Do not be afraid to communicate!

One big lesson I learned in 1980, was to communicate.  I always ask myself first: “why not”? And I think of a 20/20 TV show from the Spring of 1980 which featured Frank Serpico.  He was in America and was risking his life, being here and speaking out.  I had admired him, his honesty and guts ever since I saw the movie about his story.  I wrote the TV station and asked them to forward my letter to him letting him know I admired him for what he did (and no, I did NOT have him confused with Al Pacino).

A week or so later, I got a phone call from a man saying, “Hello, this is Paco….”.  Now, THAT is another story for another time, but I had a very memorable day at a southern California beach and heard all about his sheepdog Alfie, who was still alive at that time.

Why am I bringing that up?  Lesson:  Communicate!  Nothing to lose.  Adventures await.

A little over two years ago, I was contacted by Maggie who lives in Northumberland, England asking me to help find a Danish sailor from World War II.  He had been stationed in Newcastle at that time.  Seems that this sailor, August Jensen, had fathered a son (born in 1945) with an English woman named Madge.

August had stayed in touch for a few years, but something happened where he stopped. Madge died not knowing what happened to him and the son grew up not even knowing what his father’s name was until he received a letter his mother wrote to be given to him upon her death.  She told him what little she knew. Unfortunately, when she died in 1996, the chances of finding August were remote.

Now….back to communication…..

In January 2014 I wrote an article on finding Danish ancestors as I had just finished a job and had learned a lot and wanted to share my knowledge.  In July 2014, a friend of Maggie’s who lives in Sweden told her about my article she saw on the Internet.  Maggie, thinking I was in Denmark, thought perhaps I could help solve the family mystery.  She was surprised to find I was an American, but nevertheless sent me every clue she had.  Some letters, a photo and bits of other things.  Not much.  Hmmmm, I DO love a challenge!

Now finding a Danish sailor, unknown date or city of birth, with such a common name as August Jensen from World War II appeared daunting.  In early 2015 I had August’s son and two of HIS adult children take DNA tests and I followed up every single possible lead.  Nothing found that I could connect the dots with.

A week ago, I went back over every clue I could find.  I started communicating.  I wrote to a woman named Kirsten in Denmark who had a World War II veteran named August Jensen in her family.  It turned out, it was not our August, but from one of the clues I sent her, she said to check into an August Jensen who was in another family.  She spent many hours helping me research in Danish records.  We found a family tree with that August in it.

I wrote to a Danish cousin (Martin) of the new August.  Funnily, enough, he currently lives near London, England.  However, he dug in and found more clues.  Yep, this was the correct family.  I now had a full name – August Ejner Jensen – AND birth date, birth place and his parents’ names!  AND there were definite DNA matches amongst this family with my Northumberland friends.  Now, I could connect those dots.  A family tree was formed.

Wow!!  On top of that, I found ANOTHER cousin in Denmark (Kjeld) who KNEW this August while he was growing up, and then, as Maggie said, “the flood gates opened”.  We now have a huge Danish family, lots of talking and picture exchanging, stories galore, and a happy sailor’s son who now knows who his father was and what happened.  There is closure and peace.  You can feel it.

No, not everything about this story is happy, but that is not the point.  This is an article to encourage open, honest and friendly communication.  It is about not giving up.  If you DO NOT take that chance and stick your neck out, you will never know.  All these things are important in my line of work and in life.

And, as I sit here at my desk in northern Nevada, I am satisfied that I have restored another family.  Nothing makes me happier….

Happy Holidays!


PS – And as you can see, from the photo above (while in Northumberland), Maggie and I became friends for life!

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