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.

More about local connections

Today the weather was very sunny and warm, and I were in the terrain of some of those I eralier reported about, those soldiers born in the Perish of Hjälmseryd.

Why not then try to find the farms and maybe the houses the lived in? I went away for a short tour and I found some places.

I started to try to find the small place Slättö, that is mentioned on the casualty card of Andrew M Johnson, Anders Magni Magnusson, who was born in Hjälmseryd, and for some time lived in Slättö, according to some of the information I found in the church books. Next time I will also to get a photo of the Mo Västra farm. Slättö was the place where his father lived after Mo Västra, and is mentioned on the casualty card. You see Mo is mentioned in the church book, at the same line as his birth.

Then I went to the place where Gust E Ahl, John Gustav Edvin, lived. The place was Bodatorp, South of Boda in Hjälmseryds Perish. The picture below shows the house as it looks like today, it seems to be a summer house nowadays. The name “Bodatorp” is mentioned in the top of in one of the pictures below.

The last place I found today was Sevedstorp near Släthult in the same Perish, where John E Johnson lived in when he was born. The house looked like to be a house arranged for to live in more days than just in the summer. We could not find any persons nearby, even if we knocked on the door. I will try to visit the another time, when in the region. You can find the name Sevedstorp in the church book picture.

I will probably not be able to find all the places of those 200 Swedish born soldiers I will map in this project, but hopefully this can be a small story in a greater perspective. It was a great feeling to stand there and realize that those people went to USA for some reason but tragically fell in The Great War. This is my way to try to commemorate them. May they rest in peace.

What is it with Hjälmseryd?

When continuing some research this day about Swedes who fought for the American Expeditionary Forces at the Western Front in the Great War, I discovered yet another individiual born in Hjälmseryds perish, near Lammhult but in Jönköping County, in Sweden.

Looking through the casualty cards from AEF, I discover another Johnson, John Edwin Johansson, born in Hjälmseryds Perish october 28, 1894. His father August Johannes Johansson and his mother Anna Sofia Johnsdotter then living at the farm Sevedstorp west of Hjälmseryd village. On the map below it is near Släthult.

I rekognize the place to be quite near some of the other places that we earlier know from the Swede Gust E Ahl, alias John Gustaf Edvin Ahl, and Andrew M Johnson alias Anders Magni Magnusson. Gust is from the farm Bodatorp and Andrew is from the farm Slättö, and now we also have John from Sevedstorp, north from the other two places.

Before I know the exact place for John, I know from the casualty card that his mother is stated to live in Lilla Mon, Gustav Adolf in Hobo Sweden, which I know as Habo, as I live quite near the place. Some facts at ancestry suggests that John is born in Habo as well, but probably assumed to be from the info on the card. I dont find him in that perish, and I have to look further with help from his father, which I find through info from

In combination with some info from Ancestry I make the conclusion that John is also born i Hjälmseryd, after having checked the information in the Swedish archive Riksarkivet. In Riksarkivet the name states to be Johan Edvin. But when searching further on and find the church book about when he is born, it states that the name is John, not Johan. Very confusing. I get the year 1894 from Riksarkivet when I find all the family members to be the same names as in, which also states october, but it states october 2nd. It turns out to be october 28th. This is a clear point to that information in some archives that has been put in by persons, has to be confirmed now and then, you cant rely on every detail, that is for sure.

When looking in the church book I see a name that I recognize. The name above John Edvin. It turns out to be Gust E Ahl, that is also born in October the same year. Imagine that these two individuals went to USA, not at the same year, but ended up in USA but different states, joined the AEF for some reason, probably for the reason that both of the became American citizens, and ended up to fight in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It is a bit amazing.

I so want to know if the knew eachother, but right now I dont have the exact facts about when John moved to Älvsborg county. I will try to get more info about that by looking in the church books again, I will find it there.

I know that John lived in Västra Götaland County when he choosed to emigrate to USA, and that he was about six years old at that time, so probably John and Gust didnt know about eachother then, but maybe they met in the Army?

John became naturlized in USA in 1916, and I know from before that Andrew and Gust went to the states in 1913. In the end all three ended up in Meuse-Argonne region and they tragically died in the period between September 28th and October 9th 1918. The distance between the divisions were around 6 km, could have been less or more depending their specific place in the divisions. The distance is assessed to be from the middle of the area where their divisions were. You can find more info by looking in the link “Virtual Tour on Map” in the main menu on this home page.

I live just about 45-50 minutes from the area where all three of these individuals grew up, and I will come back with more information later on. Below you can see those pictures I found about Johns family. Maybe I will find more individuals from Hjälmseryd who went over to USA and became soldiers in the AEF. I will let you know.

Friends from home at the front?

Sometimes when doing research I stumble over facts that I have to look deeper into. I find facts that points to individuals who comes from the same region and seems to have left Sweden at around same time to emigrate to the large country in the West.

It also seems that both of them have enlisted for the American Expeditionary Force and then went to France to participate in the fightings at the Western Front. Later on I find facts about that they participated in the Meuse Argonne offensive and sadly both of them fell in the offensive just 12 days apart of eachother.

