Sunday, November 15, 2009

The children of Johan Elg - and the mysterious Alexander Elge/Johnson

I have started to look closer at the family of Johan Elg, as so many of his children emigrated to the US. At least seven, possibly eight, of them emigrated to the US, two died young and only four settled in Sweden. At least seven grandchildren also emigrated. Seven of the emigrants settled around Helena, Montana.

Johan Elg was born in Gravendal, Säfsnäs, Sweden, but moved across the county line and spent most of his life as a blacksmith in and around Liljendal, Värmland. He was married twice:

First marriage: Johan ELG 1817 – 1896 +Kajsa HÅKANSDOTTER 1812 - 1853

........Karl Johan ELG 1839 – bef. 1900
............ +Edla BREDENBERG 1841 –
Note: All of their children were born in Sweden and stayed in Sweden, so most likely Karl Johan also stayed in Sweden.

........Anna Lisa ELG 1840 – 1854. Died young.

........Karl Gustaf ELG 1842 - 1918
............ +Anna Karolina BERGSTRÖM 1845 – 1915
Note: Daughter Hilda Maria Elg, b abt 1875, emigrates to the US on May 27, 1892. Daughter Olga Juliana Elg, born 21 jun 1878 emigrated to the US in 1894. Domestic servant in Chicago (1900 census), possibly married 1907 in Wisconsin.
Son Sigfrid Elg emigrated in 1912, 1930 census shows him in Fairfield, Connecticut.

........Erik Johan ELG 1844 –
Note: One Johan Elg, b abt 1844, emigrates to Chicago in Nov 1869, with wife Christina. I have no evidence that this is Erik Johan, except matching year of birth, and Johan comes from the same region of Sweden.

........Lars Fredrik ELG 1846 -
............ +Anna Karolina PERSDOTTER 1841 –
Note: Son August Elg (b 1870) emigrates to Helena, Montana in 1888, changed name to Elge
Daughter Beda Fredrika Elg emigrates to Montana in Sept 1893
Son Victor Elg,b abt 1878, emigrates 17 Apr.1903 from St. Tuna to McKeesport. Victor Elge,b abt 1879, is listed in the 1930 US Census as a guest of the Skagit County jail, Mount Vernon, Skagit, Washington.
Daughter Emma Christina Elg emigrated to Helena, Montana, in 1925, probably after her husband passed away.

........Per August ELG 1850 –
Note:Emigrated to the US 22 Oct 1868
The 1880 US Census shows an A Elge living as a laborer in the household on Chas. Hirsch, Ten Mile, Montana. No evidence that this was Per August, but Ten Mile is only ten miles from Helena..

........Jakob ELG (JOHNSON) 1852 – 1922
............ +Sofia KÄMPE 1854 – 1943
Note: Emigrated in 1879 (no emigration record found) Their story is told in Margaret Johnson's history of the Johnson Ranch

Second marriage: Johan ELG + Anna Stina OLSDOTTER 1834 - 1890

........Reinhold ELG 1857 –
Note: Emigrated to Oslo 25 nov 1890. Emigrated again to Norway 1 Aug 1893, now listed as widower. 1900 census shows him as day labourer, working on railroad construction. Oslo was normally a stepping stone for emigrating to the US but his children died in Sweden, so likely they never made the journey to the US.
............ +Josefina Andersdotter 1855 -.abt 1892
............ + Marie, b 1870

........Frans (Francis) Otto ELG 1860 – 1944
Note: emigrated in 1887, Involved in mining near Marysville and Bald Butte, Montana
............ +Christina Beata FRYKLIND 1861 - 1946
Note: Christina Beata visited Sweden in 1911, arrived Ellis Island on the s/s Lusitania from Liverpool 15 Dec 1911

........Alfred Emil ELG 1863 – 1937
Note: Arrived in the US 1897. Lived in Marysville, L&C cty, Montana. Joined his brothers Otto and Edward in mining operation at Bald Butte

........Edvard ELG 1866 – 1946
Note: Emigrated to Marysville, MT, 1887. In the 1920 census of Fairhaven County, Alaska, Edward is listed as superintendent of the Independence gold mine, Fairhaven, Seward, Alaska
............ +Christina Olsson 1868 -

........Amanda ELG 1866 – 1869 Note: Died in infancy

........Maria Sofia ELG 1869 – 1922
Note: Emigrated in 1887, to Montana
............ +Nels NELSON 1854 - 1907

........Emma Kristina ELG 1872 – 1958.
............ +Axel Wedelin 1865 - 1913
Note: In 1949, one Elsa Wedelin from Degerfors travels on a Swedish American Line ship to the US. This is possibly a granddaughter of Emma and Axel, since they appear to be the only Wedelin family in Degerfors.

The mystery of Alexander Johnson/Elge

According to Margaret Johnson’s history of the Johnson ranch , the ranch was first settled in 1879 by Jacob's brother Alexander Johnson and his wife Sophia:

“The ranch was first settled by Everett Johnson's great uncle Alexander Johnson and his wife, Sophia, in 1879. It was taken over by Alexander´s brother (Everett's grandfather) Jacob and his wife, Sophia, in 1888. Jacob's son (Everett's father) “

“Alex Johnson and his wife came from Sweden to the United States, arriving in Laramie on the Union Pacific Railroad. We assume that the area near the mountains reminded them of their homeland as many Scandinavians settled in the area.”

