Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Israelsons

In 1877, Andrew P. Israelson of Henry County, Illinois purchased 160 acres of railroad land three miles west of Sutton joining the Swedish community in Saronville. Nine of his twelve children survived infancy and came to Clay County with him, four boys and five girls or enough of a brood to put a large Israelson stamp on the community.

So where are all those Israelsons today? We don’t meet them on the street or find any in the phone book. What happened?

Before we get into the story(s) of the Israelson descendants, let’s learn a little about this early Sutton area immigrant settler.

Little Anders Peter was born in January 8, 1824. His father was Israel Carlsson; his mother was Catharena Petersdotter. At least that’s what we think we know when we squint at the handwriting in images of church records from the village of Asby in Östergötland, Sweden. We are looking at the cursive handwriting of a rural Swedish church official 191 years ago. What could possibly go wrong?
An offical of the Asby Kyrka recorded the birth of Anders Peter Israrelson in January, 1828 identifying his father as Isarel
Carlsson of the Hultet torp under Norrby. So we know the name of his house near the village. 

Were it up to me, he’d have been born on the 6th of January but keener eyes than mine have determined that squiggle to be an “8” and so be it.

His parents’ names have come down to us as Israel Carlsson and Catterina Petersdotter, names which illustrate patronymic naming convention that was prominent in Sweden in the 19th Century.

We need a few words about that naming scheme in which a kid’s last name, the surname is based on the father’s first name, not his last name. Here, Israel Carlsson’s kids all had the last name of Israelson and girls would sometimes, not always have Israelsdotter for a surname. The double “s” we see in the Carlsson name was also optional.

The Israelson family of Saronville came from the small village of Asby in
Östergötland, Sweden about 1851. (This image is from Google Earth.)
The string of male ancestors for Anders (Andrew) Israelson shows the pattern: Israel Carlsson, Karl Röriksson, Rörik Månsson, Måns Eriksson and Erik Amundsson. We have no record of Erik’s father but we can guess his first name was Amund. Don’tja think? The use of the “C” and “K” in Carlsson and Karl was pretty loose too.

Swedes were not the only ones who used naming systems unlike the one we are use.. Patronymic systems were and still are widespread. Indian tradition gives the kid dad’s first name as a middle name. Arabic “ibn” and Hebrew “ben” both mean “son of.” The English used the “-son” suffix and also borrowed “fitz” from the French, actually from the Normans. “Mac” or “Mc” did the same thing for the Irish and Scots and there are “van” and “von” name elements elsewhere. Russians and other slavs use variations of “-ovich” to point to their father. And the list goes on. When people started to use two names, it was natural to put the second name to use to talk about lineage.

But back to our guy. Andrew Peter Israelson married Charlotte Sophia Larsdotter on March 8, 1851, not sure where. Her birth record is easier to read than his. Even I can make out Lars Svenson and Stina Svensdotter as her parents. Her name was listed as “Lotta” followed again by squiggles.
The Asby Kyrka (church) has preserved an earlier structure behind today's
building. Ancestors of many Sutton/Saronville families are buried in this
churchyard. (Image from Google Earth, Street View)
Andrew and Charlotte arrived in the U.S. either later in 1851 or possibly in 1852. Their first child, daughter Emma Caroline was born in Illinois in December, 1852; eleven more children would be born to the family before the move to Clay County in 1877. Three of the last five children did not survive infancy.

The Israelson’s began farming in Clay County on that quarter of railroad land. Later Andrew filed for a homestead on a neighboring section and he and Charlotte lived in the Saronville community the rest of their lives; she died in 1906, he in ’09.

So how come the Israelson family did not survive here?

There were four boys to carry the name forward. They all would use the Israelson name as this is where the Swedish patronymic system did not survive the trip to American and would be discontinued by the Swedish government – to very little distress as I understand it.

After Emma came John William. He had one daughter, Ruth; they moved to Pasadena and Ruth died at 22.

Son Richard had four kids, two sons but neither of them had children.

Andrew Grant Israelson was quite a fixture in the Saronville community. Among other things, he was the correspondent for all matters about Saronville for the county newspapers. He had four children but neither son remained in the area. A. G. Israelson died in 1945

The last hope to keep the Israelson name going long term in Saronville was the George Gilbert Israelson the fourth surviving son. He married Alma Jarrett. Alma was one of four daughters of Leonard Jarrett, one of two Confederate veterans buried in the Sutton Cemetery. Alma and George lived only a short time in Washington state before she died in 1907. Hers is the only grave in the Sutton Cemetery bearing the Israelson name.

