Ranae's Swedish-Chicago Heritage

In the early 20th century my paternal grandparents, Richard Kallman and Lydia Abrahamson, immigrated from Sweden settling in Chicago. I am exploring their and their siblings journey to "Amerika" and life in Swedish Chicago. I've been researching my family tree in earnest for over twenty years and in this blog I share the photos, documents, stories and memories of my Swedish American family. WELCOME!

November 10, 2018

Lovisa Charlotta Majholm (1850-1931) born in the poorhouse, died in the poorhouse

This is a 1910 photo of the Arboga, Sweden fattiggård or poorhouse. Looks lovely and peaceful from a distance doesn't it? I seriously doubt it.

Through the earliest times in Sweden the church provided benefit relief . Local governments later provided assistance to the indigent: for the young, the old and the infirm. Poverty among the able-bodied had come to be viewed as a moral failing. Those who could work were expected to. Destitute able bodied adults AND children were auctioned for work. They were offered to townsfolk who took the lowest amount of money from the poor relief for a year of room and board in exchange for the indigents work.  In 1847 Poor Laws were enacted that eliminated the auctions of children to work. The old, very young and infirm were provided for in the local poorhouse. Even those people however were required to contribute what they could. Work could be hard and provisions were bare minimum.

My grandmother's cousin, Lovisa Charlotta Majholm had more than one strike against her. She was born illegitimate, a stigma that remained with you for life. She was poor, her mother delivering her alone in the poorhouse. She was a woman in a time when women had few rights, choices or future.  She had no siblings and never married. She was also noted in the following census as crippled and insane. Perhaps for a short time her  health improved as she lived off the poor house for a short time in her late 20's. Maybe it was one of those contract deals. I don't know. I do know that my great great grandfather, Edvard Julius, was concerned about her welfare.  In 1886 he wrote to the welfare board concerning her upkeep. Unfortunately he died shortly after. Did she ever receive help from our family? Again, I don't know. 

•Arboga stadförsamling census 1926-1928. 
•Residing at "Fattiggården" (poorhouse),
•Majholm, Lovisa Charlotta
•work: "sinnessjuk" (insane)
•born: November 20, 1850 in Arboga
•has been vaccinated for smallpox
•Notes: "ofärdig" (crippled)

my grandmother Lydia's cousin
Lovisa Charlotta Majholm
b: 11 February 1850 Arboga, Västmanland, Sweden
d: 10 Oct 1931 Arboga, Västmanland, Sweden

She was born in and died in the Arboga "fattiggärden" (poorhouse)

October 28, 2018

Collecting Family Memories, not just Collecting Stuff - "Great Aunt Olga's Crystal"

I recently read an article all "Baby Boomer" parents should read... "Memo to parents: your adult kids don't want your stuff" . I get it. I see the more minimalist view of things my kids have. My own daughter felt she had to break it to me gently that she was dumping her china cabinet. The china cabinet that proudly displayed her dishes. Dishes that had originally been bought in and brought from Norway by her great grandmother, my maternal grandmother Dagmar. She explained that she treasured those dishes but did not see the need to display them for all the world to see when they came out only at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Again, I get it.

Or do I? Top shelve in my china cabinet sits hand blown antique-looking crystal glasses with gold rims. They once belonged to my mother. She said they were given to her by my great Aunt Olga who told her that she didn't care much for her own daughter in law and liked her so "here they are". That was in 1955. Mom never once used them. Now they sat in my china cabinet. I also have never once used them. We always referred to them as "Aunt Olga's crystal" but as I got into genealogy/family history I found that great Aunt Olga could not have given them to Mom as she and her husband never had any children. Perhaps it was her sister, great Aunt Tekla who gave them to her? However these ladies were my Dad's aunts, my mom barely knew them as they lived in California and 1955 was the only time Mom went to California. I, never knew my great aunts at all. Yet "Aunt Olga's crystal" has been in either my Mom's or my china cabinet, occasionally dusted for sixty three years now. NEVER USED ONCE AND I THINK THEY ARE UGLY.

As I move further and further along in my family history journey I have collected many precious photos, documents and stories. I have also "collected" many precious 2nd, 3rd, even 6th  etc. cousins both here in the U.S and in Scandinavia who have helped to flesh out the story of our family. I learned that Aunt Olga had panned for gold in Alaska with her husband when she was young and I found pride that she was strong enough to move on without him when she discovered him to be "a ladies man". But "Aunt Olga's crystal" that perhaps wasn't even hers? It never held meaning for me. I was just collecting STUFF.  OUT IT GOES.

