1864 – 2014
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth in Sweden of a very particular great-grandmother of mine. Although, sadly, not even my mom or her siblings got to meet her since she died several years before they were born, she holds a very special place in my heart since her last name came to be me…or rather, mine…Er, the name…I call myself…
It seems altogether fitting and just that I share a pile of stuff about her, and revolving around her on this day.
Some has to do with the origin of the name (again, a topic dear to my heart; especially since as a little kid I wanted to change my name to Charlie, or Tommy, or Jimmy; and yeah, you could say I’m more than glad I steered clear of doing that).
Another bit will be to share what I’ve fused together thanks to the kind donation of some DNA code of a fellow great-grandson of Selma’s with some extremely productive on-site famtracking done in Sweden a few years back by my aunt. (And while we’re all usually used to thinking of “be fruitful…” to mean on the downward flow of generations–and Selma and her husband Frank Campbell were indeed that–my aunt’s investigations on the ground in Sweden proved just as fruitful in the backward flow, giving us a dozen or more ancestors we had no idea about beforehand!)
First, though, the basics.
Selma was born 150 January 10ths ago (in 1864) in a place called Österbitterna in Sweden, which is about 25 miles or 40 kilometers south of that huge lake, Lake Vänern, in the southwest part of the country, the 7th child and 5th daughter born to her mother Marja and father Sven. Thus going by the patronymic naming tradition she would be called Selma Svensdotter. Judging by the blondish looking hair she has in all the pictures we have of her and the blonde hair all of her kids sported as kids, it’s most likely as a little girl, she too was a blondie. Her older brothers came to the USA first and sent money back–very common, of course, in those days when much of Europe was emigrating across the Atlantic. Selma was only 16 when she and her one of her sisters sailed to America in the fall of 1880. Their parents and a younger brother joined them within a couple years.
Like so many other Scandanavians, they went to Minnesota. My aunt did most of the digging and finding on Selma’s ancestors and family, so I’ll quote her succinct summary: “Upon arrival she was hired as a maid in the home of John Murphy’s family. (The Murphy family later moved to Foley, Minnesota and had a life long friendship with Selma and Frank.)” Frank is Frank L. Campbell (1861 – 1952), the American man she married who, the story goes, was also employed in the Murphy household as a gardener. If my memory serves, that was all in Minneapolis. My aunt continues: “Following her marriage to Frank she became a farmer’s wife in Blue Earth County until 1898 when they moved to St. George twp., Benton County, Minnesota.” Blue Earth County is out by Mankato, Minnesota, about 60 miles south-southwest of Minneapolis. And it was there that Selma became a mother, herself, in 1890, to a girl they named Myrtle. Another girl two years later was named Abigail (probably after relatives of Frank’s), and a third two years after that they named Gladys. In the winter of 1896 Selma gave birth to a boy. They gave him his dad’s middle name (Lee). That little guy would go on to be my grampa.
As my aunt noted, they moved a few years later to Benton County, which is due north of Blue Earth, about 60 miles north-northwest of the twin cities. Two more kids followed, Vern in 1900 and Vida in 1903. Selma’s dad, Sven, died in 1901, and her mom (name anglisized to Maria) went to live with Selma and Frank. She and they would remain right there for the rest of their lives, growing their family and then later being there and getting to see the familes that their kids in turn grew.
Next part: Why I’m Not Named “Svensdotter” (Wha??)