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My Great Grandparents Brita Kristina 'Christine' (Olofsfdotter-Olson) & Anders Alfred Ersson / Eriksson / Erickson Late 19th Century / Early 20th Century Swedish Tale and Journey West to North Dakota in 1903
The enlightening story of my Great Grandparent's Brita Kristina 'Christine' (Olofsfdotter-Olson) and Anders Alfred Ersson-Eriksson-Erickson's early years leading up to their emigration from Sweden to the West was a revelation to me. It arrived with considerable family assistance, describing events in the lives of these adventurous pioneering immigrants. I am grateful to my cousins in Sundsvall for the multiple puzzle pieces that slid together with their continued support of my 'Family Archive Project' research.
One specific item I have been curious about concerns the family name history of the present day Erickson Family. I had long known it was the Americanized version of another Swedish spelling: Eriksson. Now I have the approximate time period of the multiple changes going back to the 1700s since the birth of my Great Great Great Grandfather Eric Hindersson.
A short journey through my family's surname changes over the years are in order now, before Brita and Anders' story gets rolling. My Great Great Great Grandfather was Eric Hindersson and was born in 1777 in Sundsvall, Västernorrland, Sweden. Eric's wife, Lotta Jansdotter was born in 1816 and was also born in Sundsvall. Lotta and Eric had seven sons and four daughters between 1836 and 1860.
Their first child was my Great Great Grandfather, Erik Ersson who was born in Sundsvall on February 5th, 1814. Ersson derives from, the 'Son of Eric.' The Swedish tradition of last names/surname alterations/contractions that move down from generation to generation begins at least for this family story with Eric Hindersson's name. It was very common in the 19th Century of shortening a name, combining a name for easier usage. From Eric it moved onto his son, Erik Ersson, even though it is known that he used the surname of 'Eriksson,' a blended contraction of Ersson, and again the 'Son of Eric.'
As the chain of generations continued, Erik Ersson's son, his youngest child of eleven children, my Great Grandfather, was born Anders Alfred Ersson-Eriksson on May 21st, 1860, in Ljusnarsberg, Örebro, Sweden. He continued the tradition, using Ersson-Eriksson through the rest of the 19th Century up to around 1903. The initial use of Ersson as a surname for Anders shows up on his earliest document, his birth certificate, when Erik signed on the 1860 document: Erik Ersson - Father.
Researching the various documents of Anders over his life in Sweden, from his birth in 1860 to his emigration from Sweden in 1903, we found he used or the government used for documentation both Ersson and Eriksson. On Anders and Brita's Marriage Certificate, dated November 15, 1885, Ersson and Olofdotter were used by the newlyweds as their first official document together.
For the documents of their children's birth records, Brita and Anders used Ersson and Eriksson. Their first three sons, Erik Olof Helmer (1886), Ernst Julius Alfred (1889) and Frans 'Frank' Gustaf Severin (1892), they used 'Ersson' on the birth certificates. In 1887, they used 'Eriksson' when they both signed an important contract for their farm in Torpshammarsvägen Klöstrebo.
In 1896, with the birth of their son, Anders (Andrew) 'Andy' Sebran Filomon, they steam rolled ahead using 'Eriksson' for birth records. They continued using 'Eriksson' with the birth in 1898 of their first daughter, Ebba 'Abby' Agnes Kristina and the same in 1902, when their second daughter, Edla 'Vera' Alfrida Elvira was born.
Possibly it wasn't so important back then to them. Everyone knew that Anders was the son of Erik. Maybe they considered that Eriksson and Ersson were the same name. But the shift away from using 'Ersson' was noticeable, starting in the late 1890s.
The last document just before the family entered the States, sailing aboard the S.S. Aurania across the Atlantic, the ship's manifest listed 'Ericsson, but was a misspelling of Eriksson, written down incorrectly by the shipping clerk. By the time they were settled in North Dakota, maybe a change to Erickson was on their minds.
