October 2012: I am in the process of adding recently obtained information about our Nielsen ancestors in Denmark / Germany.
For years, all I knew of my Nielsen heritage was that our Nielsen ancestors, Conrad and Sophia (Friederichsen) Nielsen, lived in the Holstein Province of Germany, which was governed by Denmark until 1864. I knew that my greatgrandfather Adolph had at least three brothers and one sister who also immigrated to the U.S. I knew that Sophia was a widower when she married Conrad and that at least one child by that marriage, Friedericka Petersen, also emigrated from Germany to eastern Nebraska. No one in my immediate family knew any more about our Nielsen ancestors back in Germany / Denmark.
Nielsen ancestral home of Rabenholz relative to today's
boundary between Germany and Denmark.
(Click image to view larger version.)
For years, I had no luck in finding more information about our Nielsen ancestors. Then, in 2010 I connected with a genealogical researcher in Germany who located some church & emigration records at the state archives in Schleswig, Germany. Then in 2011, a Nielsen "cousin" (not sure how we are related) in Germany contacted me "out of the blue" and shared information copied from several village chronicles. The latter contact led to another contact with a verified 4th-cousin, Hans Asmus Martensen, who lives on the ancestral Nielsen farm in Rabenholz, Germany and gave me the gift of a book that chronicles the lives of Christian Nielsen and his descendants, that his father compiled in 1997. All three of these individuals have helped open more doors into our Nielsen heritage and consequently helped identify four more generations of Nielsen ancestors.
Consequently, our earliest known ancestors were Hans and Magdalena Elisabeth (Lorenzen) Nielsen, who married in 1725 and lived in the far northeastern region of what today is referred to as Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany. While my immediate Nielsen family has always considered its heritage to be Danish, control of the Schleswig-Holstein area historically alternated between Prussia (and/or Germany) and Denmark. During Hans' life and most of his son Christian's life, as a result of a governmental decree by the Danish government in 1733 (Danish: Stavnsbånd), they were essentially serfs on the noble estate of Gut Priesholz. After serfdom was abolished in that area around 1796, it remained under Danish authority until the 1860's whereup Schleswig was officially ceded to the Kingdom of Prussia. Today, the region of our Nielsen ancestors lies less than 10 miles south of the coastline of Denmark.