“Alex lived on the ranch until his death in 1888. No record could be found as to what happened to his wife and there is no record of children. Jacob then assumed control of the ranch.”

However, among the 14 children of Johan Elg there is no record of any Alexander, and little room left in the birth order.

My guess is that another brother changed his name to Alexander, possibly because it was easier to pronounce in English - this was not that unusual among Swedish emigrants.

I have two "suspects":

Erik Johan Elg, born 1844. One Johan Elg emigrated to Chicago in 1869, with wife Stina/Christina, from a place near Rämmen. I have no proof that this is Erik Johan, but the emigrant's birth year is also 1844.

Per August Elg, born 1850. He did emigrate to the US in 1868, but I have no note of his destination.

All other children of Johan Elg are "accounted for" in the records.

There is no Alexander or Alex Johnson listed for Wyoming in the 1880 or 1890 US censuses. The 1910 federal census lists an Alex Johnson from Sweden in Egbert, Laramie Co. Wyoming, but according to Margaret’s history Alex had passed away at that time.

Then I started looking closer at records for Johan Elg’s children by his second marriage, and came up with a surprise:

The arrival record of the"Britannic"., March 19, 1887 in New York, lists

Alexander Elge, 26, laborer
Marie “ ,18, spinster
Edward “ , 20, laborer
Otto Elge, 24, farmer
Beata “ , 24, wife
Ernfrid “ , 3, child

Note that there is an Alexander Elge listed here, and that he is grouped with Maria and Edward, which seems to indicate that they were traveling together. (Francis) Otto on the other hand is grouped with his wife Beata and son Ernfrid (Alfred Eugene).

In the arrival record their nationality is listed as "Norwegian", but this is clearly a mistaken assumption, based on the fact they started their journey in Norway. Liljendal is close to the Norwegian border, and Oslo (or Kristiania at it was known at the time) was the closest departure port for anyone leaving for America from Liljendal.

Another interesting observation is that the Montana Elge's are using the "Elge" spelling already on the passenger manifest. This is not a spelling used in Sweden, and when they boarded the ship they probably did not know enough English to understand that the "Elge" spelling would make the name easier to pronounce. Unless, of course, "Alexander" had emigrated earlier, and traveled back to Sweden to accompany his younger siblings.

Alisa Nelson has also found a record of an Alexander August Elge, of Sweden, marrying Eva June Smith, of Minnesota, on 6 Feb 1895 in San Bernadino, California. According to Margaret’s history, Alex Johnson was presumably dead by that time, so are there two mystery Alexanders in the same family?.

Was “Alexander Elge” really Jacob’s brother Per August Elg? There is a problem with this theory: The 1887 passenger manifest lists Alexander's age as 26, which would make him born around 1860 – ten years younger than Per August Elg, and a little young to be married and have settled the Johnson ranch in 1877. On the other hand, the San Bernadino marriage record lists Alexander August Elge’s age as 45 years, which matches Per August’s age, and Alexander August Elge is a resident of Montana.

And, of course, if Alexander Elge and Alexander Johnson are the same, Alexander did not die in Laramie in 1888?

1850 Per August Elg born
1852 Jacob Elg/Johnson born
1864 Gold boom establishes Helena, Montana (many miners came from Minnesota, city named after St Helena, MN)
1868 Per August Elg emigrates to the US (source: Swedish emigration records)
1868 Union Pacific RR reaches Laramie
1875 Mining boom in Black Hills, S.D. Many miners leave Helena.
1879 Johnson ranch settled by Alexander and Sophia (Elg) Johnson
1880 Jacob Elge Johnson and his wife Sophia emigrates to Chicago
1880 A Elge day laborer in Ten Mile, Montana (ten miles west of Helena)
1881 First record of Johnson occupancy, loan secured by land
1883 Northern Pacific RR reaches Helena, Montana
1884 Jacob and family arrive in Laramie
1887 Alexander Elge,26, arrives, with Marie, 18, Edward, 20, Frans Otto,24 and Otto's family. Source US arrival, passenger list Edward and Frans Otto, settle in Marysville,MT, a mining town 20 miles NW of Helena,MT. No sign of Alexander..
1888 Ranch taken over by Alexander's brother Jacob, and his wife Sophia
1888 According to Margaret Johnson, Alex dies on ranch, no record of his wife Sophia or any children
1888 August Elg (b 1870) emigrates to Helena, Montana in 1888, changed name to Elge
1889 Marie marries Nels Nelson, in Helena, Montana
1892 Hilda Marie Elg emigrates to the US (no final destination noted)
1893 Beda Fredrika Elg emigrates to Montana
1895 Alexander August Elge, age 44, resident of Montana, marries Eva June Smith in San Bernadino, CA, on Feb 6
1903 Victor Elg,b abt 1878, emigrates 17 Apr.1903 from St. Tuna to McKeesport. Victor Elge,b abt 1879, is listed in the 1930 US Census as a guest of the Skagit County jail, Mount Vernon, Skagit, Washington.
1925 Emma Christina Elg emigrated to Helena, Montana.