Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy 204th Birthday, Malena Sorensen (1807-1887)!

John Welch's great-grandmother

Malena was the fourth of ten children born to prosperous Lutheran farmers in Denmark.  She went by several names: Magdalena, Malena, Lena, Lene, Lina are variants of her first name, and Olsen is her Danish patronymic maiden name, meaning “child of Ole,” although her last name is also given sometimes as Pedersen or Pedersdatter from her father’s last name Pedersen.  Her biography can be found online here.
Malena & Nicolai
Malena herself became the wife of a prosperous farmer, Nicolai, and eventually a stalwart pioneer who gave up many things for Zion.  The Sorensens lived about fifty miles southwest of Copenhagen and raised a large family on their farm.  They enjoyed music, dancing, and folk songs.  For the first dozen years of their marriage, Malena helped care for her difficult, aging in-laws.  She was probably the one responsible for her mother-in-law’s beautiful burial (long-remembered by a neighbor for the white linen and red flowers in each hand of the corpse).

The Sorensens had ten living children when they first heard the good news of the gospel and embraced the faith, including Isaac.  Malena was sick most of the Atlantic sea journey, and never learned much English in America.  Along the trail to Utah, Nicolai volunteered to ride back to search for a lost child.  When he brought the child back, he was commended for his brave kindness and told by Elder Cowley, the company leader, to ask for anything his heart desired and it would be granted.  Nicolai requested that he and his wife Malena never be separated in this life.

After a brief foray south to Provo and Fillmore, the Sorensens settled in Mendon, Utah.  Malena had been ill for several years and at last died at ten o’clock one morning; Nicolai told his sons to construct two coffins as he would be joining her shortly.  He sat down and finished some paperwork, then lay down upon his bed and died about three in the afternoon.  They were buried in the same grave.   This remarkable love story was eulogized here.  She was particularly noted for being kind to the poor.

I would give her and Nicolai matching t-shirts that say "True Love Forever!"


  1. What a beautiful love story! Thanks for sharing Anita.

  2. I'd give her a Rosetta Stone so that she could learn more English. And maybe something to sign her real name on.

  3. funny thing--relatives left back in Denmark thought she and Nicolai had been killed by Indians when they heard that they'd died the same day in that wild west. When a descendant visited the homestead in the 1908s and met some distant cousins, that was the legend that had passed down through their line.