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Holmgren Family History

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1823 to 1960
Surnames/tags: Holmgren Appelquist
Profile manager: Marta Johnson private message [send private message]
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The following is a transcription of 5 type-written pages of family history titled "The Holmgrens". The author does not sign their work, but it is believed to be a collaborative effort of cousins Hildur Johnson, Anna Deakins, Lillian Holmgren, and Esther Holmquist, all granddaughters of Andreas Tobiasson & Magdalena Holmgren. The text is unchanged from the original, preserving the errors and jumps in narrative. Hyperlinks and citations have been added for support or clarity.

Andreas Tobiason was born in Sweden in 1823 and married to Magdalena Anderson in 1847. They had 5 children: Amanda Josephina, John A, Matilda, Oscar, and Hilda Kristina. Magdalena was born May 23, 1829.

They lived in Tillebro, Lillegard of Orsos Community in Alfsborg Lane, Sweden. Later they moved to Stromsholm, about 40 miles away. Andreas Tobiason was a wealthy landowner and a building contractor of near Stockholm. He died in his 50th year and was buried in the Orsos Church yard.

John, the eldest son, was only 19 when his father died; so it was his lot to take over the responsibilities of the family. He found it very difficult to make it, so he decided to go to the U.S.A. where some other relatives had already migrated, including a cousin, Charles Johnson in Braddock, Pennsylvania. So many emigrants were coming to America that it was a task to book passage.

As was the custom in Sweden at that time, the surname of the children was the father's Christian name with "son" on the end, hence their name was Anderson in Sweden.

When John was 22 years old, a Mr. Leonard Borg issued a passenger contract for John Anderson from Elfsborg Lane, Sweden to Braddock, Pennsylvania for the sum of $140.60. It was issued on April 7, 1880. He was saddened to leave his mother and sisters and brother, but he was a very religious man and remembered his Sunday School hymns, as "Jesus, Lover of my Soul" etc., so his courage was renewed to continue. They arrived in Hull, England on the 11th of April about 8:00 PM and stayed overnight and then set sail for London, taking 7 hours.[1] They waited 5 days then had to go to Gravesend, Scotland by train. Here they managed to get a small boat to take them out about a mile to a large American boat. They got on board and waited patiently to get started, which they did on the 18th of April, 1880.

Later they met with a storm that kept up for ten days and when they had almost given up hope of ever seeing land again, the storm finally subsided and on April 30, 1880 land was sighted. Some stories were that they were rescued by another ship and that he slept where the animals were kept.

They landed in New York on May 1; John with a traveling buddy, Peter Benson[2], didn't stay long in New York but headed directly for Braddock, Pennsylvania, arriving at 9:30 PM on May 2 as strangers in a strange land with no one to meet them. Two men they approached could speak Swedish and directed them to the home of the cousin Charles Johnson. Here they stayed overnight but found a room with Charles Johnson's mother-in-law (Mrs. Andrews) who kept a boarding house.[3] In America, John used the surname of Holmgren, which means "green home".

Within a few days (on May 5), he found work at the Carnegie Steel Co for $1.25 a day. He worked 10 hours a day and when he worked overtime, he was paid extra.

After about two years, he changed his boarding house by moving in with the John Appelquist family, where he met his future wife, Ida Christine, a daughter. When the John Appelquist family moved to Verona, Missouri, Ida Christina stayed and went to work in East Liberty.

Sister Amanda Josephina came to America in 1881 (?) and was married in 1884 to Charles (Karl) Holmquist who had arrived in America from Elfsbo Lan, Sweden in 1879. He received his naturalization papers on 20 Nov 1899 in Western District Court, Pittsburgh, Pa. They took over the Appelquist household, and John Holmgren continued to live here until he married Ida Christine on the 4th of May 1885. John and Ida Christine rented two rooms at 127 Bell Ave and their first son, Richard Anselm, was born. Ida Christine took the baby to visit her family in Missouri, where the child became sick and died. He was buried in the Mount Vernon Cemetery, Missouri.

