1832 Husum, Denmark - 1911 Ipswich, Qld., Australia
1838 Langeness, Denmark - 1925 Ipswich, Qld., Australia

Hans Geertz
Hans Christian Geertz was the fifth child of Johann Gerds and Maria nee Iverson.

He was born 1 February 1832 at Nordhusum (North Husum), Mildstedt in Schleswig Holstein, Denmark. (see maps below showing area).

+ Marks site of Husum

Other children in the family were Heinrich born 1820, Johann 1823, Heinrich 1825, Peter 1828 and Jens born in 1837. All the children were born at Nordhusum.

The church where the family baptisms, marriages and burials took place is still there, (we visited in 1997) with alterations and additions, but still very recognisable, with its tall square clock tower, as the building in old photos. (See old picture and newer (1997) photo below)

As in Kochendorf, (village in Germany where the Kirchner family originated), the church grounds were a mass of lovingly tended gardens, each grave having its own small plot. It seems a place where the local people meet, with their punnets of new seedlings, trowel and bucket of water. A lovely serene oasis in the midst of all the traffic of the town. We were unable to see inside the church as it was closed.

The northernmost region of what is now West Germany, has two coasts: the deeply indented Baltic coast, backed by wooded hills, meadows and lakes, and the low-lying North Sea coast, distinguished by haunting fens and marshes.

Schleswig, the oldest town in the region, dating from Viking times, was an important trading centre.

Many houses are thatched with reeds, which are plentiful due to the surrounding marshy areas. The town of Husum has a picturesque harbour or hafen, a cobbled town square enclosing a fountain and statue of a girl with an oar. There are brown and white cows in the fields, and windmills dotted here and there, with sheep wandering over the steep grassy dykes. The very tidal coast is lined by hundreds of bathing huts or sheds, which are very popular with the locals and many visitors to the seaside. (See postcard below showing scenes from Husum on the North Sea).

The train from Hamburg arrives at least daily, bringing scores of visitors from the city.

Hans was a tailor (schneider) and I often wonder how he met the girl who was to become his wife......

Brodina Friederica Christiansen
The third daughter of Broder Christiansen and Helena nee Wircksen, Brodina (the feminine form of her father's name) was born on 18 August 1838 in Tadenswarf, Langeness, Nordfriesland, Schleswig Holstein, Denmark. Her baptism took place in the church on the island. (Postcard below shows some scenes from the surrounding area.)

Brodina's father was a farmer on Langeness, one of the small marsh-islets in the Hallig, part of the North Sea just off the coast of Denmark. It's a little island only 9 km long, one of a group called the North Frisians. In 1854 there were 50 houses and about 150 inhabitants. Before 1634 the island was much bigger, but then the big flood came and took much of it away. The first church on the island was destroyed by a great flood in 1362. A comparison of olden day and current maps shows a very considerable change in the landmass of the collection of islands.

According to Brodina, these islands had not “much surface” above the surrounding sea, and when gale conditions were on the family sheltered in their attics or lofts above the ground floor, with any small animals or poultry that the waters inundating the lower living quarters might drown. It's hard to picture such a way of life.

The only way to reach this island today is by boat or a peculiar little train that runs across the stretch of low lying land at high tide. These tiny engines belong to the island's inhabitants and are kept on the mainland - used for transporting people and goods.

Occasionally in fine weather Brodina would visit the mainland with her family - here she met a young tailor who was to become her husband.

Hans and Brodina were married 5 November 1858 in Mildstedt, in the same church where Hans' baptism was celebrated in 1832.

Church in Mildstedt, North Husum, Denmark

They had six children, all baptised in Nordhusum. Theo was born in 1859, Helena Catharina in 1861, Helena Maria Catharina in 1864, Bernhard Herrman in 1868; (these three children all died), Johannah Helena Hermina was born in 1870 and Malina Juliana Henriette in 1873.

How sad to think of three children within the space of seven short years arriving in the world surrounded by happiness and joy only to depart a short time later amongst tears and sorrow.

In 1878 with Schleswig Holstein now ruled by Germany, Hans and Brodina decided to send their only son Theo, aged nineteen, to Australia. The Germans had burned the Danish schoolbooks and it was almost certain young Theo would have to serve in the Prussian army.

He therefore set off to find a new life in Australia, what an amazing adventure for the youngster.

Click to follow on with Theo's life story.

Together with his brother-in-law, (possibly of the Christiansen family?) Hans made a decision to invest their savings in a sailing ship. Unfortunately this ship was wrecked, and not being insured, nothing was recovered of their monies.

