sandra olivia grof became miss zanna olive groves

Sandra Olivia was born on November 4th, 1868, in Marka, Skaraborg, Sweden. She was the first daughter, and fourth child, of Anders and Maja Grof. When she was about a year and a half, in the summer of 1870, her family emigrated to Jefferson County, Iowa.

The family became farmers outside Fairfield, Iowa, and they did well. By 1883 there were elven siblings, four girls and seven boys.

Between 1892 and 1898 Zanna Olive Groves worked at the Willow Creek Boarding School west of Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northern Montana. There she met John Edward “Dutch Ed” Trommer, a German immigrant who had come west working on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Olive and Ed married on August 29, 1898. A newspaper st0ry about the wedding says that Miss Groves had been a teacher for six years, but the records from the school show that she had been a laundress, and later an assistant matron.

Olive and Dutch Ed filed claims for land close to Chester, Montana. They became sheep ranchers and quite successful.

In the fall of 1905 Olive was visting in Fairfield, giving birth to her fifth child. From the Fort Benton River Press, Nov. 29, 1905:

Fairfield Daily Journal, Nov. 25, 1905:
“…. This community was shocked Monday evening to hear that Mrs. Ollie Trammer was dead. She had come from her home in Montana with her husband and children two months ago to visit her parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.G. GROVE. The husband had gone back and Mrs. TRAMMER and children remained. A little babe was born three weeks ago and the mother was apparently on the road to recovery. Monday she was bright and hopeful all day, planning when she would be able to return to her Montana home, but about six o’clock she was stricken with heart failure and in half an hour she had gone to her Heavenly home. Messages were sent to the husband and to a brother and sister in Colorado. The deepest sympathy of the entire community goes out to the bereaved husband and parents and to those who cared for her so faithfully and to the five little ones who so much need a mother’s care.”

Dutch Ed seems not to have recovered from Olive’s death. The five children were raised by Olive’s parents and siblings. Ed took to gambling and drinking. There are claims that the house he built for Olive became haunted. Footsteps were heard from upstairs, doors blew open, and sheepherders were said the have disappeared.

Dutch Ed’s second wife left him. He died in 1945.

Olive and Ed’s second daughter, Helen, lived until 1999. She died in Santa Ana, Calif. and was buried alongside her younger brother Jack who died in 1995.

elna georgina became mrs. elma larson

New York State Census, 1905.

For a long time I’ve been looking for Elna Georgina Nilsson Kratz, my grandfather’s younger sister. Elna emigrated from Sweden to the United States, by herself, in the summer of 1896.

It turned out that Elna married Hugo Larsson from Hammarby, Sweden, in 1898. They had three boys: Hugo in 1899, Eric in 1902, and Henry in 1904. Elna’s husband passed away sometime before 1916. I haven’t been able to determine how, or when, but in the 1916 New York City phonebook Elna is listed as Elma, widow of Hugo.

In 1900, after they were married, Elna and her husband Hugo lived on 135th street in the Bronx among immigrants from Sweden, Ireland, Italy, and Germany. In 1905 they lived on 246, East 125th street in Harlem on a block with immigrants from northern and eastern Europe; Finland, Norway, Russia, Germany. Hugo is listed as a carpenter, and their neighbors are housewives, laborers, dock builders, seamen, and book keepers. One woman is listed as having a profession, a dressmaker. Later the Larsons moved to #305 on the same street.

Elna’s oldest son Hugo stayed with her until his early 30s, when he married Anna Curtis. Anna and Hugo never had children of their own, but they took in their niece Frances when Henry’s wife, also named Frances, died in the late 1930s.

Eric married Alice Youngson, and had two children, George and Alice, born in 1927 and 1929.

In 1940 Elna lived by herself on 182, East 122nd street. Everyone on her block was white. Many were born in the United States, but there were also many European immigrants. Among her closest neighbors were people from Germany, Finland, and Canada.

