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Answers to Go with Susan Smith

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Q. I’ve been researching my family history. I found that some of my ancestors lived on a big island in Denmark called Zealand. I’d like to find out more about that area. I’m also wondering if New Zealand, near Australia, was settled by or discovered by the Danish?

A. The Denmark volume in the Lonely Planet series has a whole chapter on Zealand. It is Denmark’s largest island. Copenhagen is on the eastern coast of Zealand.

Here’s the introduction to that book’s chapter on Zealand: “Denmark’s largest island offers much more than the city of Copenhagen. North of the city lie some of the country’s finest beaches and most impressive castles.

“West of Copenhagen awaits history-steeped Roskilde, home to a World Heritage-listed cathedral, Scandinavia’s classic rock music festival, and a tremendous Viking Ship Museum. History also comes to life at nearby Sagnlandet Lejre, an engrossing hands-on archaeology site.

“Further west stands the millennia-old Trelleborg ring fortress, while Zealand’s southern assets include medieval charm in Koge and the World Heritage-listed cliff geology of Stevns Klint, plus a nearby Cold War fortress–museum.” Sounds like a great vacation destination whether or not you have Danish ancestors.

Now let’s check out New Zealand. We’ll go back further in time than the period of European world exploration.

In the New Zealand volume of a National Geographic series, Barbara Jackson writes that archaeologists believe that the Maori began settling New Zealand around 1250.

In 1642, two Dutch ships under the command of Abel Tasman anchored offshore. Tasman sailed away after the Maori attacked and killed four crewmen.

The British explorer, James Cook, was next to arrive – 127 years later, in 1769. By then the Dutch had named this island nation Niuw Zeeland after Zeeland, a seaside region of the Netherlands. We have a library employee from the Netherlands. She said Zeeland would be translated into English as “sea land.”

We pulled the Lonely Planet book on the Netherlands to find this information on the Zeeland region: “The (Dutch) province of Zeeland consists of three slivers of land that nestle in the middle of a vast delta through which many of Europe’s rivers drain.

“As you survey the calm, flat landscape, consider that for centuries the plucky Zeelanders have been battling the North Sea waters, and not always with success. The region has suffered two massive waterborne tragedies. In 1421, the St Elizabeth’s Day flood killed more than 100,000, irrevocably altering the landscape.

“In 1953, yet another flood took 2,000 lives and destroyed 800 km of dykes leaving 500,000 homeless and leading to the Delta project, an enormous nearly 50-year construction program that is hoped will finally ensure the security of these lands. It ranks among the world’s greatest engineering feats.

“Many people visit this place of tenuous land and omnipresent water just to see the sheer size of the Delta Project’s dykes and barriers.”