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VAN ESSEN Genealogy - Swedish Ancestors

Swedish flag from the Animation Factory My Swedish great-great-grandmother emigrated initially to Duluth, Minnesota, in 1871, where she met and married her German husband. They moved to Brainerd, Minnesota in 1875. In 1877, after the death of her father, her sister and her mother emigrated and joined them in Brainerd.

Finding the Ancestral Home in Sweden

Picture of Johanna Danielsdotter (Rydén) Bellmuth

I had known that my 2nd-great-grandmother Johanna (pictured at left) was Swedish but I had no idea where in Sweden she was from. That bit of information, unfortunately, was not passed down to future generations (and genealogists).

Her sister Emma's obituary said she was born in Smaland, Sweden, which is a province (similar to a state), but did not name a specific village, leaving a large area to search.

It turns out there were "distant cousins" looking for that same family and the dawning of the age of the Internet allowed us to connect and combine our information.

John Rhodes and his sister, Mary Rhodes, have an autograph book that belonged to their grandmother, Josephine Nelson. It was given to her in 1888 and signed "your cousin" by Anna Bellmuth (daughter of my gr-gr-grandmother, Johanna). Josephine's mother, Maria Danielsson Liedholm Swanson, died in 1880 when Josephine was 4 and John and Mary knew very little about her. Over the years, they have tried to trace Maria back to Sweden but have had no luck. So they decided to check out this "cousin" connection.

John posted this query on the Crow Wing County Query Forum at RootsWeb.Com in early 1999 asking about the Bellmuth and "Redeen" (actually Ryden) families. I responded that they were my ancestors, they came from Småland, Christina's maiden name was Peterson, Johanna and Emma were Christina's daughters, Christina and Emma had arrived here on June 29, 1877 (according to Christina's death record), and they used the Ryden surname in Minnesota.

The new information was sent along to Jill Seaholm, a researcher at Augustana University's Swenson Swedish Research Library, whose persistence paid off handsomely. In March of 1999, she identified Christina and daughter Emma in the Göteborg emigration records. Their surnames had been listed as Thor instead of Petersdotter and Danielsdotter.

Here they are in the passenger list (with a totally wrong surname of Thor and an incorrect home country of Germany, they were hard to find):

Christina and Emma in the Passenger List for the S.S. Brittanic, arriving in New York on July 16, 1877
Christina and Emma in the Passenger List for the S.S. Brittanic

Their usage of the Thor surname was interesting. Thor was the "soldier" name used by the father of Christina's husband (and Emma's grandfather), Sven Olofsson (as I later found out when researching the family in the Swedish church records).

They were from the village of Östra Torsås located about 18 km south-southeast of Växjö in the county of Kronoberg in Småland province, in southern Sweden.

A partial map of Sweden showing the location of the village of Östra Torsås
Map showing location of Östra Torsås in Sweden

The Daniel Svensson Family in Östra Torsås

Östra Torsås Husförhörslängd 1856-1860 P. 372
Daniel Svensson family in Östra Torsås in 1860

Researcher Jill Seaholm then found a church "census" for the family with the Rhodes' great-grandmother, Maria; my great-great-grandmother, Johanna; Johanna's sister, Emma; their mother, Christina Petersdotter Link to entry in WorldConnect Database; and a brother, Sven Peter, whose existance had not been known (who was later found to have married and raised a family in Duluth, Minnesota).

Volume AI:12 of the Östra Torsås Husförhörslängd (Household Examination Roll) for 1856-1860 page 372 (GID 850.15.44400) has the following family living at Askaberga Östregård (the name of a farm within the Östra Torsås parish):

Daniel Svensson  b. 27/01/19  N[öbbel]e
H[ustru] Christina Petersdr  b. 17/01/19  Täfvelsås
d[otter] Maria  b. 20/02/45  Th[orså]s.
d[otter] Johanna  b. 19/02/48  d[itt]o
s[on]  Sven Peter  b. 27/09/51  d[itt]o
d[otter] Emma  b. 23/07/58  d[itt]o

(The reference to a "GID" number is for subscribers to the Swedish Genline service, which has scanned all of the LDS microfilms of the Swedish church records and made them available. Each scanned page is assigned a Genline ID number so you can go directly to the page by using the GID field in their FamlilyFinder program that is used to access the subscription data.)

