Alfortska öden / Historier / In English / Rekommenderat / Släktens historia i korta drag / Smålandssläkten

Political farmers – Maria Catharina Ahlfort and her descendants

(This is the seventh chapter of the text From beyond the seas – A history of the Alfort family)

When Maria Catharina Ahlfort was finally allowed by court to marry her father’s farmhand Jonas Andersson, her father was forced to go back on his wishes and find a living for them. Jonas was willing to join the army, so he set them up in the soldier’s cottage Mosstugan under Skyttlingebäck in Askeryd parish, whither they moved in 1731. Jonas acquired the soldier’s surname Ekstrand, while Maria seized to be called Ahlfort; from that day she was normally simply referred to by her patronymic as Ericsdotter. This change is probably reflective of her father’s unwillingness to let her inherit, or even be part of the family at all. Even so, many of her descendants continue to be aware of their connection with the esteemed Alfort family at Liljeholmen, even to this day.

Mosstugan under Skyttlingebäck. Photo: Esben Alfort, July 2017.

As mentioned earlier, Maria did get her inheritance in the end, or rather her seven children did. This would have made a huge difference for them, and it is probable that it was this more than anything which enabled the family to grow so large and prosperous over the following generations. Their daughters Hedevig and Ulrica both married soon after receiving the inheritance on their grandmother’s death. They both seem to have taken the surname Edman on this occasion, probably in order to advertise the higher status that their newly acquired fortunes had given them. However, it is unclear whether this was an official change of name, since it does not seem to have been much used later.

A soldier and a farmer

Throughout the 1730s Jonas seems to have been away with the army for most of the time, leaving Maria at home to care for a growing flock of children in their small cottage. Every year when the taxman came, he duly noted in the register that the husbond was away in service. In 1735 he added that they were very poor and had 5 small children. The cottage must have been very crowded, and indeed during the years 1735-1737 the number of actual inhabitants is registered as zero; whether this means that they made their home elsewhere, or simply that they could not afford to pay any taxes, is unclear. We know, however, that other soldiers in the neighbourhood were in the exact same situation.

Fortunately, Maria’s relationship with her brother was good, and he eventually managed to convince his mother to let them move to the farm Gunnarstorp 3 km west of Tranås in Säby parish in 1737. By that time they had had another child, and Jonas has become a vice corporal.

Maria Sophia gjorde sin dotter arvlös, men sonen Gabriel hjälpte henne: Gunnerstorp ett halft hemman är af Sahl: fru Gyllenståhl uppå herr Capitain Lieutnanten Ahlforts bemedlande skiänckt till dhen aflednas dotter Maria Catharina, hwilken förut af förräldrarne är arflös giord, för det hon aflat barn med en sina föräldrars tienstedräng Jon Andersson, den hon sedan ingådt ächtenskap med emot föräldrarnes wilja, men up tages här til widare räntan. Från bouppteckningen. Göta Hovrätt.

Maria Sophia disinherited her daughter, but the son Gabriel helped her:

Gunnerstorp ett halft hemman är af Sahl: fru Gyllenståhl uppå herr Capitain Lieutnanten Ahlforts bemedlande skiänckt till dhen aflednas dotter Maria Catharina, hwilken förut af förräldrarne är arflös giord, för det hon aflat barn med en sina föräldrars tienstedräng Jon Andersson, den hon sedan ingådt ächtenskap med emot föräldrarnes wilja, men up tages här til widare räntan.

Gunnarstorp one half farmstead has been donated by the dec. Mrs Gyllenståhl on Mr Captain Lieutenant Ahlfort’s request to the deceased’s daughter Maria Catharina, who has previously been disinherited by her parents because of having begotten children with one of her parents’ farmhands, Jon Andersson, with whom she has later entered into marriage against her parents’ wishes, however its rent is recorded here for the time being.

This was a turning point; Gunnarstorp became the heart and soul of this branch of the family for generations.

Gunnarstorp. Källa: Från Sommabygd till Vätterstrand VI.

Gunnarstorp. Source: Från Sommabygd till Vätterstrand VI. Although less idyllic and well-kept these days, the place is relatively unchanged.

Jonas is registered as a corporal in the Jönköping infantry until 1741, when he would have been about 48 years old (see below on the difficulty of establishing his birth year). By then he was ill and had to be replaced by a 22 years old young man, Erik Pärsson. As was the tradition, Erik inherited his predecessor’s soldier’s name Ekstrand.

The fields at Gunnarstorp. Photo: Esben Alfort 2017.

