Grandma Frieda Kristina Hallberg Carlson: The Search.1

Grandma Frieda’s tombstone (located one half mile south of Stockholm, South Dakota) reads simply: “Frieda C. Carlson  1868 – 1947.”  Frieda knew the answers to many of the questions being asked today, and her daughters, Lillie, Anne, and Ethel, and sons, Arthur, Leonard, and Ralph, probably knew some answers as well.  Unfortunately, they are all deceased and very little information was recorded.  As a result, the search for information about Frieda and the location of living relatives in Sweden proved to be a formidable task.

First, we devoured a step-by-step handbook, “Your Swedish Roots” by Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson, in an attempt to frame the search.  Next, we read the book “Cradled in Sweden” by Carl-Erik Johansson, which confirmed the daunting nature of the task for someone illiterate in Swedish – no matter how great his enthusiasm.

When we began the search, the available material written about Frieda was little more than a few short sentences.  In 1976, Mom Johnson (Lillie Hildur Carlson Johnson, 1899 – 1989) recorded her recollections of the Freda Kristina2 Hallberg and Swan Peter Carlson family tree. Unfortunately for our purpose, it focused on her descendants, not her antecedents.  A part of what she wrote reads as follows:

Swan Peter Carlson                                                Freda Kristina Hallberg
Born Feb 16, 1867 Kalmar                                    Born Feb 29, 1868
Småland, Sweden                                                   Nerike, Sweden 3


They did not meet until in the United States—were married at Langford, South Dakota.     

They lived on various rented farms at Langford until they moved to Stockholm, South Dakota in the fall of 1909.

                 Swan Peter passed away September 2, 1949
                 Freda Kristina passed away May 26, 1947

Mom Johnson also wrote a personal history of herself and her husband Herbert Walfred Johnson (1894 – 1985).  The portion relating to Frida reads as follows:

Sweden is divided up in “provinces,” and each is named, such as Värmland, Småland, Västergotland,

Nerke, etc.

                 Swan Peter Carlson came from Småland, so is a Smålaning, Frida Kristina Hallberg came from Nerke.  They never met until in the United States, and were married at Langford, South Dakota on December 16, 1895.  Their six children are half Smålaning and half Nerke, but Swedes.  They farmed on various rented farms around Langford, South Dakota.  They bought a farm at Stockholm, South Dakota and moved there in 1909 with their six children.  They attended and joined the Evangelical Free Church in Stockholm. 

In 1982, Mom Johnson’s brother, Ralph, wrote some information about the Swan Peter Carlson family.  It stated: “You will note that it does not go beyond Dad and Mother as we have no firsthand information or record of our grandparents.”  Some additional information surfaced in Ralph’s history.  He recorded the wedding date of Frieda and Swan Peter as being December 21, 1895, (six days later than the date in Mom Johnson’s history) and the birthplace of Frieda Kristina as being Bosocken, Nerke, Sweden.

Lorraine, Mom Johnson’s daughter, remembers her mother saying that Frieda had two brothers who emigrated from Sweden to the United States; one was named August Hallberg.  He raised his family in the same rural community of Stockholm, South Dakota, where Frieda and her husband Swan Peter (S.P.) Carlson farmed and raised their family.  Queries of other family members failed to supplement this information.

The authors of “Your Swedish Roots” recommended in their book acquiring the services of a Swedish genealogist as an alternative to personally searching Swedish records.  Laird Simons III, son-in-law of Lorraine, is a genealogy enthusiast.  He grew up in Philadelphia and at age fourteen was the youngest member of the Philadelphia Genealogical Society.  Laird is a lawyer with a penchant for detail and accuracy, and quickly identifies discrepancies.  Laird encouraged me to challenge all findings and to try, where possible, to find corroborating evidence.  He noted that nothing was more discouraging in genealogical searches than to discover at some later date that your key person is not a relative!  All agreed that a novice operating alone could probably have a fun-filled experience, but that the use of a Swedish genealogist might increase the likelihood of successful results.

