The Swedes Come Out of the Weeds

In October, 2009 I wrote THIS POST about my Great Grandmother, Olive (Hassel) Rathkamp, my dad’s grandmother.  Olive died in 1926, 16 years before my dad was born.  Until last week she and her Swedish ancestors continued to be a complete mystery.  I’ve accumulated some anecdotal evidence, but nothing concrete.  I’ve long suspected her father was Charles Hassel, knew she lived in Michigan, suspected she was born in Sweden, and suspected her mother died when she was young.  That’s it.  Not exactly something a genealogist would hang his hat on.

hassel-anna-death-record-combinedI have literally had three different people listed as possibly being her mother.  This death record seemed to indicate her mother was Anna (Erickson) Hassel who apparently died in childbirth on December 17, 1892 a date which coincides with the birth of Olive’s sister Ella.

Anna would have been 8 years younger than Charles and would have only been 16 when she had Olive.  Not out of the realm of possibilities.

I knew I’d have much better luck finding Olive’s mom if I could find a birth record from Sweden.  This was no easy task.  The only thing I had to go on was Charles’ obit from 1937.1hassell-charles-small-obit  This obit states that he was from Nora, Westmanlan (Vastmanland), Sweden.  If this was true it would have helped.  But Charles lied.  Actually he probably didn’t lie.  It’s amazing how facts are distorted through the lens of time.  Soon tiring of finding the needle in the haystack, I decided to try my old trick of working sideways.

Iron Mountain, Michigan was an iron mining town and went through a boom during the late 1800’s.  Similar to what’s happening now in North Dakota and the tar sands in Canada, workers were recruited to Iron Mountain from other areas of the world.  Even today, looking through the Iron Mountain phone book, you’ll notice two distinct ethnic groups:  Swedes and Italians.  It’s not a coincidence that skilled miners could be found in both Sweden and Italy.  These young men, searching for opportunity, ended up working together in the iron mines of Iron Mountain.

Knowing this, I started searching emigration information for some of the other Swedes that had settled in Iron Mountain.  One town that seemed to show up on more than one occasion was the town of Grythyttan, Örebro, Sweden.  Plugging this town into Google Maps, I soon discovered Grythyttan was only some 20 miles away from….Nora, Örebro, Sweden.  Grythyttan is a small town.  A small town, along with an uncommon Swedish surname would surely make my life easier.  And it did.

Ancesty.com has done a nice job of integrating the Swedish Genline database.  I quickly was able to find this gem:  hassel-carl-august-swedish-birth-record  From there, I was off to the races.  I now knew my Swedish ancestors were from Grythyttan and soon I was able to find Olive’s birth record too.  It seems her first name wasn’t Olive.  No surprise.  Olive was her middle name and her first name was Ingeborg.  Now that sounds Swedish.

So who is Olive’s mom?  Charles married Josephine Bergquist on January 7, 1892, three weeks after Anna’s death.  But it turns out Anna wasn’t Olive’s mom either.  For years, I’ve had a copy of a ship’s manifest showing a Sofie and Olive Hassel coming into the U.S. in March of 1888.  But because I stuck on the possibility that Olive’s mom was Anna, I dismissed this record.

It turns out that on May 17, 1884 (two years before Olive was born), Charles married Sophia Sax in Grythyttan.

The ship’s manifest was correct.  Sophia was Olive’s mother.  Since then, I’ve found another record.  This record shows Sofia and Olive made the trip with Charles’ brother Andrew.  It shows they were from Grythyttan.  And it shows there destination was…Iron Mountain, Michigan.hassel-sofia-olivia-gothenburgswedenpassengerlists-1888-highlighted

So here’s my best guess…Charles and Sophia marry in 1884, Olive was born in 1886.  Charles emigrates without his wife and young daughter, to Iron Mountain, then his brother Andrew, Sophia, and Olive are sent for.  Sometime between their arrival and 1890/91, Sophia dies and Charles, finding himself unable to work in the mine and care for Olive, marries Anna.  Anna dies in 1892, Charles again finds himself in a bind and marries Josephine.

My great aunt, Grace Larson often took me up to her cabin between Merrill and Tomahawk, Wisconsin.  In 1974 during one of our trips “up north”, Grace and I drove up to Iron Mountain.  I was 10.  In Iron Mountain, we toured the Chapin Mine.  While writing this post, I recalled this tour and vaguely remembered these pictures being tucked away in a photo album Grace put together for me.  Grace’s sister was Alice “Pat” Rathkamp, my grandmother.  Pat was married to Bill Rathkamp, my grandfather.  Bill’s mother was Olive, my Great Grandmother.  Olive’s father was Charles, my Great Great Grandfather.  Charles and his brother worked in this mine.  I think Grace may have taken me to Iron Mountain for a reason.

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