Nissen Family - F407

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Nissen Family
Hans Christian and Christine Frederickke - F407
Nissen Family 1872.jpg
Christine Frederickke Nissen with children (from left) Magdalene, Dorthea, Hans and Nis (in a dress); Denmark, 1872.
Name Hans Christian Nissen
Lived b. abt 1829-30
Name Christine Frederickke Boisen
Lived b. abt 1843-44
Dorthea Bendetho Chatrine Nissen (b. abt 1864-65)
Magdalene Mathie Nissen (b. abt 1865-66)
Nis Nissen (b. abt 1868-69)
Hans (Harry) Johannes Truels Nissen (b. abt 1871-72)
Maren Johanna Marie Nissen (b. abt 1873-74)

In 1876, Hans Christian Nissen, his wife Christine Frederickke Nissen (nee Boisen) and their five children, sailed from the port of Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (previously Denmark), for England. On 25th May 1876, they then left England for Australia in the City of Adelaide.

The family are listed in the passenger list for the voyage, albeit with the spelling "Niesen". The passengers on this voyage were all assisted migrants from Germany and the passengers were described as labourers - the father, Hans, was a cabinetmaker-joiner. The family regarded themselves as coming from Denmark, however Schleswig, the part of Denmark where they had been living had been annexed as part of Germany in 1864.

Marriage and Children in Denmark

Hans Christian Nissen was born on 22 August 1830 in Aabenraa, Denmark. Christine Frederickke Boisen was born on 24 August 1844 in Rassomark, Denmark. They were married on 4 September 1863, in the Folkerkirke at Den Daske, Bevtoft, Haderslev, Denmark. Hans was 34 years of age and Christine was 20.

The following children were born in Denmark:

Danish-Prussian War (Second Schleswig War)

The Schleswig-Holstein Question

Infantry Save a Cannon During the Retreat from the Dannevirke by Niels Simonsen
Infantry Save a Cannon During the Retreat from the Dannevirke by Niels Simonsen

The Schleswig-Holstein Question refers to a complex of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of two duchies, Schleswig and Holstein, to the Danish crown and to the German Confederation. Schleswig was a part of Denmark during the Viking Age, and became a Danish duchy in the 12th century. Denmark repeatedly tried to reintegrate the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish kingdom. In March 27, 1848 Frederick VII of Denmark announced to the people of Schleswig the promulgation of a liberal constitution under which the duchy, while preserving its local autonomy, would become an integral part of Denmark. This led to an open uprising by Schleswig-Holstein's large German majority in support of independence from Denmark and of close association with the German Confederation. The military intervention of the Kingdom of Prussia supported the uprising: the Prussian army drove Denmark's troops from Schleswig and Holstein in the First Schleswig War of 1848–1851. Denmark was forced to accept German intervention in matters relating to the duchies Holstein, Lauenburg and Schleswig.

The second attempt to integrate the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish kingdom occured when the Danish Government passed a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig, known as the November Constitution, on 13 November 1863. King Frederik VII died two days later, but his successor, King Christian IX, signed the new constitution. signing of the new constitution was seen as an open challenge to the German powers, and on 1 February 1864, Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark leading to the Second Schleswig War of 1864.

The Danish army evacuated the old Danevirke defenses in the south and took up a position near Dybbøl, which was captured on 18 April 1864 by the Prussians.

The Battle of Heligoland

The Battle of Heligoland by Josef Carl Barthold Puettner
The Battle of Heligoland by Josef Carl Barthold Puettner

The Battle of Heligoland was fought on 9th May 1864 between the navy of Denmark and the allied navies of Austria and Prussia south of the then-British North Sea island of Heligoland. (For a timeline comparison, the City of Adelaide had been launched two days earlier on 7th May 1864.)

When the Danish forces had caused the flagship of the Austrian commander, Freiherr von Tegetthoff, to burst into flames, he withdrew his squadron to neutral waters around Heligoland. It was the last significant naval battle fought by squadrons of wooden ships and also the last one involving Denmark.

One of the participants in the battle was the Frigate Jyland. The Frigate Jylland was commissioned in May 1862, and today is the world's longest wooden ship to still survive. The ship is today located in a drydock in a maritime museum in Ebeltoft, Denmark.

Although the battle ended with a tactical victory for Denmark, it had no impact on the outcome of the war. A general armistice came into effect on 12 May, and Denmark had lost the war.

