Finding Karl Severin Bengtson – The challenges of research for Swedes in First World War.

When researching for Swedish born soldiers in different digital archives, the result often comes out without any specific difficulties. You only have to be aware of what could have been changed between their emigration period and when they finally came home from the war, or when they fell and became buried on the battlefield, or at home.

It is normal that Scandinavian names and surnames were changed, especially when they emigrated to North America and Canada.

In this case it was a bit harder. I will take you through the process when I finally found out who Karl Severin Bengtson probably was in the Great War.

I like to read old digitized newspapers, and in this case I found a note about Karl Severin Bengtson (Bengtsson), how it was described to his family back home in Sweden, that he fell on the Western Front on November 8th, 1918.

My first reaction was that I thought it was a bit sad that he fell so close to the armistice.

Below you can read the Swedish text about Karl, in the second part of the text. I have translated the actual text to english below the snippet.

“-According to the message sent to the family, Karl Severin Bengtson fell on the Western Front on November 8th. He was born 1883 in Renneslöfs (Renneslöv) parish and he is mourned by his mother and his siblings.”

In the text above it is also mentioned that Harry L Carlson was killed in France. He actually fell on November 11th, 1918. His name was Harry Leonard Carlson, he kept his name and his surname, and was quite easy to find in different archives. I visited Harry last summer, in St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

Back to Karl Severin. I tried to find more information about Karl through Swedish church books and also on Ancestry. But the only results that I found on Ancestry was the facts I already knew from the Swedish Archives. No information to be found about any participation in the war. I changed the spelling, used the date of birth, date of death, but still no results. I decide to search without his surname, and also added his parents names, in this case Sven and Agneta.

I searched in the American and Canadian Archives, but still no luck.

Finally, on Ancestry, I found a Carl Swanson, with the same date of death as Karl Severin. Could this be a lead?

Below a snippet of the document I found. Normally it is hard to find the Canadian cards of “circumstance of death” regarding surnames beginning with “Sims” and beyond, due to damage of those cards.

On the card there is a lot of information that can be connected to Sweden. Mrs N Gengetson sounds like Bengtson, but it should be A Bengtson, as in “Agneta”. The village Lahelm is probably Laholm in the landscape of Halland in Sweden, here described as “Holland”. Ränneslöv parish is situated in Laholm region. Carl died of Influenza, and is buried in Canada.

I found 3215010 Carl Swanson in Library and Archives Canada, and here I got more information to compare to the facts I have about Karl Severin. Could Carl Swanson be Karl Severin Bengtsson?

Below you will see a snippet from the Canadian Archive, with some more explanations below the snippet.

The date of birth is May 29th, 1883 for Carl Swanson, and May 30th, 1883 for Karl Severin. Renslofs Saken, Sweeden is probably Ränneslövs Socken (parish) in Sweden.

The name Nita Bengtsen is probably Agneta Bengtson, as Nita is probably the nickname for his mother Agneta, and it is quite common in Sweden to call Agneta for “Neta”.

My conclusion in this case is that I have probably found Karl Severin, to be Carl Swanson. His middle name Severin and his surname Bengtsson disappeared during his time in Canada. Karl was later spelled Carl, which was very common. Karl Severin left Sweden in May 1901.

But Carl Swanson didn’t participate in the war on the Western Front, as states in the newspaper. He died in Strathcona Military Hospital, Canada, from Influenza, and he is buried in Edmonton Mount Pleasant Cemetery, in Edmonton. Below you can see how and when he probably catched his Illness, that later on led to his death.

Carl Swanson is one of few Swedish born soldiers that seems to have been drafted under the Canadian Military Service Act (M.S.A) and it looks like he was naturalized as well.

I find it very interesting to find the actual story of the different individuals I find within my research, and I can’t avoid thinking of if his family ever was informed about the actual circumstances about Carl’s death.

That will maybe be another story. May Carl rest in peace.

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