On Tuesday, January 17, 1893, twenty-nine year old Brita Johansdotter1, wife of Anders “Andrew” Dalin2, and mother of two children, Johan and Helena, awoke knowing that the following Sunday she would leave her home in Hudiksvall, Sweden – for the last time.
Her first destination would be Göteborg, a seaport on the west coast of Sweden, where she would board a ship headed for North America.
After four long years, she would finallyjoin her husband who emigrated in January of 1889.
But I suspect that her very first thoughts that morning were of her two children. Johan would not make the trip because he had died nine months earlier at the age of 4. And little Helena, who had just celebrated her first birthday only a few weeks earlier, would not make the trip . . . because she was not Andrew’s daughter. And now the day had finally come when Brita had to face that reality head on.
Four years earlier, on January 5, 1889, Brita’s husband Andrew and his brother Eric left Hudiksvall to emigrate to “Nordamerika”.3 Prior to that date, Andrew and Brita had been living with Andrew’s parents, Lars Andersson and Brita Anderssdotter,4 since the time the couple married on October 30, 1887.5
On December 27, 1887, a son – Johan – was born to Andrew and Brita.6
Brita continued living with her in-laws after Andrew left. And several years later, she became pregnant – and obviously, Andrew was not the father of the expected baby.
Surprisingly, Brita stayed on with her in-laws during that time 7 and her daughter Helena was born on December 31, 1891.8
The new baby was baptized several months later on February 27th and the “Dopvittnen” (baptismal witnesses) are listed as Per Olof Olsson, his wife Karin, son Johan Olof, and daughter Emma Christina – the same family with whom Helena went to live when her mother emigrated a year later.9
Three and a half months after Helena’s birth, Brita’s four-year-old son Johan died on April 1, 1892, of a lung inflammation.10
And now the day had arrived – January 17, 1893 – when Brita had to face the reality of leaving her one-year-old daughter behind. The emotional pain must have been unbearable.
Most of the information above was discovered during research I conducted over several months last year, primarily from records located at ArkivDigital.
The records I discovered regarding Johan were not a surprise, as my father told me about him years ago. But he did not tell me about Helena – and I suspect he never knew about her.
Once the pieces of the story came together, I had many questions . . .
Who was Helena’s father?
How did her in-laws react when they found out Brita was pregnant by another man?
Why did they let her continue to live with them after she became pregnant?
Is it possible that one of the three males living in the same house with Brita was Helena’s father?
Is it plausible that one of the three males living in the same house with Brita was Helena’s father?
Did Brita stay in touch with Helena, or anyone else who might have been willing to tell her about Helena?
What happened to Helena? And does she have any surviving descendants?
Did Andrew know about Helena?
Other than the relatives in Sweden, did anyone in the family know about Helena?
In Part 2 of this story, I’ll cover Brita’s overland trip from Hudiksvall to Göteborg.
Even though a married woman, Brita went by her maiden name JOHANSDOTTER while in Sweden. Once in the United States, she took on her husband’s surname. ↩
According to Swedish records I have located to date, Andrew’s surname was most often spelled DAHLIN in Sweden. Once in the United States, however, the spelling became DALIN. ↩
Hudiksvall (Gävleborgs län, Hälsingland, Sweden), “Household Records, 1881-1891,” AI:19d; Regional Archives, Uppsala; digital images, “Swedish Church Records,” ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net/sources/3099 : 20 March 2016), for Hudiksvall AI:19d (also numbered 135594.b1), image 241. ↩
Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1860-1941, digital images,Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com), Gävleborg County, Söderhamn Parish, year 1888 (image 26 of 26), Johan Lars Anders entry on right-hand side page, item 2, which page is actually part of Hudiksvall Parish. ↩
Hudiksvall (Gävleborgs län, Hälsingland, Sweden), “Congregation Records, 1891-1900,” Alla:1c; Regional Archives, Uppsala; digital images, “Swedish Church Records,” ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net/sources/3099 : 20 March 2016), for Hudiksvall Alla:1c (also numbered 35600), image 90. ↩
Hudiksvall (Gävleborgs län, Hälsingland, Sweden), “Birth and Christening Records, 1879-1894,” CI:5; Regional Archives, Uppsala; digital images, “Swedish Church Records,” ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net/sources/3099 : 20 March 2016), for Hudiksvall CI:5 (also numbered 135624), image 280. ↩
Hudiksvall, “Birth and Christening Records, 1879-1894,” CI:5; also see Hudiksvall (Gävleborgs län, Hälsingland, Sweden), “Congregation Records, 1891-1900,” Alla:1c; Regional Archives, Uppsala; digital images, “Swedish Church Records,” ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net/sources/3099 : 20 March 2016), for Hudiksvall Alla:1c (also numbered 35600), image 316. ↩
Sweden, Selected Indexed Death Records, 1840-1860 and 1878-1942, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com), Gävleborg County, Hudiksvall Parish, year 1892 (image 3 of 16), Johan Lars Anders Dahlin entry on left-side page, item 34. ↩
This is Part 3 of “Who is the woman in this photo?” Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2.
