Sunshine Island

Rønne harbor and the church where our 2nd great-grandparents were married.

The Danish island of Bornholm, called the sunshine island because it has, on average, more sunny days than the rest of Denmark, lies in the Baltic Sea near Sweden’s southern coast. We’ve been planning a visit since we first arrived since it’s an easy ferry ride away, but somehow it didn’t happen. With our first visitors, my brother CJ and his husband David, in town for Easter break, we decided to book our tickets for Bornholmslinjen, the ferry from Ystad.

I’ve been working on a family tree for ages and wanted to find out more about our Bornholmer past, so I contacted the tourism board and found a local tour guide and historian who enjoys genealogy. He was quite enthusiastic about the project and discovered a booklet in the local library documenting the story of our 3rd great-grandfather. This treasure included names and addresses of the families descending from said grandfather and led me to meet one of our 4th cousins, who happens to live in Lund! Anne and I met for fika a few weeks ago and arranged to see each other again when more of her family, including her father, the one who authored Åke Andersson’s history, would be gathering for Easter in Bornholm. Such an amazing series of events! So we spent a couple of fantastic days in Bornholm exploring our Danish Bornholmer (and Scanian) roots.

After several hours of lively conversation, getting to know each other and trying to fill in some of the blanks from the years since our branch of the Åkessons left Bornholm, we explored the beautiful town of Svaneke. Per and Hanne showed us some of their favorite places and shared Danish candies even sending some of these delectable treats home with the girls. What a generous, warm welcome to Bornholm!

Per’s grandfather and my mom’s great-grandfather were brothers. They both grew up in Sweden but married women from Bornholm after emigrating to the island for better work opportunities. Several of Åke’s children left Bornholm for the US while some stayed, Per’s grandfather being one who remained in Bornholm. Åke remarried and remained there until his death in 1897.

Next, Hans, the genealogist, was able to assist us with the research he did on our 2nd great-grandmother and her family since obviously Per did not know about that part of our history. Hans was able to find many locations where family members had lived and some of the places were still much the same! The first location was a tiny row house which was once right on the harbor, with the wind mill on the street behind it. Coincidentally, the hotel we booked was directly in front of the house. Our 2nd great-grandmother, Anna, lived at #26 Møllegade/ Millstreet, the blue one, with the front of the house facing the windmill. There it was, right outside our hotel window! She was 3 years old when she lived here in 1860 with 2 sisters and 2 brothers.

Anna married Peter Augeson in 1878 at the Skt. Nicolai Church.

Photo from Per’s research of Åkesson/ Andersson families

Below is Nyker or new church, one of the distinctive round churches of Bornholm which retained many pagan elements and served also as a fortress. They were built as a community space that could be defended. Great acoustics, too! Photo- hourglass timer so folks would know how long the sermon would be. Easily barricaded doors. Women’s entrance over the bronze age fertility stone. Anna’s parents, Klaus Peder Pedersen and Kirstine Margrethe Busch, were married at the “new” round church in 1848.

We also visited more of Anna’s relatives homes in the area around Rønne, including a farm which is now a pottery studio.

Anna’s mother moved around quite a bit and showed up in other Parish records late in her life. The interesting thing about it is that from here, modern Bornholmers and Scanian Swedes just a few miles away can see one another’s lights. In a show of solidarity they flash headlights at each other on a designated night every Autumn. They say they have always had a love/ hate relationship.

Back to Åke Andersson for a bit. He lived in this yellow house, built 1875 near Aarsballe, with his second wife, a widow he married in 1877, along with the two youngest of his children. His first wife was our 3rd great-grandmother, Else, who had died back in Sweden in 1872.

Some photos from the area in and around Rønne and some prints from the museum.

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