When Ann A. was born on July 19, 1887, Ida Christine and John needed more room so they rented a four room house on Kirkpatrick St. for $10.00 a month. When Bertha C. was born (9 Feb 1890) they decided to buy a new house at 11 Holland Ave, Braddock, Pa. for $2650.00 with $50.00 down, $1000.00 on signing the deed, and $25.00 a month until it was paid for. They moved in on 29 August 1891. Also in August of 1891, John managed to bring his mother and youngest sister Hilda to America. (Home had burned in Sweden.) They had sailed from Liverpool, England on a ship that had made a speed record crossing for that time. His brother Oscar had come to America in 1886 ad later was an inspector in the Edgar Thompson steel rail mills.

Sister Matilda was married to John Nelson the end of 1891. Ann remembers an early vacation when her dad took her to Duquesne to stay a few days with the Nelsons and she became homesick.

Oscar (Anderson) Holmgren was married to Amanda Gustafson on 5th July 1893. When retirement policies were made in the Carnegie Steel Co, Oscar was the one who defied the statistics and was retired for over 30 years, when he died at the age of 90 years and 10 months. He wrote articles for a Swedish newspaper in Jamestown, N.Y.; he used the pen name of "Shincoboken". He died on 13 October 1957 in a Swedish Lutheran Men's Home in Jamestown, New York.

The Christmas of 1891 was a happy one and all went to Amanda and Charles (Karl) Holmquist's home to celebrate.

On July 19, 1892 a son Arthur Gotfried was born, and on April 19, 1894 Mamie Louise was born to John and Ida Christine. Every thing was well until there was an accident at the steel mill on October 5, 1884. John Holmgren was burned in the explosion. He recovered slowly and was finally able to return to work. There was much suffering, but his faith in God never wavered as he thanked God for the blessings he had received. In his diary he recalled a Sunday School picnic in Kenny Wood Park in Pittsburgh with everyone having a delightful time, when toward evening a storm struck with heavy rains and flooding that caused many lives to be lost in drowning -- the worst he had ever seen. The mills were closed due to the high water. (This from a man who had had a storm at sea as he came to America.)

Christmas 1894 was a sad one with little to celebrate, as Grandmother Appelquist had died, and Bertha and Arthur were very sick.

Spring 1895 brought heavy rains and again flooding.

Lillie Eveline was born on 18 August 1896 and one month later about 3000 from the mill including John Holmgren went to Canton, Ohio to hear President McKinley speak.

Christmas this year (1896) all was well.

On April 22, 1898 war was declared on Spain. The ship "Maine" was torpedoed on July 2, 1898.

Ranghild Matilda was born on November 3, 1898 and about this time Matilda Holmgren Nelson died of peritonitis. The Nelsons had lived in Duquesne, so her body was taken across the Monongahela river on a flat boat and buried in the Braddock cemetery. She left 4 small children: Alma, Elmer, Oscar, and Pauline. Alma and Elmer went to stay with their Grandmother Nelson, while Pauline and Oscar went to Amanda and John Holmquist's home. It seems that some one had a contaminated pump well and Pauline and Oscar and Esther Holmquist became ill with typhoid fever. Grandmother (Magdalena) Holmgren helped out by caring for little Oscar while Amanda cared for the little girls. This created jealousy between the girls in that they shared the same mother. It was necessary to cut Esther's hair as it became so tangled.

John Nelson was a great hunter and had a couple of hunting dogs. John Holmgren chided him that he thought more of the dogs than he did of his family. In early March 1901, Elmer Appelquist, a brother of Ida Christine came to the John (Anderson) Holmgren's.

On March 28, 1901 Hilda Holmgren was married to Claus Albert Johnson who had come to America in 1893. This was a very elaborate affair, held in the home of her brother, John (Anderson) Holmgren.

Hilda had come to America in 1891 with her mother, as a teen-ager, and had worked in several weathy Pittsburgh homes as the Swedish cook. One family she worked for was named Dorsey, a coal magnate. Andrew Carnegie and Charlie Schwab were guests there, often. She used to tell of the young Swedish girls who worked in the large houses and were courted by the young Swedish boys, by serenading them under the windows. The girls had their room upstairs in the large houses and would watch the love-lorn swain outside their windows.

