when ‘maja christina’ became ‘mary c.’

I’m working on a large project that involves a good deal of family research. I’m spending time on genealogy sites and in Facebook groups. I’m discovering a side of my extended family that no one knew existed.

As a child I was told that no one in our family ever emigrated. Why? “Because we were never poor.”

But we were poor. Some stayed poor in Sweden. Others improved their lives through education. And it turns out that three women related to my grandfather (his aunt, his cousin, and his sister) emigrated from Sweden to the US.

One of my grandfather’s aunts, Maja Christina, emigrated with her family in 1870. They became farmers in Iowa. My grandfather’s cousin Alice emigrated, by herself, in 1915. She worked at a notorious institution for the physically and mentally disabled in upstate New York. Then she married an American man and moved with him across the industrial north. He worked for car manufacturers and the rail road. Alice died in Chicago in 1970.

My grandfather’s sister Elna left Sweden in 1896, when she was 21 years old. She had listed “New York” as her destination, and I’ve seen a document confirming that she arrived there. But that’s the end of her story.

Many immigrant Swedish women share her first and last names. One was a nurse in San Francisco, another a bookmaker in New York. There are dressmakers, home makers, and many, many, ‘domestics’. I don’t think it really matters which one of them is our relative. They were poor, they crossed an ocean, and they continued to work.

4 thoughts on “when ‘maja christina’ became ‘mary c.’”

  1. We do need to get together to compare notes! It is interesting that so many women came to the U.S. by themselves. My great-grandmother and her other came in 1881, leaving my great-great-grandfather in Sweden (story is when asked why they left him the answer was “maybe they didn’t get along”). My understanding is that they sent money (for firewood) to him. I believe they had a cousin here already living in Rockford, Illinois.

    1. Yes, let’s do that Melissa! I’d be really interested to hear your stories. My relatives didn’t leave anyone behind, as far as I’ve been able to tell. You can be my stand-in Swedish cousin! First weeks of March are going to be super busy for me but after that I’ll get in touch. (Also have pics to show you!)

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