Monday, August 29, 2011

Everett Johnson, 1921-2011

Everett passed away on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, two months after celebrating his 90th birthday in a large circle of family and friends. Everett is survived by his wife of 64 years, Margaret, a daughter, Joyce, and a son, David, with families, a sister, Carol, and three grandchildren.

Everett was a grandson of my great-grandfather's cousin Jacob Elg Johnson, who emigrated to the US in 1880.

Link to Everett´s obituary

At the age of six, Everett moved with his family to the family ranch, now known as the "Mountain View Ranch", west of Laramie, and lived for the rest of his life there.

Margaret Johnson´s history of life on the ranch

A 1961 article about life on the Johnson ranch

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alex Elge/Johnson - yet another twist..

I have now found the departure records for the Montana Elges in 1887. These records confirm some of my hunches, and adds yet another twist to the mystery of Alex´identity.

They did indeed emigrate from Oslo - or Kristiania, as the city was known at the time. Alexander, Maria, Edvard, Otto, Beata and Ernfrid Elge all depart Kristiania on March 4, 1887, on board the Elster Line´s ship "Rollo", with Helena, Montana, stated as their final destination. Rollo was a feeder ship which took them to Hull in England. Here they would board a train across England to Liverpool, where they boarded the Britannic for their Atlantic crossing.

Now come the interesting parts. They all use the Americanized spelling "Elge" already when boarding the ship in Kristiania. Alexander Elge is a US citizen, unmarried, and his age is listed as 36 years, which means he was born around 1850, not 1861 as listed in the 1900 Helena census.

A birth year of 1850 matches my prime suspect, that Alexander was in fact Per August Elg. It also gives him time to establish the ranch in Wyoming around 1877. Perhaps it was not "Alexander Johnson" who died, as stated in Margaret´s history of the ranch, but his wife Sophia? After which Alexander decides to make a fresh start with his younger siblings in Montana?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Alex Elge/Johnson - the mystery deepens..

In a previous blogpost (November 2009) I mentioned the mysterious Alexander Elge/Johnson, who is nowhere to be found in Swedish records. In the 1900 US Census for Helena, Montana, Alex Johnson, born Aug 1861 in Sweden is a boarder in the family of Nels & Marie Nelson. Marie is Maria Sofia Elg, who married Nels Nelson in Helena, Montana, in 1889. The family´s address is 1050 Bedford Street.

The birth date matches the age in the 1887 passenger manifest, which makes him too young to be Per August Elg, and also too young to have settled the Johnson ranch in Laramie.

This was a lucky find as I was searching for Maria Sofia. Unfortunately, there are too many Alex Johnsons in the census database to go through them all to see if he can be found under this name in other censuses.

Since my previous post I have double-checked all possible Swedish records:
There are no departure records for any of the 1887 Montana emigrants. No doubt they slipped away through Norway, without notifying the authorities. Swedish parish records for the Johan Elg family show no Alexander - or any son born in 1861 - and there are no gaps in the record.

Furthermore, there is no Alexander or Sophia at all in Swedish emigration records from their part of the country in 1877-79 (when Alexander and Sophia first emigrated according to Margaret Johnson´s history of the Laramie ranch), and no possible Elg from any part of Sweden during the same years.

Yet, Alexander Elge, born abt 1860, travels with Frans Otto, Edward and Maria Sophia according to the 1887 US Arrival records, and in 1900 Alex Johnson, b 1861, is living with Maria Sophia´s family..

Friday, March 18, 2011

Victor Elge - another mystery

My second cousin, 2x removed, Victor Elg, was born in Gustafsström, Sweden 10 January 1879. As a young man he works in a steel mill at St.Tuna, Sweden. On 17 April 1903, Victor Elg emigrates from St. Tuna, Sweden, to McKeesport, Pennsylvania. McKeesport was part of the steelmaking district around Pittsburgh, and many Swedes with similar backgrounds worked here.

In the 1930 US Census, Victor Elge, b abt 1879, is listed as a “guest” of the Skagit County jail, Mount Vernon, Skagit, Washington. According to the Washington Digital Archives, Victor Elge died in Tacoma, Pierce County, at the age of 63 on September 28, 1941. His parents are listed as Lars Frederick Elge and Anna Carolina Elge, which confirms that this is “my” Victor Elg.

This is all I know about Victor, which leaves a number of questions: When did he go west? I assume he worked in the logging industry, possibly as a blacksmith, given his background. What put him in jail in 1930? Did he leave any family?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The blacksmith profession in Swedish ironmaking

In order to work as a blacksmith, you had to qualify as a member of the Blacksmith Guild (Hammarsmedämbetet). The guild was a combination of union and quality assurance and had its own courts, with jurisdiction over matters concerning the ironmaking industry (Bergstingsrätten).

As an aspiring blacksmith, you started out as apprentice (smeddräng), working f for different master blacksmiths, to learn different aspects of the trade. Apprentices usually stayed for a year or two, and then moved on to another master (Note 1).
After serving your apprenticeship and passing the Guild´s examination, you could become an assistant blacksmith (mästersven). You were now qualified to practice the trade, and worked in the employ of a master blacksmith.

The final step on the career ladder was to become a master blacksmith (“mästare” or “mästersmed”). This required passing another examination and having the necessary capital (Note 2). As a master blacksmith, you were an independent contractor, hiring your own assistants and apprentices – who also lived in your household. Running such a large household also needed a lot of helpers, and a number of young women would be employed as maids, learning to run a household before they married (Note 3).

“Bergstingsrätten” would appoint a senior and respected master blacksmith to become alderman (ålderman) for a district. The alderman served as an assistant judge on the court, but also inspected all the mills of his district, to make sure they were up to standard.
Note 1: As an apprentice you were a member of the master´s household, and listed here in parish records. From these, I have found many family connections, where a young man worked as an apprentice for an older brother, uncle etc.

Note 2: If a master blacksmith died, one of his assistants would often acquire these resources by marrying the widow, at the same time providing for the family.

Note 3: With so many young men and women under one roof, accident did happen, and births out of wedlock or shotgun marriages were not unusual. Giving birth out of wedlock was technically a crime until the 1850´s. However, enforcing the law resulted in infants “disappearing”, and in the late 18th century mothers were given immunity.