On December 24, 1903 Elmer Cornelius Holmgren was born to John (Anderson) and Ida Christina Holmgren. Emily Appelquist, a widow of a brother of Ida Christine, had come up from Missouri on March 24, 1903 to stay with John and Ida Christina Holmgren. Later, when John became a widower she became John's wife -- August 19, 1914.

In July 1904, Oscar Holmgren's wife, Amanda, died of pneumonia (?). On October 20, 1905 Emil (Oscar's youngest son) died. Emil had been born November 17 1902 and had gone to live with his aunt, Amanda Holmquist, when his mother died. Esther Holmquist recalls that he was a very smart little boy for his age and so good.

Charles Holmquist, after working in the yard on a cold stormy spring day, took a cold that became pneumonia and he died on April 19, 1906.

Death was always near: on June 28, 1906 Ranghild Holmgren took diphtheria and died on July 10. Trouble came in bunches. Arthur had broken a leg at the same time as his sister, Ranghild, had died. Later, on November 20, 1906 Grandmother Magdalena Holmgren fell and broke a hip.

On September 7, 1907 Charles Johnson died. He was the cousin with whom John Holmgren first stopped with in Braddock, Pennsylvania.

On November 23, 1905 Oscar Holmgren had remarried to Tekla Olson. She died on September 4 (or 17) 1908, when an infant, Hilda Louise Marlete was born. The infant died on October 8, 1908. Oscar's oldest son, Gotfried, died on June 22, 1909. His daughter, Alma, died of spinal meningitis on May 18, 1918.

Magdalena Anderson Holmgren died on December 26, 1912 at the age of 83 at the home of her older living daughter, Amanda Holmquist in North Braddock, Pa.

Hilda's husband, Claus Albert Johnson, died on January 31, 1923 as a result of a heart condition that had developed from an attack of rheumatic fever that he had contracted shortly after the turn of the century. He was a prominent general contractor; he had built the [[Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church (4th St & Mills Ave) in Braddock, Pa. and several locks on the Monongahela River for the U.S. government. He was also active in the civic affairs of North Braddock and in politics, serving as Burgermaster of the town. He received his naturalization papers on July 3, 1899 from Western District Court, Pittsburgh, Pa. At the time of his death, he was in the contracting business in Youngstown, Ohio, devoting his efforts to residential construction as senior partner in the firm of Johnson and Paulin. Throughout his life he was active in the Swedish fraternal organizations and similar groups as the IOOF (Odd Fellows). When Claus died, Hilda was left with 5 children to raise: Ted (just out of high school), Victor, Hugo, Paul, and Hildur. Hilda died in Youngstown on January 28, 1960 at the age of 88 years. These were hard working, honest, truly God-fearing and loving people who had, it seemed, more than their share of sorrow and death and disease, but they were a close group, sharing in the sorrow and the happiness.

They were good Augustana (Swedish) Lutherans and active in community politics. John A. Holmgren received his citizenship papers at the Court of Common Pleas, Pittsburgh, Pa. on October 4, 1890. He was much interested in the Redlighten Lodge and was the treasurer for this Swedish social lodge for 12 years.


  1. Ship manifest for S.S. Rollo:, "Gothenburg, Sweden, Passenger Lists", 1869-1951, 1880, April, Rollo, page 396, image 23, line 43.
  2. "Traveling buddy" Peter Niklas Bengtsson (b. 29 Feb 1856 in Örsås) is listed in the line just below John's on the Rollo manifest, as well as the EmiHamn database archive #14:396:44.
  3. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 August 2016), Aug Anderson in household of Anna Andrews, Braddock, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district ED 33, sheet 199C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1088; FHL microfilm 1,255,088.

Comments: 2

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The category for "Swedish Immigrants to America" should no longer be used. Perhaps another suitable category for this page would be Category: Swedish Emigration
posted by Maggie Andersson
Thanks for the suggestion Maggie. I'll make the change.
posted by Marta Johnson