A Man Came From Sweden

Jöns Andersson and Olu Pehrsdotter

Jöns, eldest child of Anders Ohlusson and Kjerstena Pehrsdotter on October 5, 1838, at Karstad #9, Osterslov Parish, Kristainstad, Skane, Sweden.  In this family of six children, Jöns was the one who grew up to become “the man who came to America”.


The United States was fighting a Civil War but Jöns was not here yet. He had just met Olu Vestesdotter. Olu was the daughter of Veste Pehrsson and Elna Olsdotter who lived at #21 Grodby in the neighboring Ivetofta parish. This family included Sven Gustafsson, probably Elna’s son, and Sven, Olu and Anders, who were Veste and Elna’s children. The pastor made a notation in his record book that Veste was punished for stealing. One could conclude that times were hard for this family.

Olu had come to the Osterslov parish but then for a period of time in 1863-1864 she lived in the poorhouse back in the Ivetofta parish, where she gave birth to a son, Anders on October 22, 1863. The Ivetofta pastor sent a note to the Osterslov pastor informing him of this birth, probably so Anders could be included in the records of his father’s parish.


On November 25, 1864 Olu and Jöns were married. Jöns left the Damhuset farm where he had grown up and took his little family to live at Osterlof #12. Could it be that Olu felt that marrying the father of her child was preferable to living in the poorhouse? Or did it take a while for Jöns to agree to marry the mother of his son? Or maybe they could not marry until they found a place to live.

Jöns and Olu did not stay at Osterslof #12 very long. Within a year they moved to Osterslof #41. Jöns is listed here as a crofter. This means he was living in a cottage, possibly owned a small piece of land, and was probably required to work for the main landowner certain days per week or month without compensation. Jöns and Olu’s family was growing. On October 2, 1865 Anders was joined by a brother, Sven.

The year 1867 was a terrible year in Sweden. There were crop failures across the entire country. At higher altitudes snow lasted until midsummer and the first frost began in August. The Swedes were literally starving and had to receive support in the form of grains like a developing country from Russia. Then during that winter Olu discovered she was pregnant with their third child. What could Jöns do?

In April 1868, the parish records show that Jöns “Efter uppgift rymd till Amerika” which translates as “Allegedly escaped to Amerika”. The priest listed a total of 12 people, farm hands, crofters and tenant farmers, who escaped to America. None of them were enrolled in the Army. “Escaped” meant that the person had left the parish without receiving a “passport” or migration authorization from the vicar. No one was allowed to move or even travel between different parishes without written permission. So Jöns was formally a parish member but did not fulfill his duties in the form of labor and taxes.


Coming to America

Jöns left his wife behind in Sweden with two sons and the third child on the way. A daughter, Elna, was born September 13, 1868.

Sometime after arriving in the United States, Jöns changed his name to David. Possibly, upon arriving in a Swedish community here he found many Jöns or John Andersons. While David was an unusual name for a Swede, it was not totally unknown in his native country. It did give him a separate identity in this country.

There is a family story that when Jöns Andersson, now known as David Anderson, arrived in this country, he went to Illinois and found work on the farm of a man who was inventing his own machinery. This farmer was John Deere.

Most family stories change over the years, often with details added or amended, but there are always kernels of truth in them. The challenge is to find those kernels. In the case of this story, we must first look at some facts about the man, John Deere. John Deere was born in Connecticut and apprenticed to a blacksmith when he was of an age to learn a trade.


Eventually Deere had his own blacksmith shop where he repaired farm equipment and made improvements on them. As the westward movement expanded into Illinois, Deere moved there and continued in his occupation of blacksmithing. He developed a metal covering for the plowshare, making it a much more effective implement than the original wooden shares. By 1870 he owned and operated a plow manufacturing plant in Galva, Illinois.

We do not know how long it took David Anderson to travel from his native Sweden to the United States. We are told that he came to Freeport, Illinois, where he had a friend. Freeport is located in northern Illinois between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa. At about the time David would have arrived here there, factories in Freeport included one started by William and Walter G. Barnes which made walking cultivators, Peerless and hand rakes, corn shellers, harrows, and other farm implements. We do not know how long David stayed in Freeport or if he ever worked for the Barnes factory. We do not know when he moved to Galva. We do know he needed a job so he could earn enough to bring his family to this country. Did he work at the farm implement factory in Freeport? Or did he move on right away to Galva and get a job at John Deere’s plow factory? Perhaps he worked in Freeport, brought the family there and moved later to Galva.