Our new friend, Rolf Andersson, from Lyrestad, Sweden, was serving as our travel consultant, and proved to be an enthusiastic genealogist.  He, in turn, introduced us to a professional genealogist by the name of Lars-Bertil, known as “Lasse.”  Lasse worked primarily on searching for information relating to Adolph and Matilda Johnson, Lorraine’s paternal grandparents.  Rolf, working with Lasse, took on the task of finding information about Frieda and her husband Swan Peter.

I supplied the following information to Rolf.

                 Name:  Frieda, Freda or Frida – Kristina or Cristina – Hallberg.
                 Birth Date:  February 29, 1868
                 Birth Place: Bosocken, Narke, Nerke or Nierke, Sweden.
                 Date of Emigration: Unknown.
          Additional Family Information:  Two of Frieda’s brothers emigrated. One named August Hallberg.

On December 16, 2004, Rolf sent an e-mail saying that the Swedish Province should be spelled Närke, and that the spelling of Freda, Frieda or Frida would undoubtedly be “Frida” in Sweden.  In addition, he included numerous maps of the Province of Närke.  I subsequently pored over these maps, using a magnifying glass.  The town of Bosocken did not appear on any of the maps.  Perhaps the town had ceased to exist after the late nineteenth century or perhaps it was simply too small to be shown. 

On January 18, 2005, Rolf sent another e-mail, saying that “Frida was born in the Parish of Bo and she traveled from Gothenberg on May 16, 1890 to New York City with a Johan Persson, age 57, perhaps father, and Malcolm Hugo Johansson, age 18.  Brother?

In the spirit of critically reviewing all information, I had several concerns and questions. Nothing sounded correct, and I frankly thought we had the wrong person.  (Not to be confused with Persson.)  The Parish of Bo is not the town of Bosocken.  How could Frida Kristina Hallberg have a brother with a surname of Johansson and a father with a surname of Persson?  How could Malcolm Hugo Johansson (possibly a brother) square with Frieda’s brother known as August Hallberg, who emigrated?  Since Rolf was the genealogist, supported by the professional genealogist Lasse, I, the American novice, decided to withhold comment until further information was generated.

On February 21, 2005, Rolf e-mailed additional information.

                 “I have discovered the following about the family of Frida.

Mother:  Johanna Sofia Olsdotter born in Svennevad parish (nearby Bo Parish) July 16, 1830.  Died in Bosocken February 5, 1885.

Father:  Johan August Persson born in Bo Parish April 3, 1833.  Emigrated to USA 1890.  Came back to Bo Parish 1893 inhysenjon, meaning totally without money.  He stayed in the same house he had left in 1890.


          First son:  Carl August Johansson born in Bo Parish July 19, 1855.

Emigrated to USA March 23, 1880.

Second son:  Gustav Adolph Johansson born June 6, 1858, moves to Regna parish November 23, 1884, a nearby parish.

First daughter:  Emeli Augusta born September 26, 1861, dies November 14, 1863,just two years old.

Second daughter:  Anna Lovisa born July 15, 1863, dies December 20, 1864, not even two years old.

          Third son:  Johan Axel Johansson born October 15, 1865.  Emigrated to USA July 2, 1886.

Third daughter:  Frida Kristina Johansdotter born February 28, 1868.  Emigrated to USA May 1890.

Fourth son:  Malkolm Hugo Johansson born October 6, 1871. Emigrated May 1890 to USA.  (He is Dövstum = deaf and dumb.)”

Clearly, in Rolf’s view and the view of the professional Swedish genealogist, the Frida in the records was the Frida who emigrated to the United States and was the maternal grandmother for whom we were searching.  For the family members on the American side of the big pond, skepticism remained.  (For example, the birthday recorded for Frieda in the Swedish records was one day earlier than the birthday recorded by her daughter.) A new problem had now surfaced. The records revealed that three brothers had emigrated. The novices in America were well aware of their language deficiencies, unfamiliarity with Swedish geography, and lack of recorded family history.