This may be quite common for the soldiers from UK, that joined units under the concept of Kitcheners Army, from the same village, the same football team or similar, but when it comes to the Swedes it seems to be quite uncommon, based on the information that I have so far in my research.

These individuals were Gust E Ahl (Johan Gustaf Edvin Ahl) from Boda farm, Hjälmseryd Perish, Jönköping and Andrew M Johnson (Anders Magni Magnusson) from Slättö farm, Hjälmseryds perish, Jönköping. Both of these places is near the village of Lammhult, Kronoberg.

Johan Gustaf Edvin Ahl, Boda, Hjälmseryd, Jönköping.

Both of them were born i Hjälmseryds Perish, Anders in November 4th 1893, and Gustaf in October 19th 1894. They moved around to some other farms in the region, but when they left for the States in 1913, they lived not far from eachother, just under two kilometers in between.

Anders left from his farm March 17 1913 and Gustaf left his farm for America April 28 1913. According to the casualty cards both of them ended up in Minnesota, but right now I dont have any information about if they met eachother at the other side. I know that Gustaf enlisted June 5 1917 and ended up in 139th Inf. 39th Div. when they fought in France. I havent yet found when Anders enlisted, but he later on joined 125th Inf. 32nd Div.

The Meuse Argonne Offensive started September 26 and went on until the Armestice in November 1918.

Gustaf fought near the Argonne Forest and was Killed in Action already September 28 1918, quite early in the offensive. Anders went on with his unit and was Killed in Action October 9th 1918, a bit further up NE in the movement of the offensive.

Both of them are buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

It is a very special feeling to find these facts from different sources, put the together and look at whole picture and try to imagine how they lived in their region at that time and then went over to a completely unknown world to later fight in the army of their new country. Both paid the ultimate price.

I live around 50 minutes by car from their former farms in Hjälmseryd Perish and I will in near future visit their region and maybe find the houses where they lived, maybe meet people who are connected to those individuals and try to find more information.

Later on I will of course visit their areas where they fell at The Western Front, as I will do with all the Swedish Soldiers that I have in my research. I so long for to commerate them, and highlight their actions in the Swedish History.

May they rest in peace.

Updated Soldiers List

I have now updated the soldiers list which you can find in the main menu. The list shows all the individuals that I am working with so far. (February 18 2021)

Of the total 196 individuals there are at this moment 163 verified to be born in Sweden i e those I have found in the Swedish church books. The other ones are born in Sweden as well, but right now I havent found the correct notes in the church books.

Johan Gustaf Edvin Ahl, Boda, Hjälmseryd, Jönköpings Län. Participated in Meuse Argonne Offensive and fell September 28 1918.

Local connection – John H Erlandson

When I am not working, I spend a lot of time continuing with my study / research on the Swedes who fought on the Western Front in the First World War. As you already know, I limit myself to those who were born in Sweden bySwedish parents, fought and fell on the Western Front and are buried or remembered on the same.

I set a goal for myself some time ago that I would find at least 50 individuals who fought for the American side during the First World War, and at the time of writing I have found these 50 who fall within the above-mentioned criteria, but I have only been able to verify 47 individuals. I will return when I can verify at least 50, ie found the correct excerpt from the church register that shows their birth in Sweden.

During the evening I searched through manual search in the archive cards and found John H Erlandson, who turned out to be Johan Herman Erlandsson, born in 1887 in Jönköping, living in Mariebo, before he emigrated to the USA, to Chicago via Hull in England, and arrived in the USA on 21 June 1910. Jönköping is my home town, and it feels a bit special to know where he lived before he emigrated.

Johan joined the American Expeditionary Force and was sent to France during 1917-1918 and fought in the region around Argonne, France. He took part in the famous Meuse-Argonne offensive and fell in battle on October 10, 1918, previously reported to have fallen on October 14.

I promise to one day walk in his footsteps, and visit the area where he fought with the 33rd Division, which I marked with a red ring on the map, as I visit all the other soldiers’ places I have in my database, which are now beginning to approach 200.
Yes, it will take time, but I have promised to visit their place where they fell, and where they are buried, it is my way of showing them appreciation for the way they contributed to Swedish history. May they rest in peace. Never forgotten.

Down below you can see some snippets from pages about Johan Herman Erlandsson.

Swedes in the Meuse-Argonne offensive

In my aim to study and follow up Swedes who fought and fell at the Western Front I have now looked into those Swedes who emigrated to USA and entered the AEF and was sent to Europe to fight. I have so far found a few of them, and I hav started to put the them out on a Google Earth Map, as I have done with the other Swedish soldiers who fought for the commonwealth countries.

You can read more about it here

The work continues

Some evenings I just look through the facts that I have found in the digital archives, and just putting the pieces together. It is always nice to update my Google Earth Project map with more names and locations, together with some basic facts about thye individuals. Along the way I can now see some pictures emerge. Will write more about them further on.

I have also experienced some situations when I have found individuals, and then trying to verify them through Swedish church books. The two latest I have found in special books, where they were mentioned in special child care locations. Not common, and now two in a short period. I have from those cases become more skilled in searching for facts, so that is a good thing.