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Sunday, September 7, 2014

52 Ancestors # 36: Anna Charlotta Johansdotter Almquist

     Anna Charlotta Johansdotter was my Grandfather's Mother's Mother (my Farfar's Mormor in the Swedish way of expressing this). Not much was known about her when he told me about his family, but my research since has turned up some interesting and shocking data.

     Anna Charlotta was born on 5 May 1831 to Johannes Petersson and Greta Fohrman. She was born in Sodra Ving, Alvsborg, Sweden. This was written Wing but pronounced Ving in her day and Alvsborg was written Elvsborg(still pronounced that way, that A has a little o over it which makes it an entirely different letter in Swedish). Sodra Ving is known for it's old church which dates back to the 12th Century.  She would've been baptized in this church on 6 May 1831.

     On 22 Sep 1850 Anna married Nils Johan Almquist and they took up residence at Brunn, not too far east of Sodra Ving. Here they had four children: Johan August in 1851, Anders Wilhelm Ludwick in 1852, Hulda Josefina in 1857 (my grandfather's mother) and Emilie Maria in 1859. I imagine they were living a normal sort of life on their farm until 1864.  In 1864 in Central Sweden, where they were living, there was a widespread crop failure and famine. That may have affected them.  But for whatever reason Nils decided to emigrate to America. I'm sure that he wanted Anna Charlotta and the children to go with him. Apparently, she didn't want to go. They must have fought often about it. In June 1864, Nils decided to go and take the children with him. That's what my grandfather said, but I think he just took the two boys as the household examination record says all three left at that time. At any rate, Anna Charlotta was not about to let this happen and she went to the police. The police found Nils in Goteborg and told him that he could go but the children had to stay. So the boys went back to their mother and Nils went to America.

     Essentially then, Nils abandoned her. He may have sent money and I do think he kept in touch with his children, at leas,t because in 1865, his sons joined him in Minnesota. That same year, Anna Charlotta, Hulda and Emilie moved back to Sodra Ving. By 1872 they were back in Brunn, they lived on a farm called Remma. I don't know if Nils and Anna got a divorce or not. I know he remarried in America in 1869(the family story is that he remarried on the boat to America but I found the Minnesota marriage record dated 1869).  In the Husforhors (Household Examination Record) of 1872-1881, she is listed as divorced ("franskilda"). There are two listings for her and her household, the first does not say franskilda and the second one does. The second one seems to be after 1879. So the divorce may refer to the next part of this story.

    The second listing also calls her a "barnmorskan" or midwife.  This is the first time she is called that in the records.  This was a legitimate profession for women in 19th Century Sweden with the same respect accorded a primary school teacher. Often the local midwife became a central community figure. In the 17th Century a school for midwives was opened by royal decree and in 1819 it was further decreed that each municipality should employ a midwife.  These women were locally trained if they could not be sent to the College in Stockholm. So, I assume that Anna Charlotta took the opportunity to acquire a profession being without a husband as she was. Interestingly, in the family data from my grandfather she is called a doctor. Close, but actually she was a midwife.

     In this same 1872-1881 record a new child appears. This is Agda Cecilia Levinsdotter, born 22 Nov 1872. The husforhors notes the word "oakta" by her name which means illegitimate child. Her father appears further down the page as Levin Johansson, born 11 Nov 1848, a "drang" or farm hand. He was 17 years younger than Anna Charlotta. Agda would've been conceived in late January or February. One can understand how in the very dark and cold winter a woman who had been abandoned by her husband could've found comfort with a young, virile farm hand. In these days of a TV Series called "Cougars" it doesn't seem that shocking but in that day I'm sure it was. Anna Charlotta and Levin actually got married on 1 Jul 1876 in Brunn, not Sodra Ving, and she gives her birth year as 1834, not 1831. However, on 5 Mar 1879 their marriage was cancelled by the court. The notes on this are not totally clear to me but he word forbidden is used. My assumption is that she was not, in fact, divorced from Nils and the court voided the marriage.

     This must have been a huge scandal and the fodder for much gossip in their community. At any rate Levin left for Sodra Ving on 21 Apr 1879, Hulda left for America on 5 Aug 1881 and Anna Charlotta, Emilie and Agda all left for Vankiva on 23 Aug 1879. Vankiva is quite a ways south in Kristianstad, near Denmark. I'm sure it was impossible for them to remain in Brunn.

     Emilie married Karl Johan Nyquist in 1898 in Vankiva and died in Vasa in 1938, leaving two sons. Anna Charlotta continued in her profession as a midwife and died on 23 Mar 1917 in Vankiva. Agda died on  11 Jun 1931 of stomach cancer.  She never married.

     That is Anna Charlotta's story as far as I know it.  She was an able woman who found a profession for herself at a time when most women didn't have any. Her loneliness led her into trouble which she handled as best she could. She didn't compromise with what she wanted in life and we can admire her for that.

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