Once again, here are the three photos I sent to Maureen for review prior to our phone consultation.
First, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed my chat with Maureen. She was very friendly and generous with her tips and observations. I would recommend her to anyone who might need a professional to take a look at their family photos.
Maureen estimated that Photo #1 was probably taken around 1890. And she made a comment that she thought the boy in the photo looked ill, which is interesting considering Johan died when he was only 4 years old – and Maureen knew nothing about that fact prior to the phone call.
Having already established that Brita is probably the woman in Photos #2 and #3, Maureen agreed that the woman in Photo #1 is probably Brita Dalin. Her assessment was based primarily on the woman’s large eyes, which she said were quite visible in both Photo #1 and Photo #3, and only slightly less obvious in Photo #2 due to the glare from the glasses she is wearing.
On an interesting side note, Maureen asked if I knew how Johan had died. I told her that I had only recently located a birth record for Johan but not a death record. The morning after we talked, I made another search for his death record and located it at Ancestry.com. He was four years old when he died in April of 1892 and the cause of death was listed as “lung inflammation”.1 In addition, Maureen commented that Brita looked very sad in all three photos. And I agreed.
Maureen also thought Photo #3 looked like either a passport photo or perhaps a photo taken to finalize her citizenship. I have not yet located any record to show that she traveled to a location requiring a passport nor have I located any citizenship documents, although her husband Andrew filed a “Declaration of Intention” to become a citizen in 1918.
Oh, and then a funny thing happened. You know, one of those “How in the world did I not see this before??” kind of thing.
As I was reviewing the back of Photo #2 for this blog post, I noticed there were six medallion-type images that contained references to several locations and dates, as well as several words that resembled the phrases “Silver Medal” and “Bronze Medal”. After running a few of these phrases through Google Translate (Swedish to English), it appears the back of the photo contains images of six medals that were awarded to the photographer in various years, including 1879, 1882 and 18892 – which means, of course, that at least Photo #2 must be dated after 1889.
And then for fun, I cropped head shots of all of Brita’s children (from two different photos) so I could compare them side by side. The birth order of these children is as indicated in the photo.
Do you think the little boy on the left is the sibling of the four children on the right? I think the lips of the three boys, and possibly Freda, are similar. And Johan, Cid and Osma all seem to have high foreheads.
In conclusion, the discovery of the death record of Johan finally puts to rest the story my father told me so long ago – about his grandparents Andrew and Brita who immigrated to the United States, and how they had a son named “John” who was born in Sweden but died when he was a young boy.
And here I want to say a great big “Thank You!” to Maureen for her assistance in helping me fill in the pieces of this family story.
Next, I plan to search Swedish records for more information about Andrew and Brita and their birth parents.3
Copyright (c) 2016, Lark M. Dalin Robart
Gavleborg County, Halsingland, Sweden, Death Records, Hudiksvall, Johan Lars Anders Dahlin, 1 April 1892; image, “Sweden, Selected Indexed Death Records, 1840-1860 and 1878-1942,” Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 24 May 2016); citing Swedish Church Records Archive. Johanneshov, Sweden: Genline AB. ↩
Although “1889” is a little difficult to read and could be “1869″. ↩
In between drafting and finalizing this blog post, I did some research on the web site Arkivdigital.com, which proved very successful. I’ll be reporting on those findings in an upcoming blog post. ↩
This blog post is Part 2 of “Who is the woman in this photo?” Click here to read Part 1.
