Introduction to Website.

Johan August Persson and Johanna Sofia Olsdotter were married about 1854. Johan was born on April 3, 1833 at a farm called Murtorpet located in Bo socken, a parish in the province of Närke.  Johanna was born on July 16, 1830 at Bondkorptorp, Svennevad. In 1794 Johan’s great grandfather, Anders Andersson, had moved about two kilometers from Fetsjöfallet to Murtorpet.  Johan’s grandfather, Olof Andersson, was born on February 7, 1758 at Fetsjöfallet and moved with his father to Murtorpet. Johan’s father, Peter Olsson, was born at Murtorpet on May 7, 1798.   

Following their marriage, Johan and Johanna lived at this same farm. The occupation of Johan was listed in the church records as crofter, a man who rented his cottage and paid for it by working for the owner of the land a fixed number of days. Johan and Johanna had seven children, but two died at very young ages.  Their eldest son, Carl August, was six years old and his brother, Gustaf Adolf, was three when their sister Emeli was born in 1861.  Two years later, Emeli died just four months after her sister Anna was born.  Anna also died before reaching her second birthday.  A son, Johan Axel, was born following the death of Anna.  Their only surviving daughter, Frida Kristina, was born in 1868.  In 1871, their youngest son, Malcolm Hugo, was born.  The church records listed him as dövstum, meaning unable to hear or speak.  Sign language did exist when he was growing up, but there is no information whether this was available to the family.

Little is known of Johan and Johanna’s lives together, but historical documents provide some insight into what their lives might have been like. During the last half of the nineteenth century, many different factors were causing people in Sweden to emigrate to the United States.  Among these were religious persecution, deteriorating economic conditions, drought and dwindling land availability.  In 1880, Carl August, the oldest son, decided to follow his uncle’s footsteps and emigrated to the United States.  Although emigration was occurring all around them, Johan and Johanna must have had considerable heartache with the departure of a son to a foreign country, knowing that he probably would never return to Sweden and the farm called Murtorpet.

Five years after Carl August left for the United States, Johanna Sofia died.  She was fifty-five years old. She and her husband Johan had been married thirty-one years, and much had happened in their life together.

One year after the death of Johanna, a second son, Johan Axel, also emigrated.  This left Johan with three remaining children, Gustaf Adolph, Malcolm Hugo, and Frida Kristina, still living at Murtorpet.  In 1890, Johan, Frida, and Malcolm Hugo emigrated from Sweden and settled in Langford, South Dakota, where they joined Carl August.  This left only Gustaf Adolph still living in Sweden, maintaining the rights to live at Murtorpet.

Dispersion of the family, homesickness, language barriers, disillusion with emigration, and less than favorable living conditions in South Dakota probably accounted for Johan’s return to Sweden in 1893 to live with his son Gustaf Adolph.  The church records show him on his return as inhysenjon, meaning penniless.  He died eighteen years later at the age of seventy-eight.

A period of one hundred and fifteen years passed following the emigration of Johan, Frida, and Malcolm Hugo. The descendants of Gustaf Adolph living in Sweden and the descendants of Frida living in the United States lived their lives separated by a vast expanse of  ocean and with any communication between them having been lost.  Family members in both Sweden and the United States were curious about what might have happened to the dispersed family members and their descendants.

In  2005, a granddaughter of Frida, Lorraine Johnson Sapp, decided to take a family trip to Sweden, in order to celebrate fifty years of marriage.  With her husband, four children, four children’s spouses, and five grandchildren, the group totaled fifteen persons.  Lorraine’s paternal and maternal grandparents, including Frida, had all emigrated from Sweden, and she and her family wished to visit the areas from which these ancestors had emigrated.  The family hoped to find the general geographic regions where these grandparents had lived and perhaps a church or cemetery that might provide some connection to their Swedish heritage.

It was the family’s good fortune to find that the travel representative they were using in Sweden was also a well trained genealogist.  This gentleman possessed an unusual resolve and tenacity to discover the unknown, while having an inate desire to help others.  In the course of his research, he determined Frida’s birthplace to be Bo parish.  He then made arrangements for the family to have lunch at the schoolhouse where Frida attended school.

A serendipitous occurrence brought thirty-two family descendants of Johan and Johanna together at the Bo schoolhouse.  Fifteen were from the United States, and seventeen were from Sweden!  Some spoke only Swedish, and the Americans spoke only English.  Bilingual family members from Sweden had to do the translations.

The luncheon lasted only three short hours.  Over a century of lost information and communication was  explored.  A recurring question was “What do you do?”

What do you do?  Johan and Johanna would have been amazed at the responses!  They had very humble beginnings,  living the life of crofters. They experienced death, economic difficulties, sadness and loneliness.  Johan experienced the hardship of an unsuccessful emigration.  At the end of their lives, they probably did not envision what would evolve from their commitment to values, personal responsibility, perseverance in hardship, and continuous hard work.  Perhaps they thought their lives had not been successful.

What do you do?  Artist, educator, lawyer, military officer, university teacher, business owners, pediatrician, labor law specialist, neuroscientist, marketing executive, entrepenuer ---- all present at the schoolhouse!  What about descendants not at the gathering?  Engineer, inventor, teachers, agricultural policy maker, rodeo champion, and yes, even an Olympic gold medal winner!

The group attempted to squeeze one hundred and fifteen years without communication into three hours of delightful sharing. The assembled family took a large bus down the King’s Hiway that Johan and Johanna had walked to the parish church from their farm in Murtorpet, in an attempt to picture what the area had looked like more than a century before.

This website is dedicated to Johan and Johanna. They worked, they loved, and they dreamed.  Dreams did come true!

The family has committed to completing the missing information through genealogy, stories, pictures, and continuing research, using this website developed by the talented genealogist and friend, Rolf Andersson.  We invite you to join us on this road to Murtorpet.