In a similar pattern, my Great Grandmother Brita Kristina, whose surname was Olofsdotter, was the daughter of Olof. Brita's two brothers, Anders Petter and Erik Olaf used Olson derived from Olssonon/Olofsson, son of Olof. At a certain point, both brothers began using 'Sundin', a contraction/alteration of the town of Sundsvall, as their new surname. They became Anders Petter Ante Sundin and Erik Olaf Sundin. Years later in the United States, Erik Olaf's son Alcassar 'Al' Sundin changed his family name to Sundeen.
Anders' surname over the years of his life changed between the three mentioned: Ersson-Eriksson-Erickson. Uncovered from the Swedish National Archives were birth and census records and property ownership documents that tell that story quite clearly. The road to Anders final Americanized surname, Anders Alfred Erickson in 1903 took decades of a meandering circuitous route.
On that May 21st, 1903 arrival in New York City where the shipping clerk misspelled Eriksson, replacing the 'k' with a 'c' was an ironic twist of the 'ck' letters that would be used in Erickson. To me, it was set before the Family ever fully acknowledged the eventual name change. After nine days at sea, the Eriksson's aboard the S.S. Aurania ported at Ellis Island. The family had traveled from Sundsvall, Sweden to Liverpool, England. On May 12th, they had left Liverpool, England and sailed west over the Atlantic to America.
The S.S. Aurania arrived at Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to America for over 60 years from 1892, until it closed in 1954. The ship ported and the passengers slowly disembarked and were given instructions on the next and final steps for their entrance to their new homeland.
The procedure was a daunting experience for immigrants entering into the U.S. The Eriksson's filed into the lines directed and waited along with the hundreds of others. Eventually as their turns came up, Anders and Brita handed over whatever documentation they had, then were questioned and checked over by doctors and nurses. All went well, they were all healthy and the family passed inspection.
The Eriksson's passed through immigration, and within days headed to downtown New York City and arrived at 42nd Street and Grand Central Station. They began the long train ride to North Dakota. By their arrival in May 1903, Spring was in full bloom, so the train ride was pleasant and after over a week of traveling through a dozen states or more, they were told they were in North Dakota.
Within hours, the Erickson's, carrying all their earthly belongings, walked onto the train station platform in Bismarck. Anders' brother, Fredrick and his wife, Karin (Johnson) Erickson, greeted them warmly, and the tired group headed to Fredrick and Karin's family farm in Slaughter, near Wilton, ND.
So with the Erickson name explained and their journey West complete, bringing the family to the Dakota Territory with the eventual name change, we'll start from the beginning in Sweden in 1864. Brita Kristina, or as our present family knew her as 'Christine' was born in Stöde, Sweden on December 28th, 1864.
A nice tale my Grandmother Clara told me years ago about Brita Kristina being named after Queen Kristina who became Queen of Sweden at the age of six. This was fascinating to me and of course caused (me) to read up on Queen Kristina, well worth the time back then. Kristina, as a member of the House of Vasa, succeeded her Father Gustavus Adolphus upon his death at the Battle of Lützen. She did not rule the Swedish Empire on her own till she reached the age of 18. Kristina argued for peace in the 'Thirty Years' War,' which was achieved in 1648. She is remembered as one of the most learned women of the 17th century. She was fond of books, manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures. With her interest in religion, philosophy, mathematics and alchemy, she attracted many scientists to Stockholm, wanting the city to become the 'Athens of the North.' Kristina caused a scandal when she decided not to marry or have children. In 1654 when she abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome where she spent the rest of her life.
Kristina passed on April 19th, 1689 in the Palazzo Corsin in Rome. She had asked for a simple burial in the Pantheon in Rome, but Pope Clement X insisted on her being displayed on a "lit de parade" (a four poster bed/bed of state) for four days in the Riario Palace. She was embalmed, covered with white brocade, a silver mask, a gilt crown and scepter. The Queen wore a thin mantle, decorated with hundreds of crowns and fur borders with ermine, under this a splendid garment in two pieces, thin gloves and drawers of knitted silk and a pair of elegant textile bootees. In similar fashion to the popes, her body was placed in three coffins – one of cypress, one of lead and finally one made of oak. The funeral procession on May 2nd led from Santa Maria in Vallicella to St. Peter's Basilica, where she was buried within the Grotte Vaticane – one of only three women ever given this honor.