Volume AI:15 of the Östra Torsås Husförhörslängd (Household Examination Roll) for 1871-1875 page 381 (GID 850.29.65900) shows the family from 1871 through early 1876 (the image below shows both the left and right pages with most of right-hand page removed). The death of Daniel on 26/4/1876 (April 26) is noted in the "Död" column and his name is crossed out. Under the "Flyttat" column on the right, Sven Peter left the village for "N. Amerika" on 12/8/1871 (August 12), and Johanna left on 21/10/1871 (October 21). Their names are crossed out. Emma moved to a different location within the parish in [18]75, so her name is crossed out as well. (The next Roll covering 1876-1880 shows that Christina and Emma left for "N. Amerika" on 21/6/1877 (June 21).)

Volume AI:15 of the Östra Torsås Husförhörslängd for 1871-1875 Page 381 (GID 850.29.65900)
Daniel Svensson family in Östra Torsås in early 1876

In the above record, Daniel Svensson Link to entry in WorldConnect Database had an additional comment across from his name on the right-hand page - "Straffad första resan Stöld" (Punished first time for stealing) and below it, "Lam" (lame or physically weak - possibly paralyzed to some degree).

The note about being punished for stealing first appeared in the Husförhörslängd for 1851-1855 (GID 850.14.1900) and was carried forward so that additional convictions would receive a harsher penalty. Some people received prison time for "andra resan stöld" (second time stealing) and even life for "fjärde resan stöld" (fourth time stealing).

Daniel Svensson's death record in the Kronoberg vital statistics (GID 100007.41.34100) says that he died April 26 1876; Occupation and residence: backstugaman fr. Askaberga Östrege [Östragården]; Age: 57y 2m 29d; Cause of death: Brännskada; Place of death: Ö Torsås.

A "backstuga" is a small house or a cottage, usually above ground in a slope, located on land owned in common by the village. The occupant of such a dwelling is usually a general laborer, and not necessarily a farmer. Their cottage is named or designated as "Ryet" in the 1871-1875 HFL, above.

A "brännskada" is a burn injury from a fire.

As shown in the above record, they lived at Askaberga Östragården in the parish of Östra Torsås. There is a Swedish map archive site with detailed maps of each parish, down to the farms and little villages. To see a detailed modern map showing the Östragården farm in Askaberga (spelled Askeberga in modern maps):

  • Go to
  • For "County", select "Kronobergs län"
  • For "Municipality", select "Växjö"
  • For "Place", select "Nöbbele" (Don't click search - map at right will update automatically)
  • At Zoom setting "5", look for Askeberga just north of Nöbbele
  • Drag map to center on the white area to the upper left of "Askeberga"
  • Select Zoom settings from "4" down to "1" to see more detail

Zoom "4" : Askeberga east of Östra Torsås Zoom "1" : Östragården southeast of Askeberga
Map of Askeberga east of Östra Torsås Map of Östragården southeast of Askeberga

1798 Death Record for Rebecca Petersdotter in Tävelsås

The church records also have Birth/Baptism, Marriage and Death/Burial records. Usually there is little information in the death record beyond residence, age, and maybe the place of burial.

I needed to find the parents of Rebecca Petersdotter Link to entry in WorldConnect Database (a great-grandmother of Christina Petersdotter), but her birth/baptism was not recorded and the Household Examinations for that parish didn't start until after she married so I couldn't find her birth family.

But her death record had a remarkable amount of information for way back in 1798 (it is more like an obituary!).