After this tragedy, Hans and his family decided they would emigrate to America, a country which seemed to offer a fair degree of opportunity. They left Denmark (by then Germany) around 1882.

In the USA they settled in Clinton, a town in the state of Iowa. The family of four lived in Clinton for five years, Hans working first as a painter, then at his profession of tailor. There were many Christiansen, Johansen and other Danish families living in the area.

Details from the City Directory of Clinton, Iowa and Hans' US Naturalisation show the family lived there between the years 1883 and 1887.

In 1888 Hans, Brodina and Malina set sail for Australia to meet again with their son Theo. Johannah had become friendly with a cousin, Minnie and stayed on in Clinton.

Hans' Australian Naturalisation Certificate states they arrived Brisbane, Queensland aboard “CELINDA” on 3 October 1888 - "from Amerika". Much research has not revealed any shipping list or arrival information for this ship.

Maybe this was a coastal ship bringing them from South Australia, or perhaps Hans made a mistake when giving his details for Naturalisation in 1908? This is possible as he was by then seventy-six years of age.

Is it a coincidence that a ship named “VALETTA” arrived in Brisbane at this exact time in 1888 and that this was the name on his son Theo's house?

New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922 - Shipping List for “ZEALANDIA” from San Francisco, USA arrived Sydney, NSW 14 November 1888 shows amongst the passengers - Hans Gertz, wife and daughter travelling in steerage.

(New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922)


An additional possibility to consider could be that they later travelled from Sydney to Brisbane on the “VALETTA”..... The chase is never over!

When they arrived in Queensland Hans was fifty-six, did he continue to work as a tailor, or had the time come to retire gracefully? He and Brodina lived in George Street, Newtown, Ipswich. By the early 1900's they had moved to a cottage next door to their son Theo and his wife Emma in Queen Street. Not far away was the house with a little shop attached belonging to their daughter Johannah who had eventually come to Australia to live. By this time poor Brodina was blind.

In 1898 Hans aged sixty-six, ‘gave away’ his daughter Johannah when she married Joe Woolley.

About 1909 Hans and Brodina moved again to Booval, near the railway station, where they were nearer to daughter Hannah (Johannah). Hans used to play the piano accordion, “very rhythmically too” according to Hannah's daughter Olga.

Hans & Brodina Celebrate
their Golden Wedding

Brodina with her poodle

On 5 November 1908 Hans and Brodina celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. A studio portrait of them was taken in Ipswich around that time, possibly to commemorate the occasion.

When their grand-daughter Violet Geertz was married to Fred Young on 4 February 1911, Hans and Brodina attended the wedding.

Sadly, just eight months later on 22 September 1911 Hans Christian Geertz died at Queen Street, Ipswich. He had lived 23 years in Queensland, and 3 years in South Australia. He is buried in the Lutheran section of the Ipswich Cemetery.

Brodina continued on for quite a few more years despite the handicap of her blindness. She had stayed with daughter Malina's (Lena) family in Parkside, Adelaide where her Grand-daughter Violet (Wenzel) remembered her continually making mats or rugs from strips of material. It was Violet's job to line the strips up ready for Brodina to sew together. She always used only two colours of thread, and Violet tells of how she would sometimes mix the two colours as a little joke. Brodina was able to tell from their texture which was the white and which was the brown thread! Perhaps these rugs were made from off-cuts from the tailoring trade?

Another family tale passed on by Violet was that Brodina's blindness was a result of her grandmother looking directly at the sun when she was young. This is said to have caused irreversible damage to her eyes, which then progressed to blindness as her eyes deteriorated with age.

A great grand daughter of Brodina's was told by her Nanna that Brodina had been blind for 40 years - if this is right it means she was blind as far back as 1885 before they came to Australia.....(??)

Between the years 1905 and 1921 (when the Wenzel family left South Australia) Brodina seemed to divide her time between her two daughters, Lena in Adelaide and Hannah in Ipswich. She probably also visited with son Theo and his wife Emma, who by then were looking after Emma's mother Eleanor who died in 1908.

Brodina had a fluffy white poodle named ‘Digger’. (see photo above). What a pleasure it must have been for her to feel his soft curly hair.

Fourteen years after she had lost her husband Hans, Brodina Friederica died on 21 January 1925 at Queen Street, Newtown, Ipswich aged 87.

Grave of Hans and Brodina
in Lutheran Section
Ipswich, Qld. Cemetery

Their journey through life had begun amongst the blustery, cold weather and howling gales of Langeness in the Frisian Islands and the grassy meadows of Husum, Schleswig Holstein. Now they are together for eternity in Ipswich where they are warmed by Queensland's beautiful sunshine.

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