Michael Sødring and Elisabeth Wiborg

Michael Jensen Sødring, born in 1762, is the first in the family to bear that surname, being almost certainly the Mickel Jensen who appears in the 1787 census in the village of Sødring in Jutland, Denmark. Mickel appears as an employee, job unspecified, at the Sødringholm estate, and is immediately followed in the list by a Stephan Jensen, a year younger. Stephan is probably his brother because he appears again in the 1801 census, unmarried and living with his parents Jens Mikkelsen and Karen Stephensdatter. Jens Mikkelsen (i.e. son of Mikkel) would almost certainly have named his eldest son after his own father, his son thus becoming Mikkel Jensen (son of Jens). Family surnames had not been established at that point, but when Mickel Jensen moved away from Sødring to Copenhagen during the next ten years, he would have adopted as his surname his place of origin, a common practice. Although his job in Sødring is unspecified, in his marriage certificate in Copenhagen in 1797 his occupation is given as gardner.

He married Elisabeth Agnethe Wiborg, both in their mid-thirties. She was recently widowed, having married only a year earlier Johan Henrik Winther, an innkeeper in Copenhagen, who had three children by a previous marriage. So Elisabeth and Michael started with three step-children before they had two children of their own.

Elisabeth is found earlier in the 1787 census in Copenhagen in the household of a major in the Crown Prince’s Regiment. He is elderly, there are no children, and Elisabeth’s position is given as servant, but she could have had higher rank in society than this suggests, the reason being that at the baptism of her first child in 1798  there were a number of high-ranking people in attendance. They seem unlikely to be there for the father Michael, a gardner from a remote village. Immediately after, he has possession of the farm Petersborg at Bennebo in the west of Sjælland (Zealand) as a tenant farmer with rights of inheritance. How did he acquire that? Perhaps through his wife’s connections. As it happens, he and his family left the farm after 7 or 8 years and moved to the the parish of Køng in the south of Sjælland where he was given the position of school teacher and became a member of the church choir. The move is for reasons unknown, perhaps poor health.

This is where it becomes intriguing. A major landowner near Petersborg at the time is Malthe Friis who also acquires the main estates in Køng. And Malthe Friis’ wife is Mariane Wiborg. This immediately suggests that the positions of Michael Sødring both at Petersborg and in Køng are due to his wife being the sister, or other relation, of Malthe Friis’ wife. Another indicator of the close connections is that one of the godfathers at the christening of Michael and Elisabeth’s son was Carsten Friis, almost certainly Malthe Friis’ brother. And the son was christened Jens MALTHE Nicolaj. Was this in recognition of their benefactor? Or was the son actually Elisabeth’s illegitimate  child by her brother-in-law? Was Michael being paid well for adopting Malthe Friis’ illegitimate son (who was conceived about three months before Elisabeth and Michael married). Should our family name really be Friis and not Sødring? .....


Baptism record of their son Jens Malthe Nicolaj

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