The Sandin Book of Life and Death
On one of my trips to the UP I visited the Sharon Lutheran Church in Bessemer because I knew they had a book in which they recorded personal events of church members similar to what had been done in the churches of Sweden. I was ill prepared for what I found.
The pastor at the time of my visit was not a local boy and didn’t have a Swedish heritage, let alone speak Swedish. He brought out the book from his vault and gave it to me. He confessed that he didn’t know much about its content but said I was welcome to examine it. He showed me some loose pages in a manila folder in the front of the book and said he also didn’t know what they were. I set out to see what I could learn.
I glanced at the book but decided to examine the loose pages first. There were seven 8 ½ x 11 sheets handwritten with data on both sides of all but the last sheet. From months of looking at Swedish clerical records (HFL) I recognized the data as birth and baptism records written in Swedish. They were the records of 171 births to church members occurring before the big book was put into use. My mother was record #28 and my father was #39. Here are the Swedish entries followed by an English translation with expansion of abbreviations.
28. Mamie Eleanora f. i Bessemer d. 17 Juli 96 d. i B. d. 22 Nov. 96. Föräldr: Alfred Tillner o. h. h. Fredrika. Vittnen: Föräldrarne.
28. Mamie Eleanora born in Bessemer the 17 July 1896 baptized in Bessemer the 22 November 1896. Parents: Alfred Tillner and his wife Fredrika. Witnesses: Parents.
39. Carl Clarence f. i Bessemer d. 17 Febr. 97 döpt i B. d. 20 Mars. 97. Föräldr: Carl Sandin o. h. h. Hilma. Vittnen: Gust Carlson o. h. h. Johanna.
39. Carl Clarence born in Bessemer the 17 February 1897 baptized in Bessemer the 20 March 1897. Parents: Carl Sandin and his wife Hilma. Witnesses: Gust Carlson and his wife Johanna.
The data are in chronological order by baptism date (with only one exception that I have found). This is no doubt the date that the pastor became aware of the birth. Nevertheless, I think the data were transcribed from some other source because the writing does not vary from one entry to another. There is no evidence of the “biorhythms” that the work of normal human beings would display if they were writing the entries one at a time on many different days.
By the time I inspected and copied them, the sheets were fragile and obviously quite old, although I don't think they were 100 years old. I made two copies, keeping one copy for myself and leaving one as backup for the Church. I am concerned about their future survival. I have put my copy in sheet protectors.
The journal itself was begun just after 1900. There is a rumor that there was an earlier book, but the new pastor couldn’t find it. The journal has sections for births and baptisms, marriages, deaths, entries into the church and departures from the church, and confirmations. I spent hours pouring over that book, copying pertinent records and taking notes.
The journal is not complete. No one source ever is. However, it confirmed the arrival of my great great grandparents Anders Ersson, Stina Lisa Persdotter, and Carolina Larsdotter from Sweden. It confirmed the arrival of great grandparents Alfred Anderson and Anna Louisa from Wisconsin. It confirmed the births and deaths of many relatives, but it was the only place I found a record of the birth and death of my father’s brother Arthur Leonard Sandin. Chronologically, the last record of interest found was the confirmation class of Glenn Holevac, my sister’s son.
I wanted to claim the book as my own since there are SIX GENERATIONS of my family represented within. I wanted to carry it away, laminate it, and display it as the Sandin Book of Life and Death. I was ready to buy a copy of the microfilm, had it been taken, but alas, it hasn’t. I will just have to be satisfied with a visit each time I brave the elements of Bessemer, MI.