Digital research – Yet another small story

It is not easy, and you really have to be determined sometimes when looking for facts in the different archives.

As you know I search for my Swedish soldiers in the different archives out there, both the large and common ones, but also in the outskirts of the normal digital resources. I was searching for some swedish names in Wisconsin Gold Star list, a kind of a Honor Roll that I found through Familysearch portal. I started to search by putting the word “Sweden” in the search bar, and got three hits.

I find Swan O Peterson, stated to be born in Sweden, and I cross check with the American archive over casualty cards, and he is there, but he is buried back home in the states, and then he is outside my criterias for my project, as I search for those who are buried at the Western Front. But under him I see another name that looks Swedish, but after that person, it does not say “Sweden” but I decide to check him up.

I know that I have searched through his casualty card before, but then I did not see that is actually says that his next of kin is from Sweden, his father is from “Holma, Medange, Holm”. – that can be anywhere, I think for myself, but I decide to search for John H Stenberg in Ancestry. I find a John H Stenberg and it says that he is born February 1st 1890 in Boltak, Skbg.

For many people this could be quite hard to read, but luckily I have passed the sign everyday for three years on my way to work, and I know it means “Baltak, Skaraborg”. Baltak is a small village in Skaraborg region. So far so good, he is born in Sweden, but is this the correct John?

I search in a map for Baltak, and I see quite quick some familiar villages around Baltak. I see Madängsholm, and look at Johns fathers place again, ah, “Medange, Holm” should be Madängsholm. This is probably the correct John.

The next step is to search for him in the Swedish Archive “Riksarkivet”, and the name I know is John, and we also know that it can be Johan, and I try to search for “Johan H*”, and also put in the year 1890 as we know from Ancestry. I get 223 hits.

I know that Baltak is in Västra Götalands County, and in the area of Tidaholm, and that narrows it down to 3. And there he is, Johan Harry, the fathers name is Stenberg. Here he probably is. But I want to look in the church book as well and then I have to search for the perish that Johan Harry is born, which I find from the first search. The perish of Agnetorp. And there he is. Born February 1st 1890. But the name says Jan Harry…

From the beginning we had John, that I guessed could be Johan, and now he is baptised to Jan, or could it just be written wrong?

I decide to search for Jan Harry as well, but I do not find anything, and decide to search for John Harry, and I actually find him again under that name in the same archive, with some of his family as it looks like. This is not easy at all sometimes. Ok, I am quite sure that this is the individual I am looking for.

I now want to take a look in the other chapters in the church book, and when I do that I find the family, and he is the book as well. I have to know that they lived in “Brunnsvik” which I found in the earlier search, just to be able to find the right page in the book instead of searching through all the pages, that sometimes can be around 1000 pages. It says that his father left for America in 1905, but I can see some notes about that he maybe came back. John moved to another village nearby, which I think was Velinga, in 1904, and I know that village is nearby, also from my commute to work … I also see in the church book that there is a line over “A” in “Johan”, so maybe the correct name was John all the time after all?

I also find that John left Sweden for USA in April 23, 1913, from the notes in the list from the ship that he left with. I dont know when or where he settled down, but I know he joined the AEF from Wisconsin, and went to France after have joined Co L, 7th Inf Regt, 3rd Division, and that he fought in the Meuse Argonne offensive and fell just south of the village Romagne in the Argonne region in October 5th, 1918. John is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.

I see that John belonged to the same Division as Carl J Hagel, another Swede from Skaraborgs Region, village of Essunga, not very far from Baltak, so this gives me some new to dig in to. May both of those Swedes rest in peace.

Swedes at Menin Gate – The story of Erick Anderson and Karl Olson – October 26, 1917

[Remarks: My normal language is Swedish, so please feel free to comment if you find some information in english is expressed in a strange way]

October 26 1917, the start of the second Battle of Passchendaele within the Third battle of Ypres. It was the second part of the Battle of Passchendaele (Dritte Flandernslacht [GER], Troisième Bataille des Flandres [FR]) that took place between July and November in 1917.

I will in this post tell you more about two of the so far 16 Swedish soldiers that are commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres in Belgium. So far I have found 16 Swedish born soldiers at that memorial, which are soldiers with no known grave, and they are commemorated together with almost 55.000 other soldiers in this monument. May they rest in peace.

Erick Anderson and Karl Olson were killed in action the same day, fighting for two different Canadian units but they were not far away from eachother this specific day.

Erick Anderson was born as Eric Ersson February 1st 1886. His parents were Kristina Albertina Andersdotter and Anders Petter Ersson, Erick probably took his surname after his father Anders first name, which was a common method at that time.

There is no information about when Erick left Sweden but there are some documents that states his census for Canada in 1906 as a Lodger. This is not confirmed. He is registered for the Canadian Army February 28, 1916 at the age of 30, and on the same card it says he is living in Rainy Rivers, Ontario, Canada, right on the border to the USA. Many Swedes went for Canada in these years, and Ontario was a common place to settle down.