Occasionally, Maria appears with the epithet ”adel”, i.e. noble, which is of course incorrect, although her mother was indeed of noble stock.

Man i Tj., hust. adell, heter Ahlfot. Mantal, Askeryd församling 1737.

Man i Tj., hust. adell, heter Ahlfot, i.e. ‘Husband in service, wife noble, called Ahlfot’. Askeryd parish 1737.

If her father could not achieve nobility in spite of his long military career and his marriage to a noblewoman, then she could hardly have harboured any such aspirations on the part of her own lowly husband. He generally had to make do with the less impressive epithet ”fattig, i.e. poor.

Gunnarstorp och Gissnabo.

Gunnarstorp and surroundings.

Owning a farm made life much easier for them. They had at least 10 children over the years, 7 of whom were alive when their grandmother made her testament in 1753, so there were lots of mouths to feed. Exactly which of them survived is not entirely clear, as the sources are somewhat contradictory.

Given that we know that they had five small children in 1735, they must have had a child of whom we know nothing sometime between 1728 and 1735. One child died in 1741, but unfortunately we do not know who that was.

[D. 11. Maji] Jon Ekstrands barn från Gunnerstorp, i.e. [’11th of May] Jon Ekstrand’s child from Gunnarstorp’. Death register, Säby parish 1741.

(For further details about the sources and their uncertainties the reader is referred to the two posts on Maria and Jonas).

Who was Jonas Ekstrand?

It is not entirely clear who Jonas was, given that the early church records are highly contradictory as regards his year of birth.

The only thing we know for certain is that his name was Jonas Andersson. He is also supposed to have come from Asby parish, though the source of this information is unclear. Assuming that it is true, at least two people fit this description: Jon Andersson from Bötterarp and Jöns Andersson from Fetebråna.

Jonas may have come from either Fetebråna or Bötterarp.

It was quite common for the same person to be called Johannes, Johan, Jonas, Jon and Jöns in different settings, since they are all versions of Johannes anyway, so they could both be the right person.

The earliest surviving register of the family members tells us that Jonas was 10 years older than Maria, although he is usually said to have been born in the year 1700, two years before her. This idea is based on the birth registry in which we are told that Anders’ son Jon in Böttrarpicon-map-marker (Anderses Son i Böttrarp Jon) was born 13/12 1700, and that might well be Jonas, if it hadn’t also been true that he was apparently 86 years old when he died of old age in 1778. If that is true then he is more likely to have been one Anders’ son Jöns in Fetebrånaicon-map-marker (Anderses Sohn i Fetebråna Jöns), who was born 17/9 1693. (There is also a Johan Andersson from Fetebråna born 1/3 1695, and a Joen Andersson from Redeby born 25/8 1695).

We actually know that there was some sort of contact between the Alfort family and the inhabitants of Fetebråna, in the sense that at the very least the two families had met, because in 1704 Maria’s mother Maria Gyllenståhl witnessed the baptism of a child in Asby parish (which she didn’t usually do), and at that occasion a woman by the name of Elizabeth from Fetebråna was also a witness. So their paths certainly did cross.

This Jöns Andersson from Fetebråna would later in life come to represent the farmers of his county, Göstrings Härad, at the parliamentary gathering in 1746-1747 icon-external-link (Bo Lindwall and Henrik Mosén have gathered information about him in their book Östgötska bonderiksdagsmän). It would be quite natural for Maria’s husband to have been in parliament, because several of their descendants are known to have been in parliament, and this often went from father to son. It is of course conceivable that his experience of being rejected as a son-in-law because of his descent as a farmer might well have spawned a political commitment to work towards a less strict class distinction.

If Jöns Andersson and Maria’s husband are indeed one and the same, then he was born in 1693. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that he was said to be 73 years old in 1767. However, at this same occasion we are also told that his wife was 68 years old, and she is known to have been born in 1702, so something is clearly wrong. His age is also confirmed by an earlier register, which, judging from the children’s ages, seems to have been put together in 1760. At this time he was said to be 66, which would fit, but once again his wife’s age is a couple of years off, as it is given as 56.

In a later church register from 1771 the priest expressly states that Jonas was born in 1692 – presumably an approximate year based on his age. This seems to fit. However, he also writes that Maria was born in 1697, which again is demonstrably wrong. Whichever interpretation you choose, you cannot get away from the fact that there are inconsistencies in the data.

