Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nils Peter Bengtsson - died in the end of 1800 in America.. or not..

The first emigrant I did research on was Nils Peter Bengtsson. There was such an exciting and interesting story about him. He was born in Grevie, in the south of Sweden in 1858.  He moved to America in 1881. In America he married Amanda Persdotter. She was also from the Greviearea in Sweden and born in 1857. She came to America in 1879.

A ring from Nils to Amanda.
Inscription says "NP to AP"

They had a daughter Anna Josefina in 1889. When Anna was just a little more than a year old her mother Amanda died in San Francisco, 33 years old.

Obituary of Amanda, wife of Nils Peter Bengtsson
The story told about Nils Peter and the daughter Anna says they were both headed home to Sweden after Amanda died. Anna was sent home in 1892 while Nils had some paperwork to take care of before he could leave. So, when he at last stod there with his suitcases ready to enter the ship, he suddely just fell and died on the spot. In Sweden Anna was raised with her grandpartens and aunt on her mothers side. The story of the sudden death of her father lived for generations...

As I wrote above, this was "my" first emigrant. I became a member at and seached and searched and searched. I looked into old newspapers on-line. I figured that somewhere there must me something written about this.

Anyway. I did find som people in the different US Census that might be a match but often there was something that didnt match, like age.. year of immigration and such. When I started doing genealogy and family history research I asumed that things in the records were somewhat correct (nowadays I asume they _might_ be right). I didnt dare to trust that someone I found would be "my" Nils Peter. And it would also be weird to think that he would be alive in 1930 since afterall, he died there on the spot on his way home to Sweden before the year of 1900.

First breaktrough. I orderd Nils parents, Bengt Peter Nilsson and Christina Nilsdotter, real estate records. They died 1900 and 1899. Nils was mentioned in the records saying that he lived in America. I had thought he would had been dead for a while by then. At that time, Anna was 11 and not that young anymore. But Nils wasnt alone living in the states. His brothers Johannes and Anders Bengtsson were there as well according to the papers. Looking for the brothers also opend up some more search alternatives. If I could find the brothers perhaps I could get a clue what happend to Nils. I posted requests at some messagesboards, one particulary at Bjäre Släktring where an expert on emigrants from the Bjärearea was very helpful.

Bengtsson is not the best surame to search for in the US. You could tell that by saying it out loud. Think of someone with a Southswedish accent coming to America, not knowing English and telling his name.. Bingsson.. Bangtsson.. Bentson.. Benson.. and then someone who doesnt know Swedish are going to type the name down. That is really a challenge.

Thanks to my post I got a record of memebers in a church in San José. There he was. Nils Peter Bengtsson, born February 15 1858 in Grevie, Sweden. Came to the US in 1881 and became a member of the church in October 7 1906. It doesnt get more correct than that. 1906, daughter Anna was 17 years old and it was maybe time to realize that the story that lasted for more that 90 years wasnt all true afterall.

Member of a church in San José
I also got a hint of a Nils P in a funeral  record in Santa Clara. Age didnt match though, two years wrong. I did order the record. A nice volonter at Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Socitey found it and sent it to me. It said that Nils Peter Bengtsson, born in Sweden, age about 80 had died on Christmas Eve 1936. Still I was really sceptical. In the attatched obituary it said he was an uncle of a N Gustavson and there was nothing about his daughter. In 1936 Anna was 47, married since 1915 and had two children who was 18 and 20 years old. My doubt was ofcourse due to the story and the fact that I didnt have any nephew H Gustavson for Nils.

Nils Peter Bengtsson obituary

To get more information, hopefully showing if I was in a totally wrong direction or right on track I orderd a death certificate. It wasnt exactly a piece of cake, forms to fill out and I also had to fax some papers. But at last it showed up. Very nice, thick paper with ornaments and stuff. It said Nils Peter was 87 when he died in 1936. That was a difference of whole nine years. I put the paper and Nils Peter away for a while, a little disappointed.

When I later took out the paper and looked a little more closly I felt unbelievable stupid. As informant, it said H W Gustafsen. That was something else than N Gustavson mentioned in the obituary.

Death Certificate of Nils Peter Bengtsson
And the best thing, there acctually was such a person. Nils Peter had a brother Gustaf. Gustaf had a son. Hjalmar Vallentin. And now when I looked up Hjalmar Vallentin, he did emigrate to America. 1914. In the passenger list it says he is going to San José, to his Uncle N P Benson. Two persons are travelling with him to the same destination.

From the passengerlist when Hjalmar Vallentin went to America.
I dont know for whom the story of Nils death was made up for. His family, siblings and nephews knew he was alive and where he lived. Digging into the story of Nils Peter has been very exciting and Ive learned so much while doing it. The story of him has been told so many times for such a long time and yet it wasnt true...

Nils Peter Bengtsson

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