Tracking the Westerlins Back to Sweden

Full disclosure: I originally obtained the information about the Westerlins in Sweden (and learned of the emigration records) from a Swedish participant on the Genealogy Wise site. Upon returning to my efforts (after losing some of my old work that was on a computer that died — a lesson here!), I couldn’t remember the name of the site and suspected that it did not exist anymore.  Seems that I was wrong and it does, so there may be more from the old discussions to add to this.  But I wanted to trace the records for myself anyway (for added certainty that the information was correct), and enough is on Ancestry now to permit it, even just working online and from the US, so I started from scratch.

As covered in the prior post (Westerlins in 1900), the best guess seems to be that August and Hedda came over separately, perhaps in 1889 and 1891 or 1892 (consistent with the birth dates of the children), and that Hedda and the older children (Jennie, Adga or Agnes, Carl, and Laura) traveled together.  From past searching I knew that Westerlin didn’t bring up anything that looked promising, and from reading I knew that it was likely that Hedda would have gone by her maiden name anyway, so I searched Swedish emigration records for Hedda born in 1863 in Sweden who departed Sweden in 1891.  This pulled up a manageable number of entries, including a family who departed Broddarp, Älvsborg (Västra Götaland), Sweden on 19 Feb 1891 for Amerika.  This family consisted of:

  • Hedda Bjorkman, b. 21 Jan 1863 [the date from Hedda’s gravestone]
  • Karl Edvin Persson Johansson, b. 17 Sep 1887
  • Laura Augusta Persdotter Johansson, b. 23 Aug 1889
  • Jenny Elisabet Persdotter Johansson, b. 12 Aug 1883
  • Agda Kristina Persdotter Johansson, b. 15 Aug 1885

With the children’s names, ages, and birth months all matching, and even the middle names matching the initials from the census records (assuming Kristina could become Christina), and Augusta as a middle name, this is strong evidence that this family IS the same family.

While obviously the last name was later changed (to Westerlin), my research so far confirms that stable last names (vs. the patronymic system where the first name became the last name) were still relatively new in Sweden and adopting a new name was not uncommon, including a “soldier name” or a new name at the time of emigration.  Why Westerlin is, of course, a question I would love to answer and will focus on more later.

For now, though, what this provides is that in Sweden August was likely known as Per Johansson.  Given the consistent use of August, the 1900 Census listing him as P. August Westeland and (although it might not mean much) one daughter with the middle name Augusta, a birth name of Per August Johansson seems like a good working theory. Unfortunately, Johansson is, of course, an extremely common name.

From wiki, a map of Sweden with its provinces, showing where Vastra Gotaland is:


Because he was traveling alone and had such a common name, finding the emigration record for Per August Johansson appeared to be a more challenging task, but I think I have been able to with his birth date and the specific departure location and year:  Per August Johansson, b. 10 Oct 1858  in Öra, Älvsborg (Västra Götaland), parish Oskarsberg, departure date 26 Jan. 1889 from Broddarp, Älvsborg for Amerika.  He is married, but travels alone, and is a tenant farmer at Nedre Götatorp.


One thought on “Tracking the Westerlins Back to Sweden

  1. Pingback: In Sweden – Torps and Tenant Farms | My American Journeys

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