My main goal for this specific project is to identify when my immigrant ancestors came over, where they came from, and why (if possible), as well as what life was like for them before and after the immigration.
At this point I will take stock of what I know so far about August and Hedda Westerlin and what is left to learn to complete the project (not that anything is ever complete).
- I know when they came over (1889 and 1891), from where (see In Sweden – Torps and Tenant Farms and Swedish Locations), and where they ended up, as well as the fact that they don’t seem to have stopped long elsewhere before going to Nebraska.
- I have some suspicions as to why they came (economic reasons, land).
Specific information about the immigration/emigration that still is missing:
- Why Nebraska? (It was a common place for Swedish immigrants to settle, but more specifically.)
- What more can I learn about why they left Sweden or their life there?
- Can I find the specific farms that are listed in the emigration records?
For the first question, one source is others who may have gone before them, earlier immigrant families. For example, like the Westerlins, Jenny Westerlin’s later husband Charles Carlstrom and his family emigrated from Broddarp, Sweden (and even took the Romeo to Hull), but they did so in 1883, 6 years before August Westerlin. In 1900, the Carlstroms were in Shell Creek, Madison, Nebraska (in the southwest corner of the county), which is quite close to Nance, where the Westerlins were that same year.
Similarly, in 1910 Adga and her husband are in Shell Creek, Madison, next door to another Westerlin, a widow named Kajsa. Based on Kajsa’s tombstone, she was Swedish and her husband Alfred had been born in 1850 in Öra, next door to Broddarp and the place where August was born. In 1900, Alfred and Kajsa were in Walker, Platte, Nebraska, in the northwest portion of Platte County. (Where these counties are located in Nebraska as is shown in Westerlins in 1900.)
Given the names, perhaps Alfred was a relative (I have not identified his emigration records or his name in Sweden, and have not found an Alfred Westerlin in those records that could fit). In any event, perhaps these people knew each other in Broddarp or sent back word about Madison and the vicinity in Nebraska. Perhaps there was some other link between the relevant areas of Nebraska and Broddarp or the surrounding area.
As well as following up on other community members, another possible source is local newspapers (in the local library or larger Nebraska libraries with helpful collections), including but not limited to obituaries and any biographical profiles I can find, perhaps local history museums. Basically, reasons to plan a trip to Madison, Platte, and Nance, and then Dawson (Dawson has a Swedish cemetery and some early settlements that would be worth checking out).
On the “why they left” and “their life there” question (as well as in the US), there are lots of books which would be worth spending some time with and reviewing here. Other places worth visiting are the Swenson Center at Augustana College in Minnesota and, conveniently, the Swedish American Museum and Swedish-American Historical Society in Chicago. Despite their proximity to where I live, I haven’t checked out these two places in part because I never focused on this side of the family much and, more significantly, because I just assumed there’d be no connection between the immigrant experience in Chicago and in Nebraska, but it’s definitely worth fixing that omission now and finding out what resources are available. Plus, I love historical museums and bet it will be fun.
On finding the specific locations, tracking down Swedish gazetteers for the relevant period (or even seeing what’s there now) seems like the next step.
Other tasks for my to-do list include tracking down certain records, most significantly:
- Naturalization records. Best guess from what I’ve seen in the records (and consistent with the applicable law) is that August Westerlin was naturalized in or before 1900 and before 1906, likely at a district court in Nebraska. That being the case, I can’t expect much information from the records, but they are worth getting. Most likely location seems to be Nance County, with Dawson the next most likely or maybe Madison or Platte.
- Passenger records for the whole family from the UK to the US, as well as any records of the entry into the US from whatever city they arrived at. Also, confirmation of August’s passenger records from Gothenburg to Hull. At this point I may need to wait for more details from other sources to make progress on these.
- Land records, and specifically deed searches in the various counties, since nothing seems to have come up in the Land Office and Homestead searches. This may help develop more information about how they ended up in Nance and Dawson Counties, Nebraska, as well as help me figure out exactly when (and why — although the Great Depression probably played a role) their daughter Lily and son-in-law Delbert Guess went to Washington.
With these all in mind as next steps for 2017, I will move to blogging about another set of relatives for a while.