His next of Kin (NOK) i the papers is his brother Carl which lives a bit south of Erick, in Gonvick, Clearance County, Minnesota, USA. Maybe they left Sweden together. It is quite normal that they stated their parents as next of Kin in the papers, and if the address was to an address in Sweden you can assume that the parents still lived there, and that the Swedes who went over, did that by themselves. If someone have siblings as NOK they probably emigrated together or just after. In this case I cant find any other address for Ericks parents in the Swedish Archives.

Erick arrived in England from Canada July 6th, 1916 and is Taken on Strenght (TOS) to the 5th Canadian Infantry Battalion. According to thye Casualty card he is injured in his right arm by a shrapnel or a Gun Shot which penetrated his arm. He received this injury in the battle of Vimy Ridge in France, April 11th 1917. He was at that time fighting for the same battalion as another Swede, Axel Renyus Carlson, who you can find in my soldier list in the Main menu in this web page. Axel was killed in action in that battle.

In my list I have 7 Swedes who fought for the 5th Canadian Infantry Batallion, and they will later on have a story for themselves.

Erick was discharged from Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield June 11th 1917, and then later became attached to 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion in September 26, 1917. In October 26, 1917 he is reported to be wounded and missing, and later on reported to have been killed in action the same day. Erick has no known grave and is therefor commemorated at Menin Gate Memorial. When reading about the Battle of Passchendaele you understand why many soldiers dont have their own grave, They could have been buried where they fell, but the grave could probably not be located after extreme shellings later in the battle.

The same day Karl Olson participated in the same battle but in another battalion. Here is the story about him

Karl Olson, or Karl Adrian Olsson which was his Swedish name, was born in Åsaka Perish in Älvsborgs County, Sweden, March 25, 1888. His parents were August Olsson and Johanna Maria Olofsdotter.

According to the church books he went to North America in 1915. Before he went over he did his conscript period in Swedish Army, as every 21 year old man did at that time. Right now there is no information how Karl went over to the USA but the paper states that he was registrated for the Canadian Army January 8, 1916.

He left Halifax, Nova Scotia December 15, 1916 and disembarked in Liverpool December 28, 1916. He landed in France and was taken on strenght (TOS) for the 43rd Canadian Infantry battalion was may 4th, 1917. There are not many events stated in the Casualty Card before he is killed in action October 26, 1917, first day of the second battle of Passchendaele.

The church book mention he is killed in France but we know now he was killed in Belgium. In the diary for the 46th canadian Infantry Battalion you can read the text by Captain Galt:

“The situation looks OK as far as I can Judge. The 52nd are 100 yards in front of us and in fair strength. It is to be regretted we did not get further, but it was not possible. S.O.S is in working order and conditions considered we are OK.”

The casualties for that first day for the battalion are estimated to be 13 officers and about 300 ORs (Other Ranks)

Karl Olson has no known grave, and he is also to be found on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium.

We will never know if they met eachother in any situation in Canada or in the battlefield, but they did what they could for their new country, and will be remembered through this project. You can also read more about the soldiers and see thier locations where they are assumed to have fallen in my project by the link “Virtual Tour on Map” in the main menu.

These are the first stories about Swedish born soldiers who are commemorated at the Menin Gate, more stories will follow.

One goal is reached – heading for the next

Today I found the two last posts in my list which makes it contain 200 Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell at the western front. The two last individuals are Axel T Rydell (Axel Tolli Rydell) and William Anderson (Axel Wilhelm Andersson-Westerberg). William is number 200 in my list and also some kind of symbol of that, as he was Killed in Action November 11th 1918, the day of the armistice for World War One.

There are probably more soldiers out there who will fit my criterias that I have specified in my project, but these 200 will now be more developed, and in the end they will be menitioned in my future book about those soldiers who went from Sweden and joined their new armies and fought for them at the Western Front in The Great War. I will of course put the others in my list but they I will keep for later work.

I will also give you an example of those Swedes who went over to another contingent, fought in the Great War at the Western Front, but are buried in their new countries.

One of those is Oscar G Falk, who was born with the name Germund Oscar Falk. He is also mentioned as Oscar Thomas Falk in some cards, and his sister Elvira is mentioned as his mother. I understand this as the information at that time was quite hard to check and confirm.

Oscar was born August 12 1863 in Brännkyrka Perish, Årstadal, in Stockholm, Sweden. (The same perish I was baptized in). He went to USA at the age of 18, in 1882, he should be 19 later that year, and he settled down in Menominee, Michigan, USA.

He became 1st Lieutenant November 21st 1903 and later on became Captain in February 24th 1908. As the text in the Honor Roll states he went over to brest in France in 1918 and fought in the Aisne-Marne battle in July 1918 and became wounded and taken to Hospital. The Hospital became bombed by the Germans, the personnel managed to take him out but he died August 1 st 1918.

After his death he received decorations for his exceptional gallantry in fightings around the river Vesle in France. He received the French Croix De Guerre, The French War Cross. Dont forget that he did this in the age of 55. Amazing. The information states that he was reburied June 9th 1918 in the American Cemetery in Belleau, Aisne in France. The Casualty card states that his body is recovered and moved to USA and buried in Riverside Cemetery in Menominee, Michigan.

I will now continue to find more facts about the 200 individuals I have in my list, to make the history of all those more deep, connect their different faiths, and later on visit the places where they fell and are buried or commemorated.

Feel free to join me me on my journey forward.