What we do know is that by 1871 David was able to send for his wife and three children. On April 24, 1871 they left with six other immigrants from their parish to go to “Amerika”.  Ula, with Anders, Sven, and Elna soon joined their husband and father in Illinois.


Living in Illinois and Iowa


Like David, the rest of the family also Americanized their names.  Ula became Olivia.  Andrew was an obvious change from Anders.  Sven took the name Frank.  Elna became Allice, then Ella, and finally Mary Ellan.


In March 1874 a second daughter, Matilda, was born in Illinois, but at this point, we do not know where. Then on May 5,  1875 William Oscar was born in Galva, Illinois.

Sometime within a year or so after William's birth, the Anderson family left Illinois for a farm in York Township, Iowa County, Iowa. It was here that Edward was born on November 7, 1877. Later they moved to Hilton Township south of Marengo where Minnie was born September 21, 1880.

In May 1889 Olivia died at age 51. She was apparently buried in what was to become a family plot in the cemetery at Marengo, Iowa. Three years later David married Regina Swan, also a native of Sweden. Or perhaps she was born in Canada of Swedish parents. Regina had two children from her first marriage, a son and a daughter.  A daughter, Harriet, or Hattie, was born on December 16, 1892 to David and Regina.


The Nebraska Years and Retirement to California


Sometime during the following two years David moved his family to a farm in Colfax County, Nebraska, in the Howells area. Regina’s son remained with her sister in Iowa, but her daughter, Ida, accompanied them to Nebraska.  A second daughter, Myrtle, was born to David and Regina in January 1896.


David and Regina stayed in Colfax County until 1905 when David decided it was time to retire. He quit farming and moved to Nester, California where it is said he purchased a small orange grove. He died there sometime before 1910.


*    *    *

David Anderson was a farmer. His places of residence in Sweden, Iowa and Nebraska were on farms, never in towns or villages. He was apparently always a farm laborer and possibly owned a small piece of land in Sweden. In this country he may have always been a renter. So far no land records have been found to prove he ever own any of the land he farmed.
A family story explains that he came to this country to avoid serving in the Swedish military. But records do not support that story. A major crop failure in Sweden in 1867 was probably the determining factor in his decision to come to the United States. No source of income and the prospect of a third child would provide considerable pressure to force such a momentous decision.

The David Anderson family about 1878 or 1879.
From left to right: Sven (Frank), Jöns (David), holding William,
Anders (Andrew), Elna (Mary Ellen), Ula (Olivia), seated,
holding Edward, and Matilda (Tillie).



1880 [Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, Book 977.333/D3h]

1880 Federal Census, York Township, Iowa County, Iowa, ED 207, sheet 1

1885 Iowa State Census, Hilton Township, Iowa County, Iowa, Anderson, Township 80, Range10, Section 4, SE & NE

1900 Federal Census, Lincoln Township, Colfax County, Nebraska, ED 47, sheet 14, line 41.

1910 Federal Census, Otoy Township, San Diego County, California, ED 159, sheet 6
History of Stephenson County, Illinois by M.H. Tilden (Chicago: Western Historical Company)

Edward L. Anderson Collection


John Deere's Company, A History of Deere & Company and Its Times by Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., (Doubleday & Co.), 1984.


Microfilm 142022 Marriages, Births, Deaths, Movements in & out of Osterslof, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Microfilm 142020 Survey Book - Osterlof Parish, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah


Microfilm 141688 Survey Book – Ivetofta Parish, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Microfilm 141690 Births – Ivetofta Parish, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Microfilm 196958 Births – Ivetofta(?), Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Microfilm 196961 Marriages – Osterslof(?),Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Microfilm 438025 Clerical Survey Osterslof 1861-1870, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Sikeborg, Urban, Sollentuna, Sweden, email message of results of research about Jöns Andersson in Swedish National Archives, Stockholm, 2 May 2006