Grandpa Richard Kallman = snus

If I had only one word to describe what I remember about my grandfather the word would be snus. Seal brand Snus. That is what I remember about him. He seemed to forever have a scowl on his face and a frown. A frown with a little dribble of tobacco slipping out of the corner of his mouth.  I don't ever recall seeing him smile or laugh. Sitting with his arthritic hands curled around his cane with a growl he would bang his cane on the floor and holler "SNUS"!!! Grandma would painfully get up (she too was very arthritic) and fetch his snus. I remember once her crying silently over his demands. One summer he sat on our back porch. My grandmother, mother and aunt were inside in the kitchen. As my cousin and I were coming up the stairs he reached out and grabbed my cousin. "you two go to the store and buy Seal brand snus". We tried to explain to him that they would not sell tobacco to kids and he proceeded to  swing his cane at my cousin. I ran into the kitchen hollering for my Aunt and Mom. "Grandpa is hitting Robert with his cane." Funny, I remember it like yesterday because to me it epitomized the type of man my grandfather was yet my cousin has no memory of the event. Seal brand snus is what he always used, tucked under his lip making little sucking sounds. Sorry to say, I did not like the man.

These past years as I have looked into my family history my thoughts of the man have softened considerably. Or is it my own advancing age?  Here is what I now think about that crippled crabby old man with the snus dribbling out of his mouth.

I belong to a facebook group with a focus on Swedish genealogy. We in America are searching for our Swedish ancestry. Those in Sweden are looking for family in America. I have numerous times seen a post by a Swede, most likely my age, looking for their grandfather. Leaving a hard life he scraped together the money for a ticket to America with the promise to send for the wife and family he left behind. But he never did and their genealogical research now shows he married again leaving  a wife and children forever in poverty. Grandpa Richard came to America for a better life and although it certainly was better it was also tough. He lived in a time of two world wars and the Great Depression.  Hard times in America and one business venture after another failed.  I heard he often had to pack and leave his home in the middle of the night as he did not have the rent money. But he always took his wife and children with him. His children loved him. I remembered my Aunt crying uncontrollably at his funeral. My father named his son after him. He was a good father. An older cousin remembers him fondly as the one who took her out for driving lessons. I now have photos of him as a younger man, healthy and full of hope and smiling. The crippling arthritis he suffered? There were none of the drugs then that are available today. By the time I came along life had beat him down, he was old and severely crippled, in pain with rheumatoid arthritis. And he just wanted his snus.

Who was I to judge him? I who was born in a very different time and place to a much easier life? How bad a man could he have been to produce such a good man as my Dad? Seal brand snus? Even today snus is a very popular Swedish habit. Heck grandpa, if that is what made things tolerable for you? You go right ahead.We owe you that.....and more.....much much more.

my grandfather
Richard Severin Kallman 
b. 3 October 1887 Grytgòl, Hällestad, Östergötland, Sweden
d. 28 August 1968 Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA

Occupation Investigation - Margareta Maria Källman the Laundress

Many of the old Swedish parish records list an ancestors title or occupation.
The words are often confusing, antiquated and make little sense to me.
Now and again I like to investigate, do some research.
What is the meaning of my ancestors title or occupation?
How did he support and feed his family in his time?

Today I looked at the very difficult, hardscrabble, poorer than poor, life of my great aunt Margareta Maria Erikksson Källman. 

I look today at the family photos of the beautiful countryside of Sweden and hear of their now enviable welfare system and find it hard to believe that 100 years ago, life for our ancestors was not beautiful nor enviable on any level. The 100 year period from 1870 to 1970 turned Sweden from being one of the poorest countries in Europe into the fourth richest country in the world. 

My great uncle, Håkan Patrik Källman was the older brother of my grandfather Richard Severin Källman. Although from a very poor factory working family he must have had high hopes as he left for America in 1901 at the age of 21. He married Margareta Maria Erikksson in 1902. As she came from Örebro and he from Östergotland I am guessing he met her in the U.S.. Their first child, Arthur Patrik, was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1903. That promising beginning was overshadowed by his health. As his parents before him, Patrik had tuberculosis. He returned with his small family to Sweden in 1904. Patrik and Margareta had another son, Evert Håkon, in 1905. Their twins, Aina Maria and Erik Henrik were born in 1907. Erik was either stillborn or died shortly after birth, Aina lived only a few weeks. Son Evald Arthur was born in 1908. Eight months after Evald's birth Patrik succumbed to tuberculosis. Margareta was now alone to raise her three  boys. 

In the 1911 -1920 församlingbok of Mjölby, Östergötland, Sweden Margareta is recorded as "Backstugor och tomter", working as a "Tvätterska" or Laundress.

This is a picture of a typical Backstuga seen in southern Sweden. Many Backstuga's were just a single room cottage built on someone else's farm and they were often built into a hill because wood was expensive. Three wood walls and the back wall of dirt into the hill. A Torpare rented land with a lease agreement. Those in the backstuga's were called Backstugusittare and were totally dependant on the landowners whims, considered paupers. With no legal rights they could be thrown out at any time. They were exempt from taxes as these folks were the poorest of the poor. Sometimes the landlord would allow them a small plot to have a garden. Margareta had a small garden (och tomter)but she mainly supported herself and her boys by being a laundress.

