PER and BENGTA LARSSON
Per Larsson was born June 2, 1834 in Hjärsås, in the southern Swedish province of Skane. (1)
Married Bengta Nilsdotter on April 12, 1871, in Östra Broby, Sweden. Bengta was born to Nils Åkesson and his wife Bengta Johnsdotter on April 4, 1845, in Östra Broby. (2)
Lars, born Feb. 13, 1872. Died Nov. 10, 1872.
Nils, born March 11, 1873.
Emil, born Dec. 8, 1874.
Lina, born Jan. 27, 1876.
Otto, born Dec. 30, 1877.
Betty, born Sept. 17, 1883. Died July 7, 1892.
Henning, born Feb. 10, 1886.
Anna, born July 12, 1887.
Per appears to have grown up in the town of Hjärsås. Most of the town’s early church records were destroyed in a fire, so Per doesn’t appear in documents until a listing in the household registers for 1861-1868. He appears in the household of Hans Larsson, where he is listed as a “drång,” or farmhand. It’s possible that Hans, who was born in 1823, was an older brother. (4)
In 1865, Per moved to the nearby town of Qviinge, which is now spelled “Kviinge.” After his marriage to Bengta, the couple lived for a little more than a decade in Qviinge, where their first few children were born. In 1883, they moved to nearby Östra Broby, where Betty, Henning and Anna were born. (5)
Per was a farmer. In most early records, he is referred to as a “Hemmansegare,” or farm owner. For the first few years after the move to Broby, he is referred to as an “åbo” – tenant farmer. In his father-in-law's estate papers, he is referred to as a “Lantbrukare” – a well-to-do famer. (6) In Broby, the Larssons lived on a large farm called Mannagard, which Bengta had inherited from her father, according to their granddaughter, Grace Blomberg. (7) Estate papers in Östra Göinge, which covered Östra Broby, show Nils Åkesson's estate being divided among his daughters.
Per died on May 21, 1898. (8)
After her husband’s death, it appears that Bengta took in several borders or hired people to help on the farm. The 1900 census shows her younger children and several others living under her roof in Östra Broby. (9)
Bengta died Nov. 15, 1922. Per and Bengta are buried at the church in Östra Broby.
(1) Per’s birth date appears on his tombstone, which is transcribed on Swedish website graver.se. His place of birth appears in the 1880 census of Qviinge in the Swedish County of Kristianstad. The record of Per’s birth – and parentage – seem to be unobtainable because many of the early church records from Hjärsås were destroyed in a fire. (2) Marriage and Bengta’s birth are recorded in the Broby church records, which are searchable through the Demographic Database of Southern Sweden, which is available at www.ddss.nu. The database cites the marriage source as Östra Broby church book EI:2. Bengta’s birth date and parents are listed in the same database, citing Östra Broby church book C:6. As a side note, Bengta’s surname was identified as Bengsdotter in a questionnaire filled out by the Larssons’ great-grandaugther Grace (Larson) Blomberg in the late 1980s. She based her responses on family records and a Larson Swedish genealogy that mentions the family, titled “En släkt från Göinge: Stammande från hemmansåbon Ola Persson å n:r 9, Ö.Broby, (1752-1806),” by Einar Folke Johnsson. I cannot explain the discrepancy at this point. (3) Birth records appear in the Demographic Database of Southern Sweden, which cites the Kviinge birth records as Kviinge church book C:6; the Kviinge death record as Kviinge church book F:1; the Broby birth records as Östra Broby church book C:9; and the Broby death records as Östra Broby church book F:2. (4) The household registers are in Hjärsås church book AI:1, page 463. (5) The move to Kviinge is recorded in Kviinge church book B:3, page 21. The move to Broby is recorded in the church records of Östra Broby, book B3, page 161. (6) Nils Åkesson’s papers are in Östra Göinge estate records for 1890 in book FIIa:103, page 31. (7) Information comes from a questionnaire filled out by Grace Blomberg. (8) Per and Bengta's tombstones are transcribed on the website graver.se. (9)1900 Census of Östra Broby, available through the Swedish Archives at www.svar.ra.se.
OTTO and BERTHA LARSON
Otto Larson was born Dec. 30, 1877, in Qviinge, Sweden, to Per Larsson and his wife Bengta Nilsdotter. (1)
Married Bertha Christine Wiberg. (See below)
Edward O., born July 28, 1907 in Chicago. Died Feb. 7, 1913.
Esther B., born March 27, 1910 in Chicago. Died March 1, 1913.
Olga Evelyn, born April 19, 1913. Married Gustaf Kvarnberg.
Grace Harriet, born Dec. 25, 1914. Married Harold Blomberg.
Otto's family moved from Qviinge – now spelled “Kviinge” – to the nearby town of Östra Broby while he was young. Otto helped on the family farm and eventually fulfilled his military training obligation for Sweden.
In 1894, Otto moved to the city of Kristianstad, where he took a job as a merchant’s clerk. In the 1900 census, Otto is listed as a clerk living in the household of Olof Theodor Carlsson. Records show that Otto, still listed as a clerk, returned to Broby in May 1901. (3)
He apparently didn’t stay in Broby for long because U.S. Census records indicate that Otto immigrated to America in 1901. He became a naturalized citizen in 1907. (4)
Otto first took a job as a baker in Galesburg, Ill. That didn’t pay well so he became a streetcar conductor for Chicago Surface Lines. He held that job until retiring when he was 65.
