The Johnsons are Dick’s father’s paternal ancestors. His ancestors in the Johnson line are from Denmark, and the others are from Germany.
The Johnson branch
Peter Henry Johnson’s source records fairly consistently state his birthplace as Denmark (or Copenhagen, Denmark), although a few reference Germany. Family lore says that Peter’s surname was changed from Hansen (or perhaps Jensen) to Johnson — possibly at the time of immigration or possibly later.
On Peter’s certification of death, issued by the State of NY Department of Health, his father is listed as “John” and his mother as “Christina.” On various US Census records (including Peter’s 1880 record) it is stated that they were born in Denmark.
Augusta’s source records are inconsistent with regards to place of birth: Germany (most common), Prussia, and Denmark. Schleswig (on the Jutland peninsula) seems the most likely state/province, partly because that area was controlled at various times by both Germany/Prussia and Denmark.
The names of Augusta’s parents are unknown. Peter’s 1880 U.S. Census record states their birthplace as Prussia. Louis Hartman’s 1900 U.S. Census record states that their birthplace was Denmark.
Peter and Augusta had to have immigrated, and arrived in Oswego NY, before 1863, when their first child, Henry H., was born (in Novermber of that year). It is unknown whether they were married in the Old Country or the New, whether they immigrated together or separately, or whether they immigrated as individuals or as part of a group. The next two children, Wilamena (Lena) and Peter G., were also born in Oswego. The last two, Leonora (Nora) and Anna, were born in Erie County. Therefore, they must have moved from Oswego to the Buffalo area sometime between 1867 and 1869.
Following is a possible immigration record for Peter.
Peter’s primary occupation is listed in various U.S. Census records as “sailor,” “mariner,” and “lake captain.” A newspaper article in the Tonawanda News about a Johnson family reunion in 1951 is headlined “80 Descendants Of Capt. Johnson Attend Reunion.” The article goes on to say, “Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Captain Johnson came to this country at an early age. He sailed the Great Lakes in the middle eighties, and had the distinction of being the youngest captain on the lakes.” However, no further evidence of his maritime career has been found. On the other hand, there is evidence of another (perhaps more famous) Peter Johnson, also born in Denmark (in 1837), also living in Tonawanda, and also a lake captain. Both men obviously existed, but have their histories been confused or merged in some way?
Augusta’s birth surname is listed in her Find A Grave record as “Sieberen” (full name Augusta K Sieberen Johnson). The Salem Church record for son Peter G.’s wedding to Lena Dueger lists her name as Auguste Siebersen. The Salem Church death record for Peter lists her name as Auguste Siwitzen. Similar surnames found on web searches (not directly tied to this individual) include Siwirtsen and Siewertsen.
One particularly compelling immigration record has a “Guste Siwirtsen” traveling with the family of F W Oelschlager as a nanny for their young daughter Anna. Their ship, the Gellert, arrived in Quebec in 1861. Unfortunately, the Oelschlagers and Guste all “disappeared” after that. There is no direct connection between that “Guste” and “our” Augusta.
The Dueger branch
The Düjer family also emigrated from the northern part of Germany; they lived on a small farm in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The first six of Carl and Adolphiene’s 11 children (including Dick’s great-grandmother, Caroline Johanne Friederike Dueger) were born in Germany; the rest were born in the Buffalo area after they migrated in 1872. Many Duegers still live in Western New York.
Dick’s paternal grandfather, Alfred Peter Charles Johnson, was born in the Buffalo area and lived most of his life there. He married Eva Irene Robins in 1915. Eva was born in Ontario, Canada. Except for a brief time in the part of Ontario where Eva was born, the Johnsons lived most of their lives in North Tonawanda, New York. In about 1952 they moved to San Diego, where two of their children (Harold and Kenny) were already living. Daughter Evelyn and her family followed soon after.
- Dueger (Düjer)
- Sieberen, Siebersen, Siwertsen
Unanswered questions about the Johnsons
- What was Peter Henry Johnson’s (1839-1895) surname at birth?
- Who were Peter’s parents and other family members in Denmark?
- When did Peter migrate to the USA? Did any of his family members also migrate?
- What was Peter Henry’s career history as a ship captain? (He was apparently often confused with another Peter Henry Johnson, slightly younger, also from Denmark, living in Oswego, and a more well known mariner.)
- Where did Auguste Siwertsen live and work in the New World before she met and married Peter Henry Johnson?
For more information
- Johnson-Moseley family history (2014) (history of the Johnson and Moseley families – Dick’s ancestors)