Thursday, January 21, 2010

Johan Bengtsson Wessman's Trip to America

A few weeks ago I didn't have any documentary information about Johan Wessman's immigration to America. A biography of his son written by his daughter-in-law noted that:
As they were all anxious about the husband and father who was in Sweden it was necessary for them to work to earn money to help him earn passage money. Life was hard for them as their younger brother Joseph was only five years of age when he came with his mother. Later the father came over but lived only six months after his arrival, dying in Kamas, Utah where the daughter Bertha and her husband were homesteading.
Not a bad summary. It's a very minor detail that Joseph was four years old instead of five, and it's likely that Henry was in Utah for longer than six months, as I found out after a hunt for Johan's emigration and immigration records.

First, his emigration records. Sweden kept a record of all its many, many citizens leaving for hopes of a better life in the New World. The record is called "Emigranten Populär, 1783-1951." I don't have an image, but the transcribed record includes the following information:
  • Name: Johan Westman
  • Birth: about 1840
  • Gender: male
  • Destination: New York
  • Record date: 27 November 1896
  • Port of departure: Göteborg
And then about three weeks later, the Ellis Island records show the following:

If you look on line 91 (the next to the last line) you can see:
  • Name: Johan Westman
  • Age: 51
  • Sex: M
  • Occupation: Farmer
  • Country of citizenship: USA
  • Intended destination: Utah
  • Cabin: Second class
  • Number of pieces of baggage: 2
  • Port of embarkation: Glasgow
Not all the information is correct; for example, he wasn't a citizen of the United States. But it shows him traveling on the same ship as a number of other people going to Utah, including "C.J. Winder" on the next line. Johan was on one of the last voyages of the ship Circassia. Ship records show that it arrived in New York on December 10, but the Ellis Island records show an arrival date of December 17, 1896.

Ellis Island, where the immigrants were processed for entry into the United States.

The plaque with the poem "Give me your tired, your poor" from the Statue of Liberty.

 A view from Ellis Island across the harbor toward Brooklyn on a very windy day. These photos are from a recent trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty taken by seven of Johan and Amanda's descendants, and two in-laws.

 A rather silly photo taken inside the base of the Statue of Liberty. 

With cross-country train service, Johan would probably have been in Utah days or weeks after he arrived in New York. Perhaps he worked somewhere for most of a year before traveling to Utah, but perhaps he was in Utah by Christmas 1896 for a joyful reunion with his family and a chance to meet his two sons-in-law and first five grandchildren. The family records show that he died in Kamas, Utah (above Heber and Park City), on March 15, 1898.

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