Cease Fire

A cease-fire, during which the Prussian troops occupied Jutland, was broken by Denmark, and at the end of July 1964, the German troops took Als. The war had been irretrievably lost. At the Peace of Vienna in October, Denmark had to cede the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg, to Germany. The Danish-German conflict had dominated Danish politics for a generation. The great powers had imposed serious limits on Denmark’s freedom of action, and after 1864 the country’s foreign policy was determined by the relationship with Germany, which was far superior in military terms, a relationship which was further complicated by the remaining Danish population in Schleswig.

The Second Schleswig War resolved the Schleswig-Holstein Question violently by forcing the king of Denmark to renounce (on 1 August 1864) all his rights in the duchies in favour of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and King William I of Prussia. By Article XIX of the definitive Treaty of Vienna signed on October 30, 1864, a period of six years was allowed during which the inhabitants of the duchies might opt for Danish nationality and transfer themselves and their goods to Denmark; and the right of indigenacy was guaranteed to all, whether in the kingdom or the duchies, who had it at the time of the exchange of ratifications of the treaty.

Post War

After 1864, successive Danish governments maintained a policy of strict neutrality in their dealings with the outside world. The defeat emphasised the powerlessness of Danish foreign policy, but it also stimulated a national regeneration. The nation had lost almost a third of its total area. At the same time, some 200,000 Danes, including Hans and Christine and their families, were left south of the new border, in Germany.

The political life of the remainder of Denmark changed character after 1864. First and foremost, the National Liberals lost their leading position, and in 1866 an amendment to the Danish-Schleswig constitution resulted in a Landsting (upper house of parliament) which gave the big landowners greater power.

The National Liberals were gradually swallowed up by the Højre party (the Right), which brought together the conservative forces, while in 1870, a number of opposition groups amalgamated to form Det Forenede Venstre (the United Left) which won a majority in the Folketing (lower house of parliament) in 1872 and demanded the reintroduction of the June Constitution, Cabinet responsibility and further reforms. The Højre party upheld the equality of status for the Landsting (upper house) and the Folketing (lower house) and maintained that the king still had the right to choose his ministers. The battle lines were drawn for a conflict between the conservative government and the liberal majority in the Folketing (lower house) which came to mark the years between 1872 and 1894. The conflict was primarily caused by the division between the farmers and those who had so far held the power, namely the civil servants and the landowners. The conservative governments between 1875 and 1894, under the leadership of Prime Minister, J.B.S. Estrup, stuck firmly to their guns and the conflict quickly became a bitter struggle.

It was not until after a plebiscite in 1920, following the defeat of Germany in WWI, in which numerous grandsons of Hans and Christine fought and some were killed, that North Schleswig, where Hans and Christine had lived, was returned to Denmark.

Voyage to Adelaide in 1876

Voyage to Adelaide in 1876
Under command of Captain Edward Alston
Departure port London
Departure date 26th May 1876
Arrival port Port Adelaide
Arrival date 18th August 1876
Voyage duration 84 days
City of Adelaide Ticket, 1876
Nissen Family's Passenger's Contract Ticket for the City of Adelaide, 1876.

The Nissen family had lived in Aabenraa in the Duchie of Schleswig. The signing of the November Constitution occurred only two months after Hans and Christine married.

In 1872, nine years after the November constitution was signed, Christine’s brothers, Jens, 25 years of age and Johannes Jnr, known as Fred to distinguish him from his father, 16 years of age, left for the USA to avoid conscription into the German army. In America, they anglicised their surname from Boisen to Boyson.

In 1876, Christine Boisen, at 32 years of age, with her husband Hans Nissen and their family, left for South Australia, disembarking at Semaphore on 18 August 1876, a voyage of eighty-four days. Their emigration, and those of Christine's brothers, seem to have been motivated by the desire to leave their country, due to the German occupation.

In later life, Hans (Harry) Johannes Truels Nissen used to claim that the family left Denmark hurriedly, through the windows of their house, but the reason for the escape was not explained. Harry was 3 years old at that time.

The eventual settlement of South Australia by Europeans was the result of an experiment in social engineering. In the early part of the nineteenth century, with people pouring into the overcrowded cities of England, social reform became increasingly important. Against this background the tireless social reformer, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, developed a theory of systematic colonisation. He rejected the notion of colonies being a dumping ground for Britain's prison overflow and advanced a scheme where the money raised from the sale of crown land could be invested in the cost of shipping labourers to work on the newly privatised land. Here was a plan for the development of Australia which did not rely on convict labour. Thus Adelaide welcomed free immigrants from Europe and the Nissens would have found it reasonably easy to settle there.