This coming weekend my German born husband and I are hosting an Oktoberfest German dinner for family and a few friends. So it was again necessary for the time consuming job of dusting and polishing the pride of this baby boomer woman...the expensive, Thomasville, dark wood, lighted, china cabinet displaying seldom used matching china services, crystal and silver place settings.
They were gifts from family and family friends now long gone who came to our wedding at the Glenview Evangelical Free Church and arrived at the reception carrying a nicely wrapped box from Marshall Fields. They gave us those place settings along with their love, prayers and best wishes that this young couple would have a long and happy life together. Forty-Five years later that china, crystal and silver hold meaning for me, so they stay.

I have made peace with the reality that my filled china cabinet doesn't hold the same meaning for my kids. When I am gone, to them it is just STUFF.  OUT IT GOES.

Yup, I get it.

p.s. "Aunt Olga's crystal" will stay boxed in my basement for awhile just in case a cousin feels it would have meaning for them. If so, it is yours for the taking. Come and get it.

October 18, 2018

"Beloved siblings, Sarona, Olga, Rikard and Tekla. God's Peace"

My grandfather Richard left his home in Sweden to come to the United States in 1906, as did all of his siblings. Brothers Håkan Patrik and Karl Botvid emigrated in 1901, Olga 1902, Sarona 1904 and Tekla 1907. 1904, now married and a father,  Patrik returned to Sweden with his wife Maria and their young son. 1905  Botvid also returned to Sweden where he soon married.

February 16, 1908 Patrik wrote a letter to his siblings in Amerika.  He was ill.

translation to English by his son.
Spångsholm, February 16/08

Beloved siblings, Olga, Rikard, Tekla.
The Lord's peace.

After a long time since I wrote to you. I will now write to you. I thank you for the many greetings, which you have sent us, also for the card you sent us, and last for the letter, which you, Rikard, sent me, in which you told about your way to spend the time in the evenings. The folding rule you mentioned, you got from papa. I wonder, if the sisters Olga, Tekla, have any favorite occupation during free time, like you, Rikard. I have heard that Sarona is happy to be married and that husband Alvine executed the connection.

Perhaps you heard of Sarona's letter, that Christmas was a welcome feast in my house, and that the happiness was high underneath the roof and that my thought for the new year was the very best, but underneath all this, something unknown is lurking for me. I came down with a cold, which has caused a serious illness, and a sure thing is, that if I had waited a week longer with going to the doctor, my health would not have returned. Now I am well enough to be up during the days, but I am forbidden to work for an indefinite time. I have been ill ever since New Year, although it is only 4 weeks that I have not worked. Under all this, I realize that it is the Lord's direction, and I am satisfied with how it goes.

My family is well and strong, and they greet you dearly. I want to tell you that I have bought a fur vest to be able to keep my health, which I would like to advise you, my siblings to do also, as a protection for wind and cold.

Now lastly, I send the most heartfelt greetings to you my siblings. Perhaps you wonder what kind of illness I have and I can say that it consists of cough, but as I just said, I am on the mend, so now I have hopes of recovering my health. However, we may pray to the Lord for each other, for his help and guidance and blessing.

Your brother Patrik

(Greet Sarona and Alvine. At the time convey my thank you for letters I received from them and their wedding photo.)

In a second letter to his siblings in April of that same year he goes into greater detail.

Stratomta Sanatorium, 4/15/08

Beloved siblings, Sarona, Olga, Rikard, Tekla.
God's peace.

Perhaps you will think, now when you hear how it is, that I have been stricken with a hard affliction, and so it may seem, but I am much more thankful to the Lord now than when in good fortune. The greatest blessing I have received is that I have embraced Christ more as my Salvation.

Secondly, He has given us a healthy, well-formed boy, so although I am unable to work, we have been given richly of His blessings. I am not at home now, so I can not say more than what I was told by Botvid, that everything went well with Maria.

I myself, am strong enough, so that, with God's help, I will probably get well. You understand that it is Tuberculosis that I have. We are many friends here, and all of us must adjust to our situation. Still it is good that one does not suffer hard. T.B. Does not bring big pains.