When Jonas joined the army in 1730 he was apparently 25 years old, given that in 1739 he was registered as being 34 years old, and having been in service for 9 years. According to this information, then, he would have been born in 1705, which seems completely wrong according to any interpretation. So we really do not know with any certainty who he was, and of course we can’t really be sure that he was even born in Asby; he may just have come from there at some point, though given that he was working at his father-in-law’s at Liljeholmen at the time, it would definitely be most natural to have recorded his birth parish.

Maja Caisa och Jonas karta

Their children

We know next to nothing about the three eldest children, except that Hedevig seems to have married a farmhand by the name of Johan Larsson in 1756. The others are somewhat easier to follow, because the sources are less fragmentary from that time.

icon-male Their eldest son Fredrich was born in Mosstugan, but grew up at Gunnarstorp, where he did service as a farmhand in 1750. Eventually, he took over the farm from his father, and in 1763 he married a farmer’s daughter from the neighbouring farm of Gissnabo. They remained at Gunnarstorp for the rest of their lives, and they obviously led a very different life from what things might have been like had their mother not married against her parents’ wishes, but presumably they still had a certain pride, which they backed up with the money inherited from his grandmother. They weren’t particularly wealthy, but not poor either. In 1783, he was given responsibility for his parish district, Björka rote, consisting of about a dozen homes. He also had responsibility for the church bench on which the people from his neighbourhood were sitting, a title which he held from at least 1783 to 1799. At some point he was furthermore given a seat on the civil parish board. Several of his children got into similarly respected jobs, not least his eldest son Erich Anders who even went to parliament.

Another son of Fredrich’s, Carl Gustaf, bolstered his respectability by marrying a wealthy woman who was a few years older than him and became involved with work both for the county court and for the local church. Then when he was 47 years old and his first wife had died, he married a 19 year old farmer’s daughter who was also relatively well off. Ten years later, he took a fall on the ice and hit his head fatally. No one was there to help him, and he died on the spot. He had 11 children with his two wives. The eldest was one Johan Gustafsson, who became a highly respected man. He was a jury member like his father, and is said to have been a very religious man. Nonetheless, he and his wife suddenly had to send their maid away to another parish to have a baby, which they then went on to adopt as their own, and it seems highly likely that the child was in fact his. They fled the rumours and settled in Stockholm for a time before emigrating to South Africa, where to this day nobody knew that the 14 year old daughter Anna Charlotta was not the natural daughter of both of her parents. Indeed, it seems likely that she didn’t even know it herself, since even on her death certificate she is claimed to have been born in Stockholm, which we know to be untrue. Anna Charlotta played an important role in the pioneering settlement of South Africa and showed herself as a strong and courageous woman during the troubled times of the Boer War.

One of Johan’s brothers’ great grandchildren was the famous actress Greta Garbo, a fact which the family is rather proud of, even to this day.

Carl Gustaf’s younger sister Anna Stina did very much the same thing as him. When she was 23 years old, she married a respectable and wealthy jury member and later church warden of 57. He owned four farms, so they sold off her portion of Gunnarstorp and bought something more suitable. When he died, she married a farmer who was 8 years younger than her. The only child of her second marriage was a daughter who was born deaf-mute. She managed to find a husband and get married, but then suddenly died of asthma after only a week in matrimony.

Their youngest sister Cathrina also married a well-to-do farmer and juryman.

icon-female Ulrica became a farmer’s wife. Among her sons, one was responsible for the district, and one became a valuer and probate administrator. He was consequently one of the few farmers who could write.

icon-male  Carl had some sort of handicap, but he managed quite well nonetheless. He married and became a farmer at Gunnarstorp along with Fredrich. The couple did not have any children, but they prospered in their own way, with 2 cows, 4 sheep with lambs, and a piglet, and through hard work they were even able to buy part of his wife’s childhood farm Djurafall in Linderås parish, whither they eventually moved.

icon-male The youngest son to survive youth, Ulric, was less fortunate, and for several generations his descendants were notably poorer than those of the other branches. He married in 1766 and settled on Gunnarstorp with his wife, who came from a small cottage in the middle of a deep wood and was presumably quite poor herself. It probably started out well, but they then had to face years of bad Swedish crop failures 1771-1774, and this was probably the reason that they lost what little they had and ended up in the poorhouse by 1780. Even so, they both lived to the age of 80, with four grown-up children, who managed to uphold the family honour and become respectable farmers.

In general, many of the descendants of this family became farmers, workers and soldiers.

 icon-arrow-right The next chapter ”From British French to Swedish Latin – The Alfort name over the centuries” is going to tell the story of the family name in its many variant forms (coming soon)

Selected sources

This text is a synthesis of several years of work and is derived from countless sources. Among them are the following.

icon-check  04-09-2017

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