I noticed in the many letters (from early 1900s to 1950) I have of my Great Grandmother Brita, especially the postcards and letters to her children, she used a variation of names and terms to sign off. Mother Eriksson was the first that caught my eye, others were, 'from your mother and father' and 'love mother' and 'Ma.' The one that stood out and at first surprised me, was a simple ending of 'Kristina.' Recalling my Grandmother Clara's stories of Brita Kristina, I realized it made sense. The use of 'Kristina' was a harkening back to Stöde (Sundsvall), Torpshammer and Klöstre and her youth in Sweden. I even consider her thoughts of that evening Kristina met her future husband, Anders at the dance party.
Brita Kristina's father was Olaf Petter Andersson and he was a farmer in the village of Österlo in Stöde. Her mother, Carin (Karin) Goransdotter was 29 years old when she gave birth to Brita Kristina. Anders Alfred was born on May 21st, 1860 in Ljusnarsberg, Örebro, Sweden. His father is Erik Ersson and worked on an 'Inhyses,' meaning he leased a farm for payment of work. Anders Alfred's mother is Lotta Jansdotter and she was 40 years old when she gave birth to Anders.
In 1880, Brita Kristina, along with her siblings of the Olfsdotter/Andersson family, Anders Petter Ante Sundin, Katarina Olivia (Olofsdotter - Andersson) Backlund, Erik Olof (Andersson) Sundin and Sigrid Elisabet (Olofsdotter) Andersson along with their parents Olaf Petter and Karin Andersson, had moved to Wigge, Sweden. Brita was 16 years old at this time.
On the 1880 Census document, Brita's name was written as 'Brita Stina.' Either a mistake or not, it brings to mention Brita's Great Grandparents: Stina Greta Olofsdotter and Anders Nilsson Rudin Ante Ryssmo.
In 1880, Anders Alfred lived in Ljusnarsberg, Örebro and was employed by the Swedish Railroad as a railroad worker, just like his brother Carl Gustaf. In 1884, Brita Kristina started work as a maid and resided with the family she was employed by in Klöstre. Not long after, Brita would meet Anders Alfred at local dance party in Klöstre.
From this point on, her life began to shift and new opportunities start to unfold. Hard to imagine that Brita would be emigrating from Sweden to the West twenty three years later. By then, Brita would be married and have six children. For her to consider any of these future experiences at 18 years of age, having just left home, working as a maid, would be like imagining flying in an airplane, which was a quarter of a century away from being possible. Coincidentally something she would quickly take part in once air travel became a possibility for her in North Dakota.
It's quite fun to consider how Brita Kristina and Anders met that day in 1884. He had recently moved to Klöstre in 1883. Brita was 19 years old when she met Anders, he was 23. Did Anders ask Brita to dance or did Brita catch Ander's eye at the dance party? Of course we will never know, but to imagine their first meeting, what was said, what impressions did both have of each other? Either way one can look at this, as a special time in their lives.
What we know through all the letters I've read, written by Brita Kristina, she liked parties and dancing, and that continued once she lived in North Dakota and later in the late 1930s when she moved to California. A family tradition that maybe started with Brita Kristina or maybe before, but continued for the next two generations that I am aware of, Brita was expecting a child when she and Anders got married. As one would expect at the time in the late 1800s, it was important to be married when you had children, so they most likely hurried the wedding.
On the 15th of November, 1885 the local church announced that Brita Kristina and Anders were to be married. Anders now lived in Klöstre and was still a railroad worker and Brita Kristina was a maid, living and working in Klöstre. On the 5th of December 1885 Brita and Anders got married in Torp's church in Klöstre.
Very soon after, on February 15th, 1886, the couple's first child, Erik Olof Helmer was born in Torpshammarsvägen Klöstre. Brita Kristina was 21 years old and Anders was 25 years old. The beginning of their large family, which would total seven children, would be born between 1886 and 1905. In 1886, having saved their money, Brita and Anders purchased a house and farm in Torpshammarsvägen, Klöstre. The couple completed the buyer's contract on the 17th of September, 1887 and on January 13th, 1888 the deal was finalized and the family of three moved into their new home. There are two photographs of the farm below.
