From Sweden to Chicago for a Better Life

Both of my maternal grandfather’s parents were immigrants.

Grandpa’s father arrived in his mother’s arms. James Walton was just seven months old when he and his parents traveled from the Isle of Man to Cleveland Ohio.

Grandpa’s mother sailed alone across the Atlantic Ocean from Sweden to Chicago when she was 15 years old.

The life she left behind wasn’t pretty. Her older sister and brother had already left. Her younger brother would follow as soon as he was able.

But still, it must have been a little frightening to set sail that spring day in 1891. What would she find when she arrived?

Johanna Flood with two granddaughters

Johanna Flood with two granddaughters

Her life in America was not easy. I know she found happiness along the way, but she also suffered many losses.

Johanna Carlson met James Walton at her sister’s boarding house and they were married soon afterward. The couple’s second child died when he was two months old. Another son died in 1910. James himself contracted tuberculosis and died in 1911. Johanna was left with five children and no income. Then in September of 1917 Johanna’s oldest daughter Myrtle died of tuberculosis.

In October of 1919 Johanna married again. Harry Flood was a successful electrician who seemed to accept the house full of children and everything that entailed. By 1922 the couple had two more sons. Harry was known to tip a glass or two, but everyone said he was a steady worker and he came home every night.

Until that January night in 1936 when he didn’t come home. Harry had been the victim of a hit and run driver and the head injuries he suffered proved to be fatal.

And once again, Johanna was left with lots of responsibility and very few resources.

So she took in laundry and cleaned other people’s houses. She and her children worked and they all took care of one another. They survived.

Johanna bought a lot in Norwood Park Township and built a small house. With hard work of her own and help from her adult children and their spouses, Johann made a nice life for herself. She was dearly loved by her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

Johanna Christina Carlson was born on this day in 1876 in Börstil, Uppsala, Sweden.

So on this day I am thinking of her and the difficult life she had. Feeling grateful that she boarded that ship so long ago. Appreciating what it took to raise a family under such trying circumstances.

And hoping she knows what she did made a difference in the lives of her descendants.

For cousins trying to place Johanna Christina Carlson and me in our family tree:

  • my maternal grandfather was John George WALTON (1905-1980); one of the children born to
  • Johanna Kristina CARLSON (1876-1956) and James WALTON (1871-1911).

2015 02-09 Johanna Carlson tree WM

Interested in collaborating on Carlson family history? I can be reached at where2look4ancestors [at] gmail [dot] com.

My 2015 goal for Johanna is to locate church records for James’ and her wedding.

My 2015 organizational goal for Johanna is to bring all of her documentation from out-of-date to up-to-date on Ancestry, Dropbox, Family Tree Maker, and in her paper files.

2 thoughts on “From Sweden to Chicago for a Better Life

  1. You have reminded me that I took a class in college where we read novels to learn history (fun class!!) and there were apparently more than a few books written about how difficult life on the prairie was for so-often-Swedish women. Meaning, it was Swedish women who were immigrating there and life was awful for women, especially snowed in on the prairie alone with just your family. And nobody to deliver your baby, etc. So glad your GGma went to Chicago instead!


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