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The Immigration Story of Johannes and Kirsten Karding (Danish Immigrants)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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On April 9, 1949, John and Kirsten Karding disembarked from a Swedish Emigrant ship Goteborg ship at Pier 21. Twenty-seven years earlier they were born in Denmark, John in Central, and Kirsten in the northwest Jutland peninsula. On January 26th, 1922, John was born Johannes Therkelsen, the youngest of four, in a village named Hygum fifteen kilometres from the town of Vejle. In 1944 his father passed away after suffering 20 years from virus encephalitis. John at age 22 then bought the farm from his Mom. Earlier in 1938 Johannes, with brother Oluf and sister Elisabeth, joined their oldest brother Just and applied to the Danish king to have their surnames officially changed to Karding. Kirsten Mikkelsen, born November 12th 1922 was the youngest of seven children: Poul, Anton, Immanuel and Alvira (twins), Anna, and Ebbe.
Ebbe and Anna are the only two who still survive, Ebbe at eighty-seven, and Anna nearing ninety. Kirsten was born on the farm about five kilometres outside of Nr. Nissum ten kilometres from Lemvug. She began working on farms around the age of fifteen, and later worked in folk schools and a in church related drop in center for alcoholics.
During the Second World War, German forces occupied Denmark. German soldiers filled the streets and told the Danish what they could and couldn't do. On the farm near Vejle, Johannes and his family had to black out their windows so invading aircraft would not see the lights. Farming continued though the German army confiscated dairy, eggs and the like. Thankfully they did not enlist young Danish men for work in their army, as Grandpa would have been one.
Three years after the war Johannes and Kirsten were introduced by a mutual friend from a church youth group. They were married on September 18, 1948. Soon Kirsten became pregnant. Their first child Chris was born not in Denmark but in Canada on July 23 1949. Soon after getting married Johannes and Kirsten decided to immigrate to Canada, to give their forth coming family a better life. They responded to an ad in a Danish paper for a job on a dairy farm on Promontory hill near Chilliwack, British Columbia. It took nine days to cross the Atlantic. They boarded a train across the street from Pier 21, and spent another five days crossing Canada to British Columbia.
They were given a basement to live in that was cold and damp, with rough cement walls. The owner of the farm turned out to be a nudist. Johannes (now John in Canada) and Kirsten stayed for less than four months. Their next job was at a farm in Lulu Island, now a part of Richmond, working for a Danish farmer. This is where their first son Chris was born. After about a year there they moved to a farm in Mission, where their second son Eric was born. They stayed here for about three years before moving to a farm in Sardis, between Chilliwack and Abbotsford. This is where their third child and first daughter Margaret was born.
I have been told that when they left Denmark they gave themselves five years to see if they liked Canada. They must have, because they sold their farm in Denmark and bought a farm in Mission. John had always wanted Guernsey cows, and this farm had just that. They paid fourteen thousand for their seventy eight acre farm. Carl, Norman, and Joyce were born here. It seemed that John’s dream of being a dairy farmer was coming true. But the cows weren't producing enough milk and John took extra jobs logging to supplement the income. They decided that they needed to get more modern, and built a milking parlour, a building that still stands. John then went on to begin building a loafing barn. This was about one third complete when the tail end of hurricane off the Pacific blew in and tore it down. This was on October 12, 1962. John began to rebuild, but became discouraged. The cows were still not producing enough, and John questioned whether or not they were the right choice.
It took some time but John finally found the right choice. In 1964 he cleared seven acres in the back and planted Christmas trees. His first crop was harvested in 1970, and things slowly improved. John's is now one of the largest Christmas tree farms in western Canada. He still lives on the same property, though Kirsten passed away in September 1997. Grandpa later married a long time friend, Grandma Shirley, whose husband had passed away seven years earlier. The farm is now all Christmas trees, and Uncle Norman built his house on the same property where he works with Grandpa, and lives with wife Michelle and four children. My father, Carl, also works in the Christmas tree business, as well, many other family members, notably Uncle Ron (Aunt Margaret's husband), have taken part in the family business. I myself still help out my Dad every year at Christmas.
~Keith Karding