Otto married Bertha Christine Wiberg on June 23, 1906, in Chicago. (5) According to family tradition, Bertha and Otto had known each other in school in Sweden but hadn’t considered marriage until they met again in America.
Bertha was born Sept. 25, 1880, in Broby to Per Sjödin Wiberg and his wife Bertha Nilsdotter. (6)
The 1900 Swedish census indicates that Bertha was working as a dairymaid in Broby at the time. (7)
In 1901, she immigrated to the United States with her sister Anna. She made the trip aboard the Ivernia, which sailed from Liverpool, England, and arrived in Boston on Oct 1. The sisters brought two bags each and were heading to Chicago, where they planned to meet their sister, Mrs. Tilley Peterson, who lived at 181 Oak St. (8) Some family members said she traveled with three of her sisters, all planning to find husbands in America. However, Anna and Bertha are the only Wibergs on the passenger list. Family tradition also states that Bertha left home for America on her 21st birthday because she no longer wanted to live with her stepmother.
The 1920 Census of Chicago indicates that Bertha became a naturalized citizen in 1907.
When she settled in Chicago, Bertha was embarrassed to tell her family back in Sweden that her home had gas lights instead of electric. In Sweden the Wibergs had electricity – even in the barn.
Before she married, Bertha served as a kitchen maid for the McCormick family who owned the farm-implement company. She became the family cook and a trusted servant and traveled extensively with them. Bertha was an excellent cook, but she considered her recipes trade secrets and died without revealing most of them.
When her children were young, Bertha made them ginger ale and root beer from recipes her father used in Sweden.
The 1910 Census shows the family living on Artesian Avenue in Chicago and indicates that Otto was working as a conductor on an electric railway.
Tragedy struck the family in 1913, while Bertha was pregnant with her daughter Olga. Edward and Esther died of scarlet fever, on Feb. 7 and March 1, respectively.
On Sept. 12, 1918, Otto registered for the World War I draft. At the time, he was employed as a conductor for Chicago Surface Lines. The form also records that Otto was of medium build, had blue eyes and light hair.
During the Depression, relatives moved in with the Larsons because Otto had a good job and could help support them. The 1930 Census of Chicago shows that Otto’s two nephews – Lars Larson, 26, and Nils Larson, 23 – were living in the household. Both had immigrated in 1924. The family always had plenty to eat, but had to make some sacrifices, such as wearing old clothes.
The 1940 Census shows Otto and Bertha living on Potomac Avenue in Chicago. The household included their daughter Grace and Otto’s nephew Lars.
The willingness to take in recent immigrants was frequently mentioned by the Larsons’ daughters, Olga and Grace, and by their children. For example, Olga’s daughter, Grace Reishus, wrote in 2012, “Prior to WWII my grandparents (as told to me from my mother) had a woman living with them named Lenna, who was a Danish Jew. When WWII broke out she went back to Denmark to be with her family. … My grandmother and grandfather never heard from Lenna after she left Chicago.
“I remember being at my grandparents' house as a little girl and 1-2 bedrooms were off limits to me because roofers lived there. They apparently rented rooms to people emigrating from Europe until they could resettle.”
Upon retirement, the Larsons moved to Knox, Ind.
In old age, Otto and Bertha were pleasant and loved to play cards. They spoke Swedish occasionally and read Swedish newspapers.
Otto and Bertha died in 1957. Bertha had suffered a stroke several years earlier and had been ill since then. Otto and a part-time nurse cared for her. Bertha died and on the day of the funeral, Otto suffered a heart attack. He had been in the hospital for about a week, when he removed his medication tubes and died. When they were young, Bertha and Otto vowed that one would not outlive the other.
They are buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Chicago.
(1) Birth records appear in the Demographic Database of Southern Sweden, which cites the birth records in Kviinge church book C:6. Kviinge was usually spelled “Qviinge” in the 1800s. Except where noted, information in this narrative comes from interviews with Olga Kvarnberg and Grace (Kvarnberg) Reishus in 1989. Some details were also provided by Grace Blomberg, in response to a questionnaire. (2) Birth information for Edward, Bertha and Grace appear in the Chicago birth information available at familysearch.org. Edward is actually listed as Otto on his Report of Birth. Edward and Ester’s death certificates are available on the same site. Esther’s middle name appears to have been Bertha, which is the way she’s listed in the 1910 U.S. Census. (3) The move to Kristianstad is mentioned in a Östra Broby church book containing household registers for the early 1890s, AI:14, page 73. The 1900 census of Kristianstad is available through the Swedish Archives at www.svar.ra.se. The return to Broby is mentioned in the Kristianstad Stadsforsamling congregation church book covering departures, B:11, page 85. (4) The 1920 and 1930 Censuses of Chicago. The 1910 Census of Chicago states that Otto and Bertha both immigrated in 1891 but that’s obviously incorrect. (5) Otto and Bertha’s marriage license from Cook County, Ill., which is available at familysearch.org. (6) Birth records appear in the Demographic Database of Southern Sweden, which cites Östra Broby church book C:9. (7) The 1900 Swedish census records are available online through the Swedish archives at www.svar.ra.se. (8) Immigration records for the ship Ivernia, which arrived in Boston on Oct. 1, 1901, and are available at ancestry.com. Other records offer various years of immigration. The 1910 Census states 1891, the1920 Census says 1903 and the 1930 Census states 1901. (9) The children’s death certificates from Chicago indicate that they died of scarlet fever. However, Olga reported that they died of influenza.