Volume CI:2 of the BMD records for Tävelsås 1795-1853 Page 293 (GID 853.16.94400)
Rebecca Petersdotter 1798 Death Record in Tävelsås
Genline image above scanned from LDS microfilm – ArkivDigital image below is of the actual book
Rebecca Petersdotter 1798 Death Record in Tävelsås
1798 Death #13. Died June 23. Buried July 1. Age 72. Transcription and translation courtesy of Bo Johansson.
      Swedish Transcription:
Enkan Rebecca Petersdotter
i Täfvelsås Söreg[ård] födder
1726 uti Täfvelsås Lunnag[ård]
Fadren Corporal wid Cavalleriet
Peter Flink och Modren Rebecca
Runngren; Gift 1741 Födt 14
barn, af hvilka 10 lefva öfver
henne. Enka 1782; En beskedlig
och stilla Hustru
(Cause of death in right-hand column):
varit siuk i 4 år af en svår andtäppa
som slutade dess lefnad
      English Translation:
The widow Rebecca Petersdotter
of Täfvelsås Söreg[ård] born
1726 at Täfvelsås Lunnag[ård]
Father Corporal with the Cavalry
Peter Flink and Mother Rebecca
Runngren; Married 1741 Borne 14
children, of whom 10 live after
her. Widow 1782; A modest
and calm Wife
(Cause of death in right-hand column):
has been ill for 4 years with a severe shortness of breath
that ended his/her life

  • The marriage year is wrong (she married Anders Hansson 26 Dec 1744).
  • The widowhood year is correct (Anders Hansson died 31 Jan 1782 at age 72).
  • Her parents had other children baptized in 1723 and 1728 but there is no record of a baptism for Rebecca in 1724 through 1727 which is why the parental information in this death record is so valuable.

The Ryden (Rydén) Surname

The Ryden surname used by Sven, Johanna, Emma, and their mother Christina does not appear anywhere in the Swedish church records for this family.

Perhaps it was adopted by Sven and his sister Johanna when they emigrated (some Swedish emigrants chose new surnames entirely different from their patronymic surnames when they came to America).

The proper Swedish form of the name is Rydén (with an acute accent over the "e").

1885 Duluth census for Swen Rydén

Sven used Ryden when he applied for Naturalization
and it was used with the proper accent mark in the 1885 Duluth census.

Johanna used Ryden when she got married in in Duluth in 1873. The phonetic spelling, Redeen, of the Swedish pronunciation of Rydén was used for Christina and Emma in the 1880 census when they were living with the Johanna and Adam Bellmuth family in Brainerd. The only person to use Danielsson was daughter Maria, who emigrated with a small child after the death of her husband in 1869. Danielson was used as her maiden name in the cemetery record following her untimely death in 1880.

The father's name in cemetery and county history records in Brainerd was Swan Ryden (or sometimes Sven Ryden) instead of Daniel Svensson. So not only was the surname changed, but the given name was changed as well. But this information was provided by the descendents of this family and may have been incorrect about "Swan".

According to this explanation of the origin of the surname Rydén, it is a Swedish ornamental name composed of the place name element "ryd", meaning woodland clearing + the common surname suffix -én, from Latin -enius. So it would certainly be an appropriate choice of surname for a family emigrating from a rural area.

[UPDATE] A distant (geographically and genealogically) cousin in Sweden pointed out that in the 1871-1875 HFL image above, the second line giving their place of residence on the farm reads "Backst[uga] Ryet", which means the cottage known as Ryet. Cecillia Nilsson said that "The familyname Rydén is probably made up from the cottage Ryet or Rydet where they grew up and taken in the States to be more unique than Danielson."

