Not being able to find any record of my great grandmother’s sister Elena and her Swedish husband Gunnard‘s travels to America has really been bothering me. I thought that without this I would never know more about them. However, I have recently found that this was not the case. Through Ancestry.com I have been able t track down the two of them in Chicago in 4 different censuses. Ancestry.com allows you to do a pretty broad search as their names changed in all censuses. I found that they had also moved each time and did not own the house they lived in till the 1930 census.
The census told me where they were from and I guess I was surprised (mostly because it just hadn’t occurred to me before) that Elena who is from Skærbæk in Southern Jutland could be registered as being form Germany up until 1920 when Skærbæk again became part of Denmark. This information may come in handy for further attempts at finding her immigration/traveling records.
The census also gave new information about when they both arrived in the US, which supposedly was in 1888. I even learn’t how many children the couple had had together and also in which time period they where born. I know from another source that they married on the 25th January 1894 in Cook County – six years after they both arrived in the US. When they got to know each other and where is something that I can only speculate about. In the 1900 census it says that Elena had given birth to 4 children but only one was alive. The daughter Sophia, who was born in 1997 is with them in this census.This means that there is another 3 children presumable born after 1894 and dead before 1900. In the next census of 1910 it says that they have had six children. Sophia has disappeared by then and they now only have one child alive: Ludwig who was born in 1904. There is also another child unaccounted for who was born after 1900 and dies before 1910.
The censuses also tell me a bit about Gunnards working life. Elena is not registered anywhere as working. in 1900 Gunnard is a Porter. In 1910 he is a Stationary Fireman at the Street Railway. In 1920 he is a S. Engineer (I can’t read where though – so if anyone can help it would be much appreciated). Finally in 1930 he is a Motorway Engineer for the Stock Yards.
I looked up the addresses they lived on in Google maps and double checked with the old ward maps. This last double check proved useful to correct and address that showed up on Google far outside West Englewood where the other three addresses could be found. This was because some of the roads in Chicago had changed names since the time of this census. The old maps showed that they lived just south of the Union Stock Yards . The Chicago History Encyclopedia’s entry for Swedes also confirm that West Englewood had a very strong Swedish community in the late 1800s til the early 1900s.
Ludwig is 26 in the last census in 1930. At this point he works as a salesman for Electric MFG. According to is death certificate he later moved to Oak Lawn, Cook County, where he died in 1978. His death marks the starting point of the story as far as I am concerned – but more on that later.