Margareta  gave birth to daughter Valborg Maria Elisabeth in 1912. I blogged about her birth earlier in ELISABETH MARIE KÄLLMAN - I WONDER IF SHE KNEW?  Margareta gave birth again in 1916 to Georg Anton. That little guy, also noted as öakta or illegitimate, with no father listed, died after just a year. I do not for a minute believe that great aunt Margareta was so lonely for a man she went out looking to be intimate with anyone. No way. She was in a very tough situation. I don't think she ever would have wanted to bear a child to live in those harsh circumstances. It saddens me to even consider what her circumstances were, what she may have had to endure or deal with to provide anything at all for her children. The only welfare in Sweden at this time was through the church. Her illegitimate and unbaptised children?  Her children were totally without a future in early 20th century Sweden. 

The "Promise of America" was her salvation. In 1922 Arthur at 18, who had been born in the U.S., returned.  Margareta and Elisabeth followed him in September of 1923. Evert 18, and 15 year old brother Evald followed in December of 1923. My great aunt Tekla's husband, Richard Peterson, was listed on the ship manifest as their American contact.

The family left Chicago and ultimately settled in Minnesota. It would only be a guess but perhaps they left Chicago to protect their sister and mother? My Dad spoke of having cousins Arthur, Evald and Evert but never mentioned Elisabeth. Perhaps my very religious family in Chicago would have been a bit judgmental of Elisabeth's birth 4 years after the death of her "father"? Who knows? Again, just a thought.

Margareta lived to be 96 years old. How pleasant was her life in America? I don't know but I will bet you however that Margareta never again worked as a laundress. 

a strong woman and a survivor
my great Aunt, 
Margareta Maria Erikksson Källman
b. 16 July 1880 Örebro, Örebro, Sweden
d. 6 August 1976 Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, USA

**1911 -1920 församlingbok of Mjölby, Östergötland, Sweden, Swedish birth/death records,
 Immigration Ship Manifests and Minnesota death records for each mentioned family member 
can be accessed on my family tree on Ancestry.com. See bottom of this webpage.**


Happy Mother's Day - to my Grandmas

This Mother's Day...meet my grandmas!

Grandma Kallman and me                  Grandma Sevald and me

my paternal grandmother
Lydia Abrahamson Kallman
b. 25 Feb 1890 Östra Frölunda, Älvsborg, Sweden
d. 23 Apr 1978 Chicago, Cook, Illinois USA

my maternal grandmother
Dagmar Gundersen Sevald
b. 10 Jun 1900 Eidanger, Telemark, Norway
 d. 12 Jun 1991 Skien, Telemark, Norway


A family find in an old yearbook - Melvin Soderstrom

accessed on Ancestry.com U.S., School yearbooks, 1880-2012.
Moline High School in Moline, Rock Island, Illinois
Class of 1943 yearbook the "M"

Was there perhaps a plan to keep the brains in the family?
Robert Liljegren's brother Bill will one day marry Melvin's sister Esther.

my first cousin once removed
Melvin Andrew Soderstrom
b. 11 December 1924 Moline, Rock Island, Illinois
d. 24 December 1982 Winston-Salem, Forsyth, North Carolina


1940 Census - Chicago, Illinois - Thure and Evelyn Johnson

2117 W. Gladys Chicago, Cook, Illinois

The 1940 US Census finds Thure and Evelyn Johnson living in Chicago with his widowed mother. Also in the same house is Thure's divorced sister, Mildred. Thure's two younger siblings, Stanley and Florence also live in the home. Now add Thure's sister Emma, Emma's husband Charles and Emma and Charles daughter, Thure's niece, Georgia. That's correct, there are nine people living in this rented single family home which most likely has just three bedrooms! With today's values and circumstances it would be easy to say..what a bunch of dead beat kids still living off their widowed mother! It is important to know and appreciate the times and the culture they were living in.  These last ten years in Chicago and the rest of the Western world and for the Johnson family were very tough indeed.  In the early part of the 20th century Chicago was booming and growing. Then came the Great Depression. Chicago grew by only an additional 20,000 folks in the 10 years from 1930 to 1940. Most came from the farming South, hoping to find work. Immigration from Europe had all but ceased. The work just wasn't there, 20% of Chicago was out of work. In the 1930 census Thure's parents, Thure and Frances, owned their own home. They now lived in a rented house and you see that Frances is a widow, Thure Sr. had died. In the 1940 census the government tried to get a sense of how folks had fared by asking where they were in 1935. The Johnsons were in the "same place". 1935 was the year Thure Sr. died at the young age of 50. Perhaps due to the depression or his death the family no longer could afford the mortgage and lost their home. The adult children were perhaps not working themselves or working to help their mother pay her rent, so she and the younger kids have a home. Another possibility? No where to go. During the depression virtually no new building went on and in 1940 the US is soon to enter the war raging in Europe which would revive the economy but take all building supplies, raw materials and manpower for the war effort. Extended families living together, sharing expenses or renting out your bedrooms to boarders were common and often necessary occurrences in the 30's and 40's of Chicago.

The young couple, Thure and Evelyn, had just been married 4 months previously. Living with your mother is not an ideal way to start out a marriage but when you are young and in love the future always promises to be bright.

my first cousin once removed
Evelyn Jacobson
b. 16 July 1916 Moline, Rock Island, Illinois
d. 3 December 1987 West Chicago, DuPage, Illinois

her husband
Thure Walter Johnson
b. 12 September 1912 Chicago, Cook, Illinois
d. 10 August 1994 West Chicago, DuPage, Illinois

**click on photo and document to enlarge for easier viewing**