On the helpful side, the Swedish records stated that Frida’s mother died in Bosocken, so the town must have actually existed.  The records also mentioned Frida Kristina and said she had a brother with the middle name of August who emigrated from Sweden to the USA.  On the negative side, there were probably many Frida Kristinas with a brother who had August as part of his name and who emigrated to the USA.

Important discrepancies also existed.  One thing we knew for certain was that Frieda’s family name was Hallberg.  There was no reference to the name Hallberg anywhere in the Swedish records.  In these records, her father’s name was Persson and her brothers were all named Johansson.  Not a single family member was born in Bosocken; although some were born in Bo Parish.  The birthdate of Frida Kristina is specified in the Swedish records as February 28, 1868.  Mom Johnson listed her mother’s birthday as February 29, 1868.  This unique birthdate was confirmed by family stories of Grandma Frieda’s complaint that she could only celebrate her birthday every four years.

More work was needed.  Page eleven of “Cradled in Sweden” says that “Socken” was the original word for “Parish” and indicated both a civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction over a geographical area.  When Swedish folks today say Bo Parish, it is the same as earlier generations saying Bo Socken.  What a revelation!  There is not, and never was, a town of Bosocken, yet Frida was born in Bo Socken.  Bo Socken would never be located by an amateur American poring over the map with a magnifying glass no matter how powerful the lens!

Two thousand five hundred parishes are listed in “Cradled in Sweden.”  There is only one parish named Bo, and it is located in the County of Öre and the province of Närke.  The parish of Bo has only one church.  Thus, looking for Frida Kristina in Bo Socken meant looking at the records of a single church.  Suddenly, finding a record of a Frida Kristina, born February 28, 1868 near the small church of Bo, seemed quite significant.  (Further, the recorded date lacks some legibility in the copied document.  An argument could be made that it is a nine rather than an eight.)  Authors of subsequent documents apparently misread the blurry date of February 29, 1868.  It is also possible that the Parish Priest, being the intellectual of the community, knew that February only had 28 days.

Now to the names Persson, Johansson and Johansdotter recorded in the Swedish records and the missing name Hallberg.  The difficulty lies in the patronymic naming system used in Sweden, particularly in the rural areas in the mid nineteenth century.  At that time, a child was simply known as the son or daughter of a certain man.  Thus, Johan, who was the son of Per, becomes Johan Persson.  Carl August who was the son of Johan becomes Carl August Johansson.  The last name was merely an identifier, not a continuing family name.  The Swedish law governing the taking of a permanent surname was not enacted until 1901. Further, “Cradled in Sweden” notes that sometimes the record keeper – the parish priest – may not have known what last name a person used. 

We also read in “Your Swedish Roots” that, when Swedes settled in the United States and Canada, they often changed their family names.  The name they assumed was often unrelated to their family name in Sweden.  At times it might be a name to which they were attracted, and at times it might be a town or geographical location.  They might board a ship in Sweden as Olsson and leave the ship in New York as Wilson.  It would seem reasonable to paraphrase this as: “A son left Sweden in 1880 as a Johansson and arrived in New York as a Hallberg.”  When others in the family also emigrated from Sweden in 1890, they may have simply adopted the name chosen by the oldest son.

In America, a non-matching last name becomes a major stumbling block.  We are steeped in our legal mindset of mandatory continuation of surnames.  To a Swedish genealogist searching old records, the surname is relatively unimportant.

Our skepticism was significantly reduced, and it seemed timely to approach Rolf about the concern relating to the last name.  The emigrants came from the province of Närke and the parish of Bo.  Neither seemed particulary appropriate for a last name.  Rolf noted that, since Bo was not a town, it would be reasonable for the family to adopt the name of a town in the vicinity.  Hallsberg is a town just a few kilometers from the parish of Bo!  Closer towns were Björnhammar, Sköllersta and Hjortkvarn.  It seems the family chose well.