My Swedish Family Tree

Here is the final version of my Swedish Ancestral line, adapted from the Pedigree report for my 2nd-great-grandmother, Johannah, and extending back to the 7th-great-granparent generation:

                             /Sven Löfvingsson b: 1716 d: 13 Jan 1779
                             |       \
                     /Olof Svensson b: 20 Sep 1750 Väckelsång d: 03 Jan 1840
                     |       |       /
                     |       \Gertrud Månsdotter b: 04 Dec 1719 d: 11 Feb 1787
                     |               \
             /Sven Olofsson b: 06 Feb 1781 Väckelsång d: 06 Jul 1856
             |       |               /
             |       |       /Johan Hansson
             |       |       |       \
             |       \Elin Johansdotter b: 17 Feb 1756 Väckelsång d: 24 Jul 1838
             |               |       /
             |               \Gertrud Olofsdotter
             |                       \
     /Daniel Svensson b: 27 Jan 1819 Nöbbele d: 26 Apr 1876
     |       |                       /Gume Nilsson
     |       |               /Jon Gudmundsson b: 28 Mar 1726 Väckelsång d: 21 Jul 1792
     |       |               |       \Giertrud Torstensdotter
     |       |       /Johannes Jonsson b: 25 Dec 1753 Väckelsång d: 16 Aug 1821
     |       |       |       |       /Anders Persson
     |       |       |       \Sigrid Andersdotter b: 07 Aug 1714 Väckelsång d: 1791
     |       |       |               \Ingrid Persdotter
     |       \Maria Johansdotter b: 07 Jul 1782 Väckelsång d: 19 May 1825
     |               |               /
     |               |       /Anders Nilsson b: Abt 1720 d: 10 Mar 1776
     |               |       |       \
     |               \Ingierd Andersdotter b: 24 Mar 1756 Väckelsång d: 17 Nov 1835
     |                       |       /Håkan Månsson
     |                       \Elisabet Håkansdotter b: 20 Jul 1724 Väckelsång d: 1783
     |                               \Maria Olofsdotter
Johanna "Hannah" Danielsdotter | Ryden b: 01 Feb 1848 Östra Torsås d: 19 Nov 1932
     |                               /Hans Nilsson b: 1680 d: 01 Apr 1764
     |                       /Anders Hansson b: 1711 d: 31 Jan 1782
     |                       |       \Ingeborg Andersdotter b: 1676 d: 10 May 1751
     |               /Johan | Jaen Andersson b: 05 May 1752 Tävelsås d: 05 Jan 1832
     |               |       |       /Peter Flinck b: Abt 1683 d: 02 Mar 1746
     |               |       \Rebecca Petersdotter b: 1726 Tävelsås d: 23 Jun 1798
     |               |               \Rebecca Runnegren b: 1691 d: 28 Oct 1764
     |       /Peter Jaensson b: 24 Mar 1791 Tävelsås d: 20 Apr 1861
     |       |       |               /Jacob Nilsson
     |       |       |       /Anders Jacobsson b: 12 Jun 1722 Tävelsås d: 16 Jul 1786
     |       |       |       |       \Martha Andersdotter
     |       |       \Margaretha Andersdotter b: 10 Aug 1752 Tävelsås d: 26 Apr 1827
     |       |               |       /
     |       |               \Martha Bengtsdotter b: 1735 d: 15 Nov 1812
     |       |                       \
     \Christina Petersdotter | Peterson b: 07 Mar 1819 Tävelsås d: 04 Jul 1883
             |                       /
             |               /Eric Knutsson b: Abt 1713 d: 30 May 1768
             |               |       \
             |       /Måns Eriksson b: 11 Nov 1756 Jät d: 22 Jun 1819
             |       |       |       /Måns Gudmundsson
             |       |       \Elisabeth Månsdotter b: 12 Aug 1730 Jät d: 18 Nov 1808
             |       |               \Ingrid Jonsdotter
             \Kjerstin Månsdotter b: 21 Oct 1788 Jät d: 04 Dec 1841
                     |               /
                     |       /Per Månsson b: Abt 1711 d: 22 Sep 1772
                     |       |       \
                     \Nilla Persdotter b: 30 Aug 1752 Urshult d: 22 Sep 1821
                             |       /
                             \Bengta Månsdotter b: 1731 d: Aft 1805

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