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
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? .....