At this point, Anders suddenly became a farmer and he was ready, a hard working and skilled craftsman with many talents, he took on the responsibility easily. Everything he had done and learned in the past was now being used to make a new life with Brita Kristina and their son, Erik. Farming was to be Anders' profession for the rest of his life.
Brita's and Anders farm/home is listed as 'Number 47' in the document and in blacker and bolder style of text it states, 'Klöstrebo Croft 1.' That term refers to a farm, comprising a plot of land suitable for growing crops, and a nearby attached house with a right of pasturage held in common with other such farms. Below are photographs of their Torpshammarsvägen farm. The couple's second child, Ernst Julius Alfred was born on the 9th of January 1889 on the farm at Torpshammarsvägen. Brita Kristina was 24 years old and Anders was 28.
Some time between 1889 and 1892, the Eriksson Family was involved in a catechetical meeting (this relates to religious instruction given to a person(s) in preparation for Christian baptism or confirmation. The couple went through supposed religious teaching by means of questions and answers. A priest came to their home and documented their work, their lifestyle and where they came from. Also documented was whether an individual was vaccinated against smallpox and if one could read and write.
This is how the church records described Brita and Anders Eriksson's Family and their lives:
Anders Alfred Eriksson was born on May 21st, 1860 in Ljusnarsberg, Örebro, Sweden. He is a railroad worker and an agriculture worker/farmer. Anders moved to Klöstre on the 2nd of November 1883. He was married on the 5th of December 1885 to Brita Kristina Olofsdotter. There is a question mark if Anders is vaccinated against smallpox. Anders can read well. Brita and Anders have two children, Erik Olof Helmer and Ernst Julius Alfred.
The couple's third child, my future Grandfather, Frans 'Frank' Gustaf Severin was born on the 12th of December in 1892 in Sundsvall and named after Ander's older brother Frans 'Frank' Ersson-Eriksson. Brita Kristina was 28 years old and Anders was 32.
Their fourth child, Anders (Andrew) 'Andy' Sebran Filemon was born on the 18th of February in 1896 in Sundsvall. Their fifth child, Ebba 'Abby' Agnes Kristina was born on the 10th of October in 1898, also born in Sundsvall. By 1900, and the arrival of the 20th Century, the Eriksson family had grown. The couple now had five children.
Brita and Anders' sixth child born in Sweden was Edla 'Vera' Alfrida Elvira. Vera was born on the 10th of March in 1902 in Sundsvall. By now, the family had grown so much that Anders and Brita were beginning to realize that opportunities in Sweden were limited. Circumstances as the century turned were becoming increasingly difficult. A big change was on the horizon for the Eriksson's.
The couple had heard many positive things about North Dakota from Anders' Brother, Fredrick, who had emigrated from Sweden in 1899. Large tracks of land were available for farming. It had weather issues, but the Eriksson's were accustomed to real Winters. This intrigued Anders and Brita. Fredrick and his Wife, Carrie Karin (Johnson) Erickson and their Daughter Olivia had been living on a large farm in Slaughter, North Dakota for the past few years. Through a chain of back and forth letter writing between North Dakota and Torpshammarsvägen, the idea of joining his brother in Dakota was soon to become a reality.
Fredrick invited Anders and his family to come West and after months of talk and decisions, Anders and Brita moved forward with their plan to emigrate from Sweden. By early 1903, Anders and Brita had sold their farm in Torpshammer and were packed up, ready for the journey to their new home, on the Northern Plains of the United States. They set out in late April for their adventure that would change everyone's lives and enable themselves a new life and better opportunities and freedom for their six children.
No easy decision, as that meant leaving family and friends behind. But as it is said, the writing was on the wall and they moved forward to face the new challenges. The family left the train station in Sundsvall after spending time with Brita's family. The first leg of the trip would take them to Malmo, Sweden, then to Copenhagen, Denmark. From there the family shipped out to Liverpool, England and awaited an Atlantic steamer heading to America.
