My Great Great Great Grandpa from Denmark

One of the family stories that I find most intriguing is that of my great great great grandfather. I don’t know his name, but I know he was on my mother’s mother’s father’s side.

Family lore has it that he came to America as a stowaway on a ship from Denmark. That’s pretty much all I know. I don’t know his name or what town in Denmark he came from, or for that matter, why he came to the States.

His story is almost too brief to mention, but I have always felt connected to it. Here was a man who made a change. Took an enormous risk. He left his country and everything he knew. How could he do such a thing?

Why did he stow away? Was he too poor to buy a ticket? Or, was he running from the law? Was he desperately trying to escape something—the Danish mafia? A bad marriage? Debts? A jealous husband? The weather?

Or, was he overcome by a desire for adventure? Lured by stories of America. Driven by ambition. Sure he would strike it rich.

Whatever the reason, he found a way to board a ship in secret and stay hidden. He braved a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, across choppy, uncertain seas.

What did he eat along the way? It seems he must have stolen his food while aboard the ship. Or, did he catch rats?

After his arrival, his story continues only briefly. He found a bride. It is said that the couple never spoke the same language. Who was this woman—my great great great grandmother? Why was she willing to marry a man she could never tell her hopes and dreams? Whose financial future must have been uncertain. Was she unattractive? An old maid? Terribly poor?

Or, was he terribly handsome? A bad boy? Someone whose blazing glance she could never forget?

Did he marry her for money? For land? For love?

Whenever I think about my own relentless wanderlust, I think of my great great great grandpa. It comforts me to have someone to blame.


2 thoughts on “My Great Great Great Grandpa from Denmark

  1. That is incredibly brave. I find sometimes that the mystery surrounding a story like this is more interesting than the truth. I am curious as to how two people can join in marriage without being able to communicate with each other. Do you think they taught each other their language?


    1. I don’t know. My grandmother swore that they never spoke the same language. I suppose it would make arguing and nagging more difficult or comical—if they did it through gestures. I think they both must have been desperate but at the same time had similar personalities in that they were willing to try something out of the ordinary.


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