Johansen.

In 1965 the whole story changed.

Grandpa was working for the Southern California Edison Company (SCEC) and in 1965 he wanted to retire. However, there was a glitch. He had to prove he was 65 years old. The story I always heard was that he couldn't retire if he couldn't prove he was 65 years old. The problem he encountered was that Nebraska was not keeping official state records of birth in 1900, the year he was born, so getting a birth certificate was impossible.

The story continued ...

Grandpa wrote letters to everyone he could think of that might have a record of his birth. He wrote to the schools he attended, the churches he attended, the places that he had worked as a youth. Eventually he found the little church in Omaha where he was christened as an infant and luckily they had the old record book where his name, birth date, christening date, and parents' names were recorded. I remember hearing that he obtained a birth certificate from the church where he was christened and that this certificate was used as his proof of age for his retirement.

Grandpa learned a lot more about himself as a result of finding his christening record. He learned that the name he had been going by his whole life was not the name he was given as his christening. Instead of being Roy Thorvald Johansen, he was christened as Johan Roy Tolve Johansen. When grandpa asked his half-brother Armand about his name, he was told that the "Tolve" meant 12 and he was given that name because he was his mother's 12th child.

12 children in the Johansen family? How can that be? Grandpa only knew of five children, including himself. The oldest was Armand, then Carrie, and Hans. The three oldest were grandpa's half-siblings. His biological sister was named Alma. That's the family that grandpa knew and grew up with. Where were the other seven children? Who were they? Boys, girls, who knows? No one knew the answers. Grandpa passed away never knowing the names of his 7 other siblings.

Last week in the "52 Ancestors" series I wrote about the scrapbooks that my grandpa Johansen kept. In one scrapbook he pasted all the replies he received from the letters he wrote to prove his date of birth. I searched every scrapbook for the "official" birth certificate he received from the church where he was christened. I asked every family member if they knew where the certificate was. No one had seen the certificate. We assume grandpa gave the certificate to the Southern California Edison Company when he applied for retirement.

In one of the scrapbooks I also found a birth certificate that I thought was a copy of a delayed record of his birth. However, it proved to be a form that my grandfather filled out, but never submitted to the state for official filing. It's no doubt that this is grandpa's handwriting. I would recognize his handwriting anywhere:

This little piece of paper is a short history of his family. At the time of grandpa's birth, the family was living "On South Vinton St. So. of R. R. Track in 3300 Block". His father, Johan Johansen, was born "near Copenhagen, Denmark" on 6 May 1871. He was a butcher and also a "Theatre owner from 1909" and the last time he engaged in this work was March 1934.

His mother, Juliane Hansen, was born at Ringkiobing, Denmark" on 6 Sept 1862. In the "late 1890's" she "ran Hotel in Omaha, Nebrs" and she was a housewife from 1900. The last time she engaged in this work was 23 July 1911.

Question 27 on the form asks the "Number of children of this mother (at time of this birth) and including this child. (a) Born alive and now living." Grandpa wrote the word "Five." "(b) Born alive but now dead." Grandpa wrote the word "Four." The last part of the question was "(c) Stillborn" and grandpa wrote the word "Three."

I think that my grandfather's retirement years were a little unusual. I can't imagine what it was like for him to learn at age 65 that the name he went by all his life was not the name he was given at his birth. I also can't imagine was it like to find out that there were seven other siblings in his family that he knew nothing about. We are still searching for my grandfather's other siblings. I'm so glad that grandpa loved to create scrapbooks because they are filled with stories and little clues about the genealogy research he did during his retirement years. In twelve days, we will celebrate grandpa's 114th birthday. Happy Birthday Grandpa! This story is for you!

(See grandpa's story on FamilySearch)

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