Arriving onboard the S.S. Aurania into New York Harbor and Ellis Island on May 21st, 1903 they again waited for the next step to begin their travels across the United States towards Dakota. Soon enough the family were off by train to their new home in Dakota.
While staying with Fredrick and Karin at their Slaughter, ND farm, Anders and Fredrick built a sod house near Painted Woods (photograph below) for Brita and Anders and the seven children. They moved into that in 1904. Once settled in their temporary home, born in Bismarck, the couple's last child, Alphons 'Al' Fredrick Alcassar came along in 1905. In 1906, Anders and Brita acquired a farm in Regan, ND (photograph below) and this would be their final home where they would raise their children and work the fields of their farmland.
As the Ersson / Eriksson Family assimilated into their new life in North Dakota, following their migration from Sweden, and setting eventually on their farm in Regan, their name became Erickson, and it has stayed Erickson until this day.
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Photographs attached below:
1. Below is a stunning 1910 photograph, taken by my Uncle Olof Erik Helmer Ersson-Eriksson-Erickson
at his 'Erickson Studio' in Wilton, North Dakota. The portrait shows his parents, my Great Grandparents
Brita Kristina 'Christine' and Anders Alfred and their six children.
For the sake of the photograph below, will repeat some of the above information for easier references to who is who in the image and their connection to the rest of Ersson-Eriksson-Erickson Family.
At the time of this photograph, The Erickson Family lived and worked on a farm in Regan, North Dakota. The four (top row) brothers and two (middle row) sisters were born in Sweden. Alphons 'Al' Fredrick Erickson (bottom row middle) was born in Bismarck in 1905. Very soon after this photo was taken, my Grandfather Frans 'Frank' Gustaf Severin Eriksson-Erickson would be leaving the farm in Dakota and head West to the Pacific. He would live and work for years in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. He visited home regularly and would be living in Oregon when the US declared war on Germany.
Soon after, Frank, Ernst Julius and their younger Brother Anders 'Andy' would join the American Expeditionary Force in 1917. Frank and Ernst would join the Army and Andy joined the Air Corps. All three would serve in France in 1918 and 1919. Frank was a rifleman/runner serving in the 77th Division / 308th Infantry. He would be a fortunate survivor of the deadly 'Lost Battalion' battle that took place in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse Argonne Offensive in early October of 1918. He would receive the Silver Star for his actions in the Argonne. Later he would be recommended for the Medal of Honor, unfortunately not to receive. Ernst Julius would be killed by a sniper, also in the Argonne while on a mission on October 10th, 1918. Andy became a driver and a mechanic in the Air Corps and returned home to North Dakota along with Frank in the Spring of 1919.
Brita Kristina's father was Olof Petter Andersson and her mother was Karin Goransdotter. Olofsdotter refers to the daughter of Olof, being Brita's maiden name, though she also used Olson. Brita's brothers, used a contraction of Sundsvall as their last name, as in Anders Petter 'Ante' Sundin and Erik Olof Sundin. They also used 'Olson' on occasions. Olson, in essence comes from, 'the Son of Olof.'
Brita's sisters are Sigrid Elisabet (Olofsdotter) Andersson and Katarina Olivia (Olofsdotter-Andersson)
Backlund. Sigrid and Anders Petter lived their entire lives in Sweden. Katarina (1903) and Erik (1891)
emigrated from Sweden and lived in Manitoba, Canada and in the United States, respectively.
Brita, and Anders Eriksson's journey out West, made during the early 20th Century made them trailblazers for our family. Their struggles and successes culminated in countless experiences and rewards from their hard work and the challenges they took on. Many ended up serving in WWI and WWII. Hundreds of future family members were to be born and thrive in North America because of Brita and Anders. Their stories in my eyes are the reflections of our existence and how we remember them and enable them to influence us in our daily lives. In that and much more, their spirits live on in us.
Written by Mark Jon Erickson October 2020
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