Lingering questions still remained.  It seemed a bit of a stretch to believe that the brother August Hallberg in South Dakota was Carl August Johansson in Sweden.  A search of the book “100 years in Grant County South Dakota 1878 to 1978” revealed some interesting information.  The township maps for 1910 showed the ownership of each farm.  The owner of the farm at the northeast corner of Stockholm was identified as Carl August Hallberg.  West of Stockholm was a farm owned by S.P. Carlson, which was the farm of Grandma Frieda Kristina Hallberg Carlson and her husband Swan Peter Carlson. The American known as August Hallberg becomes Carl August Hallberg with the same first and middle name as the brother identified in the Swedish records.

A remaining question existed about the brother, Malcolm Hugo Johansson, who emigrated with Frieda.  No report existed about this brother except the information in the church records in Sweden and in the ship passenger list.  He seemed destined to remain an enigma. Perhaps he returned to Sweden with his father in 1893. Perhaps he died on the journey.  It appeared we would never know.

The July 19, 2005 date for the family to embark on their trip to Sweden was fast approaching, and everyone was satisfied that the Frida Kristina Johansdotter found in the church records in the Parish of Bo was indeed the same Frieda Kristina Hallberg Carlson that we knew as “Grandma Carlson.”  An e-mail arrived from Rolf that he had arranged for the family to have a luncheon at the Bo Parish schoolhouse that Frida had attended as a young girl.  He also mentioned in passing that the schoolhouse was just a few kilometers from Murtorpet where she had been born.  What in the world is Murtorpet?  We thought it had been established that the place of birth was Bo Socken.  We had to wait until our arrival in Sweden to find out.  Scepticism had been replaced with curiosity.

In the middle of June, Lori (Lorraine) and I took a trip to South Dakota.  It included visiting many old friends and family members, as well a visit to the cemetery where Frieda and Swan Peter Carlson are buried, and a visit to their old farm near Stockholm.  Lori contacted her first cousin Gail Carlson to arrange a breakfast while we were there.  Lori is the daughter of Lillie and Gail is the daughter of Ethel, who were sisters.  Lori and Gail have an enduring close relationship with each other.  They lived nearly 200 miles apart when they were growing up, but spent time together in the summers.  They are one year apart in age and attended different colleges in the same city.  The two cousins have much in common.  They are both gregarious with outgoing personalities.  (This is a code word for “like to talk!”)  Lori had promised Gail that she would give her an update on what we had found about their Grandmother Frieda.  Gail said she would bring her mother’s old family photograph album.

The breakfast started at 8:30 am in a hotel restaurant.  Rent on the booth was paid with continuing purchases of cups of coffee.  Many pictures in the old album brought stories, tears or peals of laughter.

Much later in the morning, they came upon an old picture of a gentleman; no identification of the person was apparent.  Gail commented, “Isn’t that a handsome gentleman.  I wonder who he is?”  Lori commented that the picture frame bore the name Langford, South Dakota.  Gail removed the picture from the four little black corner tabs that had held the picture in place for decades.  She turned it over, and on the back of the picture was inscribed:

Mother Carlson’s brother Hugo.

The family was now ready for their trip to Sweden.


1    Written by Charles W. Sapp, the husband of Lorraine Johnson, who is the granddaughter of Frieda Kristina Hallberg Carlson.

2       Grandma’s name has been spelled Frida, Freda and Frieda.  Her middle name was Katrina, and references to her middle name were typically spelled with a “K.”  However, her tombstone is inscribed Frieda C. Carlson.  Throughout this narrative, we have spelled her name as it appeared in the particular record identified and used Frieda as the default spelling.

3      Also spelled Närke and Nerke.  The province in Swedish is spelled Närke.