Ancestors of Sonja Lissie Parsons

Ancestors of Sonja Lissie Parsons (née Nielsen)

The connection between the Parsons family of Southampton (descendants of Edward Parsons of Marston Magna in Somerset, in south-west England) and the Danish familes briefly described in these web pages began soon after World War II in Copenhagen when the present author’s parents met. Frank Edward Parsons (who was a great-grandson of Edward’s) was an officer in His Majesty’s Royal Navy when the ship upon which he was serving struck a rock near Kullen Point on the west coast of Sweden and was towed to Copenhagen for repairs. There he met Sonja Lissie Nielsen and within a few days they decided to marry. The wedding was held in December 1948 in Southampton, where Frank had been brought up.

Frank Edward Parsons was the youngest son of Sidney Alfred Parsons and Dorothy (or Dolly) Bennett. His parents had emigrated Australia in 1908 where they had lived near Brisbane and Frank was born there in 1916. The family returned to England in 1920 but within a few years both parents had died and the two youngest boys, Frank and his brother George, were brought up by foster parents. Frank joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman and was eventually promoted to officer rank.

Sonja Lissie Nielsen was born in 1927 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her father Max and her mother Anna both shared the same surname, Nielsen. The use of fixed surnames passed down by parents to their offspring still was a relatively recent innovation in Denmark when Max and Anna were born. Surnames passed down from fathers to their children had become the norm only during the middle part of the 19th century having slowly replaced a patronymic system in which a son’s last name would be his father’s given name followed by sen and a daughter’s last name would be the father’s name followed by dattir. Such a system is still in use in Iceland. One result of the change was that many Danish surnames end with sen and, Niels being a very common boy’s name, Nielsen was, and still is, very common indeed, and is now shared by about five percent of the population.

Lissie’s father’s full name was William Magsfelt Nielsen but he was almost invariably known as Max. He had met his future wife Anna Johanna Nielsen while he was a soldier during his compulsory military service and they married when she fell pregnant. Max had been an apprentice at a wind-mill in Jutland but after leaving the army he became a street-car driver in Copenhagen and he and Anna lived there, and at the summerhouse he built near Tisvildeleje, for the rest of their lives.

In 1940, when Lissie was 12 years old, Germany invaded Denmark and remained in occupation until the Allies defeated the Nazi regime in May 1945. Life went on under the occupation but there were difficulties. An effective resistance movement was organised and most Danish Jews were helped to escape to neutral Sweden. On one occasion the water supply to the entire city of Copenhagen was cut off as a punishment for acts of sabotage. Max always had a quick temper and his dislike of the occupying Germans occasionally put him in conflict with the authorities. He once narrowly avoided imprisonment after he threw a German soldier off his street-car.

After Lissie married Frank she accompanied him on his Royal Naval postings first to Malta, where he served under Lord Mountbatten, and then to Portsmouth. After he left the Navy they settled in Gosport, on the opposite shore of Portsmouth Harbour, where they bought a small shop.

Three generations of the known ancestors of Lissie Parsons (née Nielsen) are shown below:

To read more about Lissie’s father Magsfelt William Nielsen click on this link

To read more about Lissie’s mother Anna Johanna Nielsen click on this link

You are free to make use of the information in these web pages in any way that you wish but please be aware that the author, Mike Parsons, is unable to accept respsonsibility for any errors or omissions.

Mike can be contacted at

The information in these web pages comes from a number of sources including: The Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet), Hampshire County Records Office, Somerset Heritage Centre; Dorset County Records Office; Southampton City Archives; the General Register Office; several on-line newspaper archives; several on-line transcriptions of Parish Register Entries; and several on-line indexes of births, marriages and deaths. The research has also been guided at times by the published work of others, both on-line and in the form of printed books, and by information from personal correspondence with other researchers, for all of which thanks are given. However, all of the information in these web pages has been independently verified by the author from original sources, facimile copies, or, in the case of a few parish register entries, transcriptions published by on-line genealogy sites. The author is aware that some other researchers have in some cases drawn different conclusions and have published information which is at variance from that shown in these web pages.

Return to Mike Parsons’ Genealogy Page