The Nissen Family received free passage from the South Australian Govenment to migrate to South Australia. After the voyage, the family kept the Passenger's Contract Ticket issued by the Emigration Agent for South Australia, presumably in London. The ticket ended up in the posessions of Maren Johanna Marie Nissen, who was the youngest mmber of the family who travelled on the City of Adelaide - only two years old in 1876. Maren was a keen genealogist, ahead of her time, and kept many scrapbooks recording her family history. These have been passed down in her family, and the ticket survives to this day.

Life and Children in South Australia

In South Australia, Hans worked as a cabinet-maker/joiner and Christine operated a fruit and refreshment shop in Rundle St, Adelaide above which the family lived. Earlier they lived at North Adelaide and Louis St, Stepney.

Hans and Christine had five more children after they arrived in Australia, including twins, one of whom died two weeks later. Another child died at 16 months of age. The following children were born in South Australia:

Christine Frederickke Nissen with children in South Australia, 1878
Christine Frederickke Nissen with children; (back row from left) Dorthea, Magdalene, (front row from left) Maren, Jens (on lap), Christine (seated) Hans and Nis; South Australia, late 1878.
  • Christine Fredericke Nissen was a twin to Jens Nielsen Nissen and was born on 21 June 1878, in North Adelaide, South Australia. She died thirteen days later, on 4 July 1878.
  • Jens Nielsen Nissen, pronounced Yens but known as James Nelson Nissen, was born a twin of Christine Fredericke Nissen on 21 June 1878, in North Adelaide, South Australia. He married Mary Anne Highett on 21 January 1906. They had eight children. Jens became a Blacksmith, living at Thomas St Kooringa (near Burra) and his sons, James Joseph Dudley Nissen and George Nelson Nissen, were enrolled at the Burra School on 9/9/1919 having transferred from the Norwood School. George Nelson Nissen, born on 15 December 1910, was a Leading Aircraftsman in the Air Force in the 6th Service Flying Training School. He enlisted on 21 September 1943 and was discharged on 30 July 1945. Jens died aged 79 on 11 July 1957 and is buried in Payneham Cemetery.
  • Theodore Peter Mathie Nissen, was also known as Tate, Tad, Ted. One of his older sisters registered his birth and wrote his name with the English spelling (Theodor), his parents wrote it the Danish way (Theodore). He was born on 28 August 1880 in Stepney, South Australia. He moved to Broken Hill, which was a great mining centre. He lived with Esther Anastasia Jones from about 1916. There is no record of a marriage. She died two years later, in 1918, in Broken Hill, NSW. They had two children Dorothy (Dollie) May and Kenneth Gordon. Theodor's sister, Maren Johanna Marie Summers, nee Nissen, brought up Dorothy after Esther died. Dorothy married Douglas McKay in 1943 and had three children. Ken married Florence Burrell in 1942 and they had nine children. Theodore eventually moved to Mildura, Vic, and died, aged 73, on 31 August 1953 in Mildura Base Hospital of cardio and renal failure. The funeral service was conducted by Rev G.B. Lucas of the Church of England.
  • Mathilde Anna Christina Frederikke Nissen was also known by the anglicised names of Matilda Anne Christine Fredericka Nissen, was born 18 November 1882, Adelaide, South Australia. She died at 1 year of age on 29 April 1884.
  • Frederick Christian Nissen' was born on 31 October 1886, Adelaide, South Australia. He moved to Whitecliffs and Wilcannia in western New South Wales and was married on 7 August 1912 to Alice Edith Harton, who was born 2 June 1895. They had eight children including one set of twins. Frederick was a plumber and had been employed by the Public Works Department. Frederick and Alice moved to Broken Hill, New South Wales in 1915. He died, aged 76, on 25 November 1962 in Broken Hill and was buried in the Broken Hill Church of England cemetery. Alice died in 1985.

After seven years in Australia, as immigrants from Germany previously Denmark, the family were considered 'aliens' and on 2 July 1883 Hans completed the required forms and became a British subject on 6 September 1883. It is not known if the rest of the family did this, though they would likely have been covered by the fact that Hans had become a naturalised British citizen.

Nissen Family in South Australia, 1909
Nissen Family. Back row: Jens Nielson Nissen, Albert Heath nursing Frederick Summers, Magdalena Mathie Heath (nee Nissen), Riccard Summers, Laura Elizabeth Marie Summers; Middle row: Mary Ann Nissen (nee Highett) nursing Jack Dudley Nissen, Nis Jensen Nissen, Georgina Nissen, nee Wilson, Hans Nissen, Maren Johanna Summers, nee Nissen. Front row: Doreen Susie Vidalene Summers, Charles Summers, Winifred Gladys Summers, William Ernest Victor Summers; South Australia, 1909.


Researched by Brian Beck, Roadvale, Queensland