I’m back on the trail of the Olson family of the “Mystery Postcard” fame. I’m curious whatever happened to Eulie’s parents, his step-father Hakan and his mother Bengta. Bengta was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Johanna Pearson.
Hakan and Bengta disappear from the Saunders County census records after 1900, and they don’t seem to be buried anywhere in Saunders County.
The Nebraska Historical Society is the repository for many of the records previously held by Saunders County. There is a giant PDF of all of the records available. Searching through it, I came across a listing for a “Bengta Olson” – 1912 guardianship papers for an incompetent woman. On a whim, I ordered a copy of the file. It came today, and it turns out this is the OTHER Bengta Olson. As luck would have it, there are two Hakan and Bengta Olson families from Saunders County – one from the Mead area and the other in Stocking Precinct. (It wasn’t a total bust – turns out that the other Bengta had Nels Martinson appointed as her guardian, and I’m fairly confident he’s a relative of mine. Interesting, but neither here nor there.)
I did some more comprehensive searching on Ancestry and came across some interesting new findings, though.
- I already knew that Hakan, Bengta and Eulie were in the 1880 Federal census
- Next I find them in the 1885 state census. By then, the family has grown to include two daughters, Emma and Mathilda, as well as Hakan’s father, Ola. As is typical with the 1885 state census, there are multiple spelling errors but no doubt (in my mind) that this the right family. By the way, Bengta and Johanna’s father also came to America. His name was Nils Olsson and I can’t find him in any American records. At first I thought this was him, but he is apparently Hakan’s father – Ola Nelson, not Nils Olson. So confusing!
- There is no 1890 census, but the family shows up again in the 1900 census. Here we find just Hakan and Bengta, and next to Bengta’s name we see that she has given birth to three children and none are living. Of course, we know that Eulie was alive and well in Omaha by this time. But what happened to the girls? I can’t find them in any of the cemeteries in the area. If they were still alive, it’s possible that they were old enough to have moved away – they would have been 16 and 18 years old. .
- By sheer luck, I came across a Hakan and Bengta in Sharon Springs Kansas in 1910. It sure seems to match – the ages are right (they are both 10 years older than in the previous census), the marriage year is right, even the immigration years are right. Bengta states that she had four children, none of whom are living. Was there another child born after Emma? And again, we know that Eulie is alive and well at this time. Maybe the other children are too, and Bengta misunderstood the question?
- We see them again in the 1915 Kansas State Census, five years older. They own their property, giving me hope for some additional records that might be available.
- A search of the 1920 census came up empty, but it wasn’t an exhaustive search.
- Then we find both Hakan and Bengta buried at the Sharon Springs cemetery. They have no markers, but they are listed in the cemetery directory. Hakan died February 1, 1927 and Bengta died January 30, 1929.
Coincidentally, I have other relatives from Sharon Springs – Gust and Anna Bjorklund. Anna was a sister of Gust Rudeen. At one time, there was a sizeable Swedish settlement in the Sharon Springs area. An unincorporated village in the vicinity was known as “Stockholm”.
More mysteries to solve. What happened to Eulie’s little sisters? Were they really dead as the census indicated?
There’s still the chance that I can find more information. The girls will be difficult to track ,especially since I don’t know whether they’re dead or alive by 1900. Probate or land ownership records for Wallace County, Kansas would be a huge help – a field trip would be required to track them down. And I’d like to take a peek at the Grace Lutheran records again to see if there’s any evidence of this family.