For Manvel, ND, family, new-found relatives seem oddly familiarAfter an unsuccessful four-year search, Betty Braaten and daughter Diane Kinney had given up on their attempt to connect with relatives in Denmark. However, little did they know then that their relatives across the Atlantic Ocean also were searching for family members on websites.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
MANVEL, N.D. — After an unsuccessful four-year search, Betty Braaten and daughter Diane Kinney had given up on their attempt to connect with relatives in Denmark.
However, little did they know then that their relatives across the Atlantic Ocean also were searching for family members on sites such as Ancestry.com and EllisIsland.org.
Then, in September 2011, an email came to Kinney that said: “I think our family trees are the same.” The message was from Tanja Karsen, who had computed that they are “second-cousins, once-removed.”
Kinney returned the message with photos of family members. No DNA testing was necessary to verify the family link because “you could see the resemblances,” Karsen said.
Then, when Braaten and daughters Kinney and Debbie Conley visited their new-found relatives in Hjallerup, Denmark, in August 2012, there was further proof. Relatives on opposite sides of the Atlantic shared personalities, mannerisms, facial expressions and laughs.
“When we got there, it immediately felt like we were family,” said the 80-year-old Braaten. “It didn’t take us long to fit together.
“And, when we came home, we were immediately lonely for them.”
That loneliness took a four-day vacation because the Danes arrived Wednesday at the Manvel homes of Braaten and Kinney and are departing Sunday. The eight visitors are Leif and Gerda Nielsen; Alex, Marianna and son Kasper Therkelson; and Jason, Tanja and son Soren Karsen. The Karsens live in New Jersey, as Tanja came to America to work as a watchmaker.
Despite their familiarity being new, their banter and teasing suggest otherwise. “When they left Denmark last year, our country was totally drained of beer and chocolate,” Leif Nielsen said.
Braaten’s father, Carl Laursen, came to America in 1923 and worked on farms near Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.
“I always wanted to know something about my dad’s family,” Braaten said. “But my dad never said much.”
She’s learned a lot, as her relatives, like most Danes, speak fluent English. So, there is no language barrier.
The visitors received tours of the farms here, just as the Americans visited the farms, churches and graveyards of their ancestors in Denmark and avoided the usual tourism traps. Although stops were planned at Widman’s candy shop, Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Canad Inns water park and a local pizzeria, most of their time together was spent in conversation.
“There’s a term in Denmark of ‘hygge,’ which basically means ‘coziness.’ It’s where you do stuff with your family, cooking and just being together,” Tanja Karsen said. “That’s what we all wanted to do.”
Hygge isn’t likely to end.
“We’re already plotting to work our way back to Denmark,” Kinney said.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail to email@example.com.