George and his second wife, Lizzie Housel had a son in Washington and there is a son in the next generation carrying the Israelson name in the Pacific Northwest.
Andrew Israelson and wife Charlotte are seated on the left. We date this photograph to pre-1890 ad the complete family
including all children who made it past infancy are included. Daughter Phebe, likely standing at the left, died in 1890 at
the age of 25 giving us a last-possible date for the picture. 

There are other descendants elsewhere carrying the surname including two teachers in the Grand Island Northwest system in the not-too-distant past. And I’ve corresponded with others, but none locally. So the Israelson name isn’t in our phone book, our voting roles or the driver’s license of anyone around here.

Does that mean that the Israelson family no longer exists in Clay County? Let’s think about this. Do we assume that only the male line carries the family forward? Is that true? It is true for the surname itself, but only for the surname. Moms do have something to contribute to the continuing a family, don’t you think? Let’s look at the daughters in Andrew and Charlotte’s family.

Emma married a fellow named Adolph Aspegren and they had 15 children, nine made it to adulthood, three died as infants and the others at ages 6, 12 and 20. They are also my great, grandparents.

Not all local Aspegren’s come from this family. Adolph’s brother Carl Gustaf contributed his share so there are Aspegren-related Israelsons as well as all those other in-laws.

Martha Israelson married Frank Pontine; Christina became Mrs. Erick Nelson and Mary Hannah married Charles Gustav Hultman.

Granddaughter Cecilia Aspegren married a Johnson with a sizeable family representation still in the area. Her sister Amanda married an Erickson and had five sons. Ella Aspegren became a Rudeen and Edith a Venell.
Andrew Israelson died February 5, 1909 and is buried in the Saronville
Methodist Cemetery northeast of Saronville and northeast of the Lutheran

Subsequent generations of Israelson descendants carry other last names including Lemkau, Unterseher, McKenzie, Mau, Reutzel, Saathoff, Douglas, Van Patten, Hurst, Serr, Rolfes and lots of others. Plus, traces of the Israelson genetic cloud has dispersed coast-to-coast with their disguised identities.

So, contrary to first appearances, the Israelson Family is still a part of the Saronville/Sutton community and is flourishing quite well, thank you.

Another illustration of our large under-the-radar families is the Walton family picnic I grew up with the second Sunday of every August, sometimes in Sutton but also in Clay Center, Edgar or Hastings. There were often nearly 100 people at the picnic, but no Waltons. A distant cousin in Geneva, Gale Walton, the furrier attended early on, but that was it, never a Walton in sight. My great, Grandmother Rhoda Walton died in1932; her father Isaiah Walton died in 1894 but it was still the Walton Family Picnic.

A common form of family research is to identify one ancestral family and trace all of their descendants rather than looking for the ancestors of an individual. In this illustration I’ve taken one of my sets of great, great grandparents Andrew and Charlotte Israrelson and examine their descendants, which of course go deeper today than fourth generation that I represent. Remember, we have eight sets of 2nd great grandparents each equally deserving of this treatment.

For me those eight family surnames were Jonasson, Klintberg, Aspegren, Israelson, Cassell (or Cassels), Maxwell, Rowlison and Walton, the eight family surnames of my eight 2nd great grandfathers. But as I’ve maintained here the family lines of those wives, my 2nd great grandmothers adds the family surnames of Petersdotter, Persdotter, a second Petersdotter (no relation to the other one – dad’s names were “Peter”), Larsdotter, Laing, Inglis, Kinnear and Hall.

Everyone has a genetic tree with 16 people on the tree four generations back, whether you know their names or not. They were there for you, all eight men and all eight women. Step back one more generation and you will find 16 fathers and 16 mothers, each providing you with a different family surname. And so on, and so on and so on. Every baby has a rich family history before they even utter that first cry.

Members of the Sutton Historical Society have a program in place which helps to remember these family names which have faded from phone books and other current lists. The Brick Project consists of a large footprint of inscribed bricks commemorating the people of the community, past and present. For more information about that project, stop by the museum or call.
Andrew and Charlotte Israelson are among the 250 past and present Sutton area founders, settlers and other residents
remembered on commemorative bricks at the museum. They were your author's great, great grandparents. 

This article first appeared in the November, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 for more information or at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com

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