For starters, I’ve re-posted the photos discussed in Part 1 which I will continue to discuss in Part 2.
The next two steps involve my attempt to identify the type of photography and clothing style in order to place the photos in a particular time period.
STEP #1 – Identify and date photo type
With the help of this great website, PhotoTree.com, it was fairly easy to determine that all three photos are “carte de visite”, otherwise known as “CDV”. First appearing in 1859, CDV was the first process to use a glass negative – which meant that customers could afford to purchase several copies for sharing with family and friends.
Some hallmarks of CDVs are –
Size: Typically 2 3/8″ x 4 1/4″, although the size may vary up to 1/4″.
Corners: Square corners until 1870, then rounded corners.
Image size: The more the image fills the card, the later the date. By 1874, the image completely filled the card.
Thickness: Early cards were very thin but became thicker by 1870 and even thicker by 1880.
Conclusion: Since all three photos measure roughly 2 3/8″ x 4 1/4″, have rounded corners, large images, and the cards are very thick (although Photo #2 is thicker than the other two), it’s likely that Photos #1 and #3 are dated sometime after 1874 and Photo #2 after 1880.
STEP #2 – Identify and date clothing style
Next, I did some research regarding women’s fashion styles of the 19th century and came across this interesting article on the history of fashion, 1840-1900. The description of clothing in the 1880s seemed to be the closest match – tightly fitted bodice with narrow sleeves and high necklines.
Dresses in the prior decade (1870s) had more “flounces” and “ruching”, and low necklines were fashionable. By contrast, dresses in the next decade (1890s) were similar to the 1880s, except that the sleeve shape began changing in about 1893 – tight at the lower arm and puffed out at the upper arm.
Conclusion: Based on women’s clothing styles, Photos #1 and #3 are likely dated anywhere from the early 1880s through the early 1890s.
And then it happened – The “Ah Hah Moment!” when I realized that placing Photo #1 in the early 1880s through the early 1890s time frame meant that the woman in Photo #1 could be Brita. And if the woman was Brita, the small boy could be her son John. And perhaps John is also the boy in Photo #2?1
STEP #3 – Locate a record for “John”
I decided it was time to try and find some type of record for John. And I really lucked out here. It turned out Ancestry had recently acquired some Swedish records, so I easily located a birth record which I wrote about here – showing there was a baby boy named “Johan”, born to an “Andrew Dalin” and “Brita Johansdotter” in Hudiksvall, Sweden in 1887.2
Finally, everything seemed to be falling into place. My father’s story about the little boy named John appeared to be validated – and as a bonus, assuming the birth record is valid, I had possibly located a record indicating that Brita’s maiden name was “Johansdotter”.
STEP #4 – Now what?
I wasn’t sure what to do next – but as luck would have it, I came across the name of a woman who specializes in helping people analyze their family photos. Her web site is The Photo Detective and her name is Maureen Taylor. I scheduled a phone appointment and then emailed the following three photos:
All the information I had about Photo #1 has been previously stated. Here’s some information about the other two photos:
The boy in the front row, Walter Dalin, was the son of Andrew and Brita Dalin.
At least one of the other two girls, and possibly both, are daughters of Andrew and Brita.
The man second from the left in the back row is probably Andrew and the woman standing next to him is probably Brita.
Several family members have identified this woman as Brita Dalin.
The handwriting on that photo appears to be Brita’s handwriting (based on a few other examples of her handwriting).
This is the end of Part 2. Part 3 includes a report on my phone call with Maureen. Stay tuned!
Copyright (c) 2016, Lark M. Dalin Robart
As for Photo #3, I decided for the time being to set it aside because I am unable to place this family – presumably a family consisting of a wife and husband with two children (girls, boys or one of each??) – in any scenario, given the information I currently have for Brita and Andrew. Assuming this photo was taken during the same time period as Photo #1, the only scenario of which I can currently conceive is that the adult female or adult male is a sibling of either Brita or Andrew. Another research project for another day. ↩
Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1860-1941, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 04 April 2016), “Swedish Church Records Archive; Johanneshov, Sweden; Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880-1920; GID Number: 100021.2.24500; Roll/Fiche Number: SC-1110; Volume: :937; Year Range: 1888, Johan Lars Anders Dahlin entry. ↩