Friday, January 15, 2010

The Wessmans in Sweden, Part 5 of 5

Prospects weren’t too good on the farm. A series of bad harvests and agricultural reforms that denied peasants access to village common grounds drove many families and single people to the city. Johan moved to Göteborg and found work as a sailor. As noted in Part 1, he changed his surname to Wessman.

In Göteborg he married Amanda Mathilda Hall. Her family was also from farming communities in Bohuslän and nearby Dalsland. Perhaps they were merchants or landowners, since some had names like Hall, Brun, and Nordstrom.

Johan and Amanda continued to live in Göteborg, where the pivotal event of their lives occurred. They heard the gospel preached by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amanda accepted the gospel and was baptized on 26 March 1878 by Elder Ingwald C. Thoresen. Her children and husband were also eventually baptized, Johan in 1889. Two of their children, Gerda Hildegard (age 3) and Anders Johan (age 10 months), died in Sweden on 26 March 1881. The cause of death is not recorded, but presumably they died in an epidemic.

The spirit of gathering took hold of them, but since they were poor, they had to send the family to Utah in installments, as they were able to raise the money.

They first sent their two daughters Fanny Constansia and Bertha Marie. The two girls traveled with other church members and found work as maids in homes of church members in Salt Lake City, Utah. Next, the two boys Henry Richard Emmanuel (age 8) and John Herbert (age 10) came over with church members. When they arrived in Utah they lived with their sisters. Amanda arrived later that same year (1893) with Joseph Harold Moroni (age 5). They were anxious to have their husband and father join them, so they worked hard to help him earn money to travel to Utah.

Like most Swedish emigrants, they probably left from Göteborg and sailed to Hull in Great Britain, traveled by rail to Liverpool, then boarded a ship for America. They were part of a large emigration: over a million Swedes (a sixth of the population) moved to the United States between 1860 and 1930.

Husband Johan arrived in Utah four years later, only to pass away shortly afterward on March 15, 1898 in Kamas, Utah, where he and his wife were living with daughter Bertha and her husband Martin Olsen who were homesteading. Johan Wessman was 58 years old. That same year Amanda went to the newly dedicated Salt Lake Temple. She received her endowment and had Johan’s work done by proxy. They were sealed. She also did the work for her mother, who had died many years earlier. Amanda’s father died in 1903 and she had the proxy work done for him in 1905. Amanda was a temple worker, so presumably most of the early proxy work done for the Wessman family is her contribution. On 23 January 1902 Amanda and her children gathered in the Salt Lake Temple. With proxies standing in for her deceased husband and children, all of the children were sealed to their parents.

On Monday... a biography of Amanda Wessman written by assistant church historian Andrew Jenson.

Historical information on the Wessmans before they came to America is quite sketchy. The Lutheran church records and clerical census were well-kept, so some historical information is available through genealogical records. Legal records are also a potential source for more family history information on the Wessman family. The main challenge in Swedish genealogical research is the language difference. Quite a bit of research has been done by family member Edna Amanda Olsen Taylor. Hopefully her descendants have more information on the family. Please contact me if you have more information on this family, or would like more extensive documentation. Also contact me if you would like a starting place for more research. If you know Swedish, you would be a big help in finishing up loose ends in the Wessman genealogy. There are still plenty of records to look at!

The picture of Göteborg is from The picture of the ship in Göteborg Harbor is from The third picture is of Amanda and Johan.

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