A genealogy filing project kept bringing me back to the cousin quest I began years ago. Add to that a recurring daydream about a future trip to Scandinavia, inspired by the Thompson sisters in my family tree. Gradually my 2022 genealogy goal changed from working my way through a 67-page list of birth dates, to finding all the living descendants of my Swedish and Norwegian 4th great-grandparents.
Sisters Esther Maria (on the left in the photo above) and Julia Christine Thompson were 16 and 14 years old respectively when they posed for this portrait in 1902 at the Scholl Studios on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.
Both girls and their siblings were born in Chicago; Esther on the 11th of September 1886 and Julia on the 10th of November 1888. An older brother named Oscar was born 12 Aug 1883, younger brother Edward was born 25 Jul 1895. Further research is needed to verify a possible sister named Emma born Christmas Day 1890 who does not appear with the family in the 1900 census. In that census, Mrs. Thompson is listed as having had four children, all of who are living, but Emma’s Chicago birth record casts doubt on that census entry.
The aforementioned Mrs. Thompson is the former Maria Fredrika Petersdotter, born the 22nd of November 1864 in Tånnö, Sweden. At just 15 years old Maria boarded a ship alone, bound for North America. Three years later she met and married Norwegian immigrant Peter Thompson.
“Peter Thompson” was the Americanized name Peder Tønnesson used in records created in Chicago where he and Maria started their family. But when he went back to Norway, Peter reverted to his birth name, adding the Norwegian farm name Mysse. It was his use of this farm name that helped verify a family story; Peter died on Ellis Island when he returned from Norway in 1938.
Part of that family story was that Peter’s trip to Norway was to help his father. Research disproved that portion of the story however; Peter’s father Tønnes Christiansen died tragically by accidental drowning in 1886.
Last year a distant cousin and I connected after she found Peter’s Find A Grave memorial. Her direct line ancestor is Peter’s sister. Soon after, another distant cousin reached out when the story of Tønnes’ death was posted; Tønnes’ sister is her direct line ancestor.
That was my reminder that immigration from Norway and Sweden began in earnest long before my great-great-grandparents made the journey to North America. Their parents’ and even their grandparents’ generation included such adventurers.
And so it begins… my 2022 project; Connect with Cousins, a backward, forward and sideways search for all the descendants of my 4th great-grandparents whose stories began in the small towns of Tånnö in Sweden and Sogndalstrand in Norway.
Sounds like more fun than a 67-page to-do list, doesn’t it?