The arrival of the Alfort family in Sweden
The Alfort family came to Sweden in the middle of the 17th century when a master shipbuilder emigrated from England, but according to family tradition his ancestors were originally huguenot refugees fleeing religious persecution in France. Church registers and other archives of historical documents can tell us a lot about the history of the family in Sweden, but very few sources give direct information about this early period. Even so, we can make some educated guesses.
On Christmas day 1865, the old lady Anna Maria Ahlfort died after a long and prosperous life in which she had married one of the wealthiest and most illustrious men in the county, army registrar (mönsterskrivare) Sven Johan Bergman, who owned several large estates in Östergötland. The reason that she had been able to marry so well was of course the relative wealth and local importance of her own family, the Ahlforts (or Alforts); her father had been a vice district judge (vice häradshövding) and legal secretary, but he had also been heir to the beautiful family estate Liljeholmen on the shores of Lake Sommen, an estate which she had afterwards inherited. His father and grandfather had both been successful captains of the royal Swedish navy, and his grandmother’s father had been one of the richest men in the kingdom, who had invested so cleverly that he ended up owning more than 60 manors and farms in the area.
When the old woman had been laid to rest, the priest sat down to register her burial in the church register. Church law demanded that he note down her name as well as the date and the reason for her decease, but in addition to this he always liked to add a little extra information about the person who had died. What was he to write about Anna? She had been a charismatic human being, and he wanted to honour her in the registry, so he set off to record her family history in broad outline, right down to the arrival in Sweden of her great-great grandfather, an immigrant English master shipwright whose name is unfortunately unknown to us, in the middle of the 17th century. One passage in this paragraph is particularly precious to us, since it is the only source we have that tells us where the family came from and how they came to settle in Sweden. It reads as follows, in the original Swedish version and in rough translation:
(…) Dotter af vice Häradshöfdingen Erik Anders Ahlfort och hans Fru Ingrid Elisabeth Busser från Lyckö; Sonsons sondotter af Skeppsbyggmästaren Ahlfort, som i midtet af 1600-talet ankom från England till Sverige (…)
Daughter of the vice district judge Erik Anders Ahlfort and his wife Mrs Ingrid Elisabeth Busser from Lyckö; great-great granddaughter of the master shipwright Ahlfort, who arrived in Sweden from England in the middle of the 17th century.
With the help of church registers, military archives and other documents we can trace the family back to the unnamed master shipwright’s son, captain of the admiralty Erik Alfort, but nowhere are we told anything about his parents or place of birth. We can make an educated guess based on the fact that his father must have worked at a shipyard, but let us first of all consider the question of the family’s origins abroad.
icon-arrow-right The next section “Huguenot roots” looks into whether the family ultimately comes from France.