Tales of My Home
Stories about the Lower Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts
#52Ancestors challenge, week 3: the illegitimate daughter of my Swedish great great grandmother, Hanna Niklasdotter (1828-1912)
Below: My Swedish immigrant forebears in their farmhouse in Kingman, Maine circa 1910. Hanna is to the far right, her son my great grandfather Martin Johnson (originally Carlsson) is to the far left and the woman to the right of him is my great grandmother Marie Jensen. The boy on Martin's lap is his son Martin, who died in 1911 at age 10 of Hodgkins Disease. He died in the same house in Lawrence, Mass. where his sister, my grandmother, was born eight months later. I posted a picture of that house on Kingston Street in another blog post.
On August 25, 1892, my great great grandmother Hanna Niklasdotter Jönsson departed her hometown of Hjärsås, Sweden, where she had been living, presumably since she married Carl Jönsson of that town on July 8, 1858. She would have been 64 years old.
Below: Photo from the 1800s of the Hjärsås parish church.
Her travel record in the parish record book states that she was traveling with her daughter Anna, age 26, unmarried. Their destination was listed as Kingman, Maine, meaning some other relative, presumably her husband Carl, had gone before them to buy a farm there. Why they did not end up in New Sweden, the swedish settlement up in Aroostook County, Maine, is unknown. Instead, they bought a farm in rapidly depopulating Kingman, Maine, probably for a song.
As I explained in my review of the book Yankee Exodus, after the Erie Canal opened, the upland parts of New England rapidly depopulated. This was because cheap grain could come from the fertile lands of the Ohio Valley to New England by boat, making farming in places like Maine very uneconomical. Whatever Yankee farmer sold my Swedish ancestors this farm probably counted his lucky stars. Then he likely got on the next train to Oregon Country to seek his fortune in the west. Within a few years my ancestors had abandoned farming in Maine and moved to the mill town.
Below: Birth record of Hanna Niklasdotter, Ignaberga, Sweden, 1828
Until I learned about Hanna's illegitimate daughter, born before she married Carl Jönsson, the most interesting thing going on from a genealogical perspective was that some of her children kept the Swedish naming convention, and called themselves Carlsson or Carlsdotter, while others (including my great grandfather), took their father's last name, Jönsson, as their own thus making it a family name. This led to some confusion for a while when doing research, and for many years I didn't realize my great grandather Martin Johnson (he even took the extra step of anglicising Jönsson) had a brother who went by John Carlson (anglicized from Carlsson).
Then in 2011, I got the following message from another ancestry.com user:
Your Hanna C. is Hanna Niklasdotter, born in Örkened, Kristianstad, Sweden on 17 Feb 1828. Hanna's first daughter was Pernilla Persdotter (born outside of marriage in Hjärsås, Kristianstad on 2 Feb 1853) - She [pernilla] later married Andrew Johnson in Mananna, Meeker County, Minnesota in 1889 - Andrew was the sponsor of my wife's grandmother (father's mother), Ellen (Olson) Nelson.)
Since then, the descendants of Pernilla, the illegitimate daughter (and therefore my half-cousins) have invited me to their family reunions in Minnesota. Unfortunately I haven't been able to attend. Swedish society was apparently under a lot of stress in the latter half of the nineteenth century, with the old agrarian structures breaking down and a lot of income disparity. Pernilla also had a child out of wedlock, Nils, before she emigrated from Sweden and then had one more (Julius) with Andrew Johnson after their marriage.
Below: More photos taken that day in Maine around 1910. The far right shows Hanna with her three children who had emigrated with her, Martin, Anna and John. She had a daughter Ingrid who emigrated to Denmark. She also had a daughter Lissa. Lissa arrived in Boston on 9 Aug 1888. She had left Dönaberga, Hjärsås, Kristianstad, Sweden on 13 Apr 1887. Not sure why there was such a delay between leaving her parish and arriving in Boston. I have not been able to locate her after arrival. Was she already deceased by the time of the family reunion in Kingman, Maine shown in these photos?