Fredrika's Youth

(Written in late 2000)

Yes, it’s true, I probably shouldn’t be in this genealogy business.  I’m too softhearted, or maybe I'm just overly imaginative.  Whatever it is, I do find myself suffering.

I received another set of films this week and the first subset I looked at was the films covering Grandma Tillner – Fredrika Johannesdotter Tillner.

As everyone knows, Grandma Tillner was born in Ärtemark, Älvsborg, Sweden on 1872-Jul-25.  She was the third child of Johannes Andersson and Kajsa Danielsdotter.  Her brother Albin was born in 1868 and her sister Alma Sofia was born in 1870.  She had a seemingly normal early childhood, joined by another brother Johan Edvin in 1874.

In 1879, when Fredrika was only six years old, her mother died.  Three years later, when Fredrika was nine, her father left Sweden for America.  Two years later, when Fredrika was eleven, her thirteen year old sister Alma Sofia died.

There is no indication of who took care of Albin, Alma Sofia, Fredrika, and Johan Edvin after Johannes left for America, but obviously, they were without parents.  And Alma Sofia died without parents.

On 1887-Mar-11 Johannes Andersson returned from America.  Albin left Sweden on 1887-Mar-10 for America, just the day before his father’s return!

Johannes apparently took charge of Fredrika and Johan Edvin, all that was left of his family.  Two years later when Fredrika was seventeen, Johannes married Stina Kajsa Eliasdotter, a woman almost seven years younger than him.

In 1891, when Frederika was nineteen, she emigrated to America.  At nineteen years old, all alone, she took trains across Sweden to Göteborg, a ship to Hull, England, more trains across England to Liverpool, a trans-Atlantic ship to New York, trains and God knows what else to Upper Michigan, where she presumably joined her brother Albin.  She worked as a maid for a while until meeting and marrying Albert Tillner in 1893.

I came along in 1933, when Grandma was 61 years old.  I remember a short, white-haired, lady who was easy to “con” out of root beer, baked goods, and attention; was easy to “trick” into thinking we had failed at fishing or berry picking (when everything was really overflowing); had a back porch perfect for hiding under when I didn’t want to go to school; and was ALWAYS available to cook, clean, wash, and whatever else the rest of us didn’t want to do.

To see what she went through in her youth leaves me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  While some might think we are better off not knowing, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

(Written in mid 2001 after considerably more research)

Maybe I shouldn’t publish these stories until I have finished researching.  On the other hand, if I did that you’d never get one.  Remember that I was distressed by Fredrika growing up without parents and by her traveling to the USA all alone.  New details have surfaced.

Seven years before Fredrika’s mother and father were married, her grandmother (farmor) and her great grandfather (mormor's far) were married!  The two individuals had each lost a spouse and people just didn’t stay single very long in those days – especially women, who effectively had no standing on their own.  She was 50 and he was 74.  Grandmother and Fredrika’s father (then 14) moved to her new husband’s farm.  He lived there with a 33 year old daughter who was feeble minded.  He had been married twice before and outlived both wives.

The feeble-minded daughter Catrina died in 1865.  Fredrika’s mother and father, Kajsa and Johannes married in 1867.  Fredrika’s great grandfather Anders died in 1871.  Fredrika was born in 1872.  Fredrika’s grandmother Anna continued to live on the farm with Kajsa and Johannes and their family until well after Fredrika left for the USA.  There WAS stability in Fredrika’s life, and it was provided by her grandmother!

When I wrote originally, I knew exactly when Fredrika left the farm headed for the USA, but I had trouble finding details of her voyage.  The “story” I told was typical and not really all that wrong.  She actually left from Oslo, Norway.  The travel through England was probably correct.  She arrived in the USA through Boston and still had the cross-country trip to accomplish.  I found the Oslo departure information on a Norwegian web site.  I found the Boston arrival information in the wonderful resources of the Library of Michigan in Lansing, MI.  The ship’s passenger list had Fredrika Johanson on it right next to Albin Johanson – her brother!  Albin apparently returned to Sweden to accompany Fredrika to the USA!  Nineteen year old Fredrika DID have company on her migration to the USA!