Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Mary Ann.

Mary Ann Brandt Jensen joined us in July of 2016.  She’s most of active in our Denmark and Categorization Projects.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Dutsch, Schech, Metz, Montgomery, Krueger, Choquette, Crevier, Benoit, Jensen.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Northern Denmark, Quebec, Louisiana, Illinois, Kansas, an area around Gluckstadt to Hamburg, Germany and Hayna, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

I’ve always loved history and stories.  I grew up with a large extended family that talked about the generations above me as if they were all still with us. When I was about 8 or 9, my mother’s cousins circulated an outline of the research three or four of them had done to record what our elders knew and what they had found out while one of them was stationed in Germany. That’s when the genealogy bug really bit me. As I went on to be educated as a librarian and then a lawyer, I truly began to love research and working out puzzles. All that comes together in genealogy.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Its hard to choose because there are so many interesting ancestors.  In my own tree, it’s probably my great great grandmother Kate Goodman Montgomery. My mother and aunts and uncles talked quite a bit about “Little Grandma” even though she died before my mother and the younger half of my mother’s nine siblings were born. I have much more of her bio to write, and I’m also convinced there is still a lot more of her story to find.  The daughter of a dancing master, she immigrated from Ireland to New York, possibly through Canada, traveled up and down the Mississippi River mostly between Saint Louis and New Orleans, and finally settled down near Covington, Louisiana in her later years.  She married a river boatman who was also a gambler and raised 8 of her 11 children to adulthood.  She and her family members were great musicians.  At one point, she helped support her family by running a music hall in New Orleans.  Her oldest son was shot and killed in 1917 in a dispute over a card game near Tylertown, Mississippi.  She must have been a very strong woman to have lived her life even though she was barely 5 feet tall.

In my husband’s tree, it’s probably Christofle Crevier, my husband’s ninth great grandfather and one of the founding settlers of Quebec.  His biography is interesting enough to inspire me to learn to read historical French well enough to roughly translate and get the sense from it. I’ve learned a lot of his story and that of his family, but there is such a rich store of images of original source documents available that it makes me want to learn to read old handwritten French much better.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

So many have tumbled in the last two years, it’s hard to pick one.  The best has probably been the Danish brick wall for my husband’s father’s family.  My husband’s grandfather is named Nels Jensen as is his great grandfather.  In Denmark, that’s worse than looking for John Smith in England. I didn’t know much about the Danish family other than his grandfather was born in Lyngby and his great grandfather married a second time after immigrating to Kansas and went back to Denmark with his second wife. I learned there are at least five sogne (parishes) in Denmark named Lyngby.  For about 20 years I gave up on tracing the family back in Denmark, but I did verify the names and locations in the United States of several of his grandfather’s siblings, which gave me approximate ages. There the brick wall settled for over 20 years. Then, shortly after joining WikiTree, I discovered danishfamilysearch.com and did some reading on how to use it.

Starting with the grandmother’s name which was a little less generic, I found the family in the 1890 Denmark census which gives birth locations as well as ages.  That opened the doors to finding baptism and confirmation records and eventually enough information to find the family in the Danish emigration records. From there the wall behaved more like dominos than bricks. I now have the names and at least one record for every ancestor going back five generations on all lines and further on at least one line. I’m working on finding more records and information, writing biographies and collecting pictures I can use to write a family history book for my father-in-law.  Along the way, I started the Denmark Project when I was trying to learn enough about Denmark and Danish history to make proper categories and to figure out their naming customs.  I also discovered the Categorization Project and how much categorization and library cataloging have in common. So I’m dusting off some old skills and education in my retirement too. Most of all, I’ve met a bunch of really wonderful people around the world who share my interests.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Johannes Gutenberg for his role in making the written word accessible to the masses.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Swimming, photography, crocheting, and listening to music and audiobooks.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

A year and a half.  I alternate between working on categories, sourcing, and writing biographies.  As biographies take the longest, that’s probably what I spend the most time on.

What brought you to WikiTree?

I evaluated several genealogy websites in searching for the right one to preserve and provide Internet access to the genealogy research I’ve done for years. I was particularly interested in finding one that encouraged proper sourcing and that truly encouraged collaborative genealogy. WikiTree is it.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

Collaboration and the helpful cooperative attitude of WikiTreers.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

Name fields that were more adaptable to the variety of naming customs around the world.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

During this fall’s Source-a-Thon, someone on my team won a gift certificate for a few hours of Danish research and gave it to me because of my interest in Denmark.  It got me through a tough spot and corrected an error I had made. That encouraged me to get back to work on the Denmark lines as my father-in-law is aging and I really wanted to give him more of his family tree. I set a goal of finding at least the names for his five generation ancestral tree by Christmas.  I was running low on time and not doing very well at transcribing and translating an old Danish record and put out a G2G request asking for help. Several others weighed in and together looking at several related records were able to figure out what the difficult one said in less than 24 hours. This isn’t the first time other WikiTreers have helped me figure out something I couldn’t figure out on my own. And I’ve done the same for others, more with old French Canadian records than Danish ones because my genealogical French is better than my old Danish.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Start by looking for a project that interests you and exploring some of the work of that project.  Do some browsing on G2G, especially in the Genealogy Help section. See if you can find any of your own relatives and follow their trees. Then look for a project to join and volunteer a bit on things they are working on.  This will connect you with others with similar interests and help you learn about how WikiTree works. Try one of the many weekly or monthly challenges to get a bit of experience editing and improving profiles. Then start to build your own tree if your ancestors are not already here. Ask lots of questions on G2G. You will get a lot of help and meet lots of interesting people who will make it easier for you to do what you want to do on WikiTree.

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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Mary Ann Brandt Jensen”

  1. Mary Ann, Only picking on you because of your Danish connection. I put up my Wife’s family as far as is known. Her Mother descended from Danish/ German grandparents and probably migrated to Australia in the 1880s. The family name was Sorensen which I understand is like searching for Smith in English speaking countries. His wife was I believe German with the name Nimpz. If you are ever working in this field I’d appreciate your input

    • Geoff, I’ve discovered that some of my own ancestors come from the Slesvig-Holstein area which has been under Danish control for more years than German control. But there too, I have a common name – my mother’s maiden name is Dutsch and we hit a brick wall a couple of generations back. I lucked out in that there is one file on Family Search that covers the needed area for a few years, but compared to the Danish, there are so few German records online, especially church records. One line in the town of Hayna in the Rheinland-Pfalz goes way back on Family Search, so I’ve done well on that line. My Dad’s lines are in Pomerania and Posen in areas that went back and forth between the Germans and the Poles. We are the germans, but again, I have common names like Brandt and Krueger, and I’ve found only a few records indexed online. And I’m not very good at reading German script even if I could find the records online. I do a little better with reading old Danish records and a lot better reading old French records, probably because I’ve had more practice with so many of those records readily available online. Too bad the French is all on my husband’s side.

  2. I am Nimpz changed to Nimps during WWI. Nimpz means ( From Germany ) in Slavic? Nimpz ancestors settled in Cleveland Mn about 1876. Left behind a town in northern Poland (Spitzen) now named Tatarki?

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