In 1940 Elna was 65 years old, and listed as a laundress. It seems she started working, at least officially, when her oldest son Hugo got married in 1933.

Elna lived her whole life, as a wife, widow, and mother, on East 122nd and 125th streets in East Harlem. 125th street is now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The buildings where Elna lived are not there anymore.

who’s the snowflake?

I was visiting in Sweden a couple of summers ago, and had to get up early for an appointment. On my way back I passed through a park. It was still early, probably before nine, and the air was cool the way it is in the summer when you know the day is going to be hot.

There were a couple of blonde girls raking leaves in the park. They looked like volleyball players, tall, and strong. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing, until I remembered that Swedish high school and college students often have summer jobs filling in during the regular staff’s summer vacation. (Swedish employees have 6 or 7 weeks of paid vacation time, and usually take 4 of those weeks back to back during the summer.) Outdoor summer jobs are the best, because, well, you get to spend all summer outdoors. When I was growing up you’d only get the outdoor jobs through connections.

Right now I’m also remembering an affluent young woman, one of my students in Silicon Valley. She had grown up on a ranch in Morgan Hill, in the south end of the San Francisco Bay Area. As an undergraduate she spent a semester studying abroad in London.

When she came back to school in California I asked her about her time in London. It was obvious there was something she didn’t want to say. It took some prodding, but finally she told the class that in London had been the first time she’d seen white people do manual labor. White people, looking just like herself, had cleaned, sold tickets to the Underground, worked in the supermarkets, and swept the streets. She’d never before experienced anything like it.

This Los Angeles Times story talks about how the California wine industry has such a hard time finding workers after president Trump’s proposed crackdown on undocumented immigrants that they are forced to pay way more than the minimum wage. From the story:

Some farmers are even giving laborers benefits normally reserved for white-collar professionals, like 401(k) plans, health insurance, subsidized housing and profit-sharing bonuses. Full-timers at Silverado Farming, for example, get most of those sweeteners, plus 10 paid vacation days, eight paid holidays, and can earn their hourly rate to take English classes.

The story’s headline? “Wages rise on California farms. Americans still don’t want the job.”

dear evelyn

I’m a member of a Swedish/American genealogy group on Facebook. People post there asking for help finding records for missing relatives in either Sweden or the US. Often Americans need help with translations of Swedish documents or correspondence left behind by older relatives. This morning a man asked for help with a postcard dated March 28, 1928. Here is the translation I typed:

Dear Evelyn I am sending you a view that maybe one day you’ll come visit along with my very best wishes to you and everyone at home from grandma!

One run-on sentence from Värmland to Los Angeles on the back of a picture of Mårbacka.

when ‘maja christina’ became ‘mary c.’

I’m working on a large project that involves a good deal of family research. I’m spending time on genealogy sites and in Facebook groups. I’m discovering a side of my extended family that no one knew existed.

As a child I was told that no one in our family ever emigrated. Why? “Because we were never poor.”

But we were poor. Some stayed poor in Sweden. Others improved their lives through education. And it turns out that three women related to my grandfather (his aunt, his cousin, and his sister) emigrated from Sweden to the US.

One of my grandfather’s aunts, Maja Christina, emigrated with her family in 1870. They became farmers in Iowa. My grandfather’s cousin Alice emigrated, by herself, in 1915. She worked at a notorious institution for the physically and mentally disabled in upstate New York. Then she married an American man and moved with him across the industrial north. He worked for car manufacturers and the rail road. Alice died in Chicago in 1970.

My grandfather’s sister Elna left Sweden in 1896, when she was 21 years old. She had listed “New York” as her destination, and I’ve seen a document confirming that she arrived there. But that’s the end of her story.

Many immigrant Swedish women share her first and last names. One was a nurse in San Francisco, another a bookmaker in New York. There are dressmakers, home makers, and many, many, ‘domestics’. I don’t think it really matters which one of them is our relative. They were poor, they crossed an ocean, and they continued to work.