I don't know how it is with our father, but I will go home next Saturday, Easter Eve to visit them. I have been here almost 14 days. Still there is no indication if this has done anything, but I have good hopes because here we may be in bed almost all day outside in the fresh air, and that is, of course the only thing, rest and strength which does that one gets well.

Botvid and family have moved over to Maria, so Amanda is helping her during the time she is ill.
Yes, dear siblings, may we pray to the Lord in trials, as well as in good fortune, for each other.

Please greet Alvine so heartfelt.


Stratomta Lunghem

In the 19th century 25% of the deaths in Sweden were due to Tuberculosis. The situation was similiar throughout Europe and the Americas. Tuberculosis, an infectious, contagious disease with a high mortality rate, has been in the human population since the earliest of times recorded. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus causing Tuberculosis was discovered in the 1880's. Unfortunately it wasn't until 1940 that streptomycin was developed which could cure TB. Forty years too late for my grand uncle Patrik. In his day, isolation from the public, bedrest, nutrition and sun exposure was the "cure". And some did indeed recover. Some, but not many.

Encouraged by his wife, Queen Sophia, King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden sponsored the building of TB sanatoriums across Sweden. Built in 1907, high on a hill, the Stratomta Sanatorium in Stratomta, Törnevalla parish, Linkoping, Sweden was where Patrik was sent for "the cure" in April of 1908.

Stratomta Sanitarium was initially a fish farm which was bought in 1906 and in 1907built as a TB sanitarium. Later years the building was used as a rehab center, convalescent center and in 2006 was bought, restored and divided into apartments.

The treatment methods used were based on the idea that fresh air, sunlight and nutritious food could strengthen the body
 to heal the disease. The patients rested in the ‘fresh air’ in all seasons, during wintertime under thick blankets

The day after Christmas, 1908 Patrik died. The official record of his death states he died of ""Lungblodning". He bled out from his lungs.

He was 27 years old.

my grand uncle
Håkan Patrik Källman
b: 31 December 1880 Grytgòl, Hällestad, Östergötland, Sweden
d: 26 December 1908 Spångsholm, Veta, Östergötland, Sweden

I give great thanks and affection to my newly "found" second cousin Annette, the grand daughter of Håkan whose family had the great forethought to preserve Håkans precious letters this past century and the great kindness to share them with me. Thank you so much my dear cousin!

***double click on Håkan's letter and photos to enlarge for easier viewing***

September 23, 2018

Another of Grandma's cousins emigrated to Chicago and became an American - Lars Gunnar Andersson

I started my family history journey with the belief that my grandparents came to the U.S. and settled in Chicago alone. All alone, leaving their family in Scandinavia behind forever. I knew that my paternal grandparents had a few siblings that also came to the U.S. but my research is turning up one cousin and extended relative after another that not only left Sweden for America but settled in, of course, Chicago.

My grandma or grandpa had cousins in Chicago and never told me? Then it occurred to me that I have never discussed most of my cousins with my children and am not in touch with them except perhaps with an occasional Christmas card or meeting up at a funeral.

Today in 2018 I do not personally know a single soul remaining in Chicago who is 100% Swedish (or Norwegian either for that matter). I know quite a few of my age, that I grew up with, who can point to a Scandinavian immigrant grandparent. I have not yet found any of them to be related to me.

I am beginning to wonder however if there are perhaps loads of folks, walking around Chicago and suburbs that are actually my third, fourth  etc. cousins. The descendants of my grandparents cousins. Their grandparents and my grandparents were born in the same small Scandinavian area, made that same long journey on foot, by boat and train that ended in Chicago. Today, over a century later how many of us, grandchildren and great grandchildren, unknowingly pass each other's car on the expressway, share a seat on the train, or stand right next to each other at a Chicago parade never knowing the history, the culture, the blood, that we share. How many of us? Boggles my mind.

my cousin twice removed
Lars Gunnar Andersson
b: 12 September 1895 Skäremo, Håcksvik, Älvsborg, Sweden
d: September 1973 Chicago, Cook, Illinois USA 

Gunnar's mother, Lena Johanna Karlsdotter Andersson was the sister of Anna Karolina Karlsdotter Abrahamsson. Gunnar came to Chicago in 1920. He worked as a carpenter living on North Clifford ave. in the Swedish neighborhood of  Lakeview. He became an American November 19, 1930. My grandmother, his cousin Lydia, was naturalized the same year.

***double click naturalization records for easier reading***