Political farmers – Maria Catharina Alfort and her descendants

Svenska – English

From beyond the seas – A history of the Alfort family.

Chapter 6

Political farmers – Maria Catharina Alfort and her descendants

© Esben Alfort 2014-2023

Maria Catharina Ahlfort’s story is one of continuously striving to retain her position in society in spite of having married a lowly farmhand against her parents’ will. Having been disinherited, she was forced to settle in a tiny soldier’s cottage with her new family until her brother helped her to a farm. In the end, their children got some of the inheritance that she should have had, and she even inherited another home, much against her mother’s wishes, which allowed them to rise further in society. This helped them establish themselves as respected citizens, and several of the couple’s children and grandchildren became politicians, jurymen and church wardens, although they usually performed this duties in addition to farming. With time, this part of the family would prosper and grow to some thousands of descendants.

Mosstugan. Photo: Esben Alfort 2018.

Maria Catharina Alfort (7/8 1702 – 31/10 1781) always wanted to keep her position in society in spite of having married her parents’ farmhand Jonas Andersson against their will. At first the couple were forced to squeeze into the tiny soldier’s cottage Mosstugan under Skyttlingebäck in Askeryd parish with a growing number of children, but after seven long years they were finally allowed to settle in her mother’s noble farm Gunnarstorp in Säby parish instead. A noble farm was freed of taxes, and this must have been a big plus. Eventually, her mother realized that maybe they had been too harsh on their daughter after all, so she let her daughter’s children inherit 1000 riksdaler each – a large sum of money. This in particular made a huge difference for the little family, and when Maria’s mother died and Maria ended up for legal reasons inheriting the estate Lövingsborg outside Skänninge Town which her mother had wanted to let another grandchild have, the couple’s children got an unexpectedly good start in life. Later, this farming family was hit hard by the severe crop failures 1771-1774 which forced them to squeeze in at Gunnarstorp together, sharing what little land they had. Even so, their descendants were eventually to be counted in the thousands; some branches flourished in spite of the hardships in the early years and were to foster many highly respected citizens, while others got a less favourable start and had to work very hard to survive.

A soldier and a farmer

When Maria was finally allowed by court to marry her beloved Jonas Andersson (see chapter 5), 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 left for mustering in Skillingaryd, where he was duly recruited for the artillery (Jönköpings Regemente till fot). The year was 1730. When asked were he lived he answered Södra Ekeberg, and maybe that is why he got the soldier’s name Ekstrand. It was common practice to create soldier’s names from a word taken from the person’s place of origin (ek(e)- = oak[forest]) compounded with a word taken from nature, in this case strand. Soldier’s names were special in that they were often handed down with the cottage. Jonas was the first soldier in Mosstugan to take a soldier’s name, so all subsequent soldiers there came to bear the name Ekstrand until the cottage became vacant in 1761 and the next soldier to move in was called Magnus Grönvall.

By Södra Ekeberg. Photo: Margareta Sigbladh 2019.

When asked about his age he seems to have modified the truth somewhat. Maybe it would have been hard for him to get an ensignry if they had known that he was 30 years old. Anyway, he answered 26. This age lie caused a lot of confusing errors in the church registers for the rest of his life, which have made reconstructing his background with certainty unusually difficult. Even though the army tells us that he was two years younger than his wife, most church registers claim that he was 10 years her senior! The truth was that he was two years older than her.

Whatever you do, it is not possible to make all numbers fit; something has clearly gone wrong, and everything points to his being the Jonas Andersson who was born in Bötterarp in Asby peninsula in December 1700 to the farmer Anders Svensson from Fall and his wife Ingeborg Persdotter from Östra Hult. This is indeed the official truth, which is perpetuated on a sign at Bötterarp.

Bötterarp. Photo: Margareta Sigbladh 2019.

A couple of years after his birth his parents moved to the stately neighbouring farm Edstorp, so that was where Jonas grew up. At Edstorp there was a soldier’s cottage called Edsmanshem, and the soldiers from there were called Edsman, Edzman, Essman or (rarely) Edman, a name which Jonas himself would eventually take for himself and his family in later life when they were rising in status. He did not live at Edstorp when he was recruited, however, and consequently this was not the soldier’s name that he received.

Soldiers from the farm Ödesjö on the other side of Bötterarp were called Sjöstrand, and this was the name that Maria and Jonas’ eldest daughter’s husband Johan Larsson Siöstrand used, so it may well be that he came from there.

Sometime between 1706 and 1719 Jonas’ parents moved across lake Sommen to Södra Ekeberg in Malexander parish, where they became neighbours of the Wetterström family who had strong ties to the families Alfort and Gyllenståhl. In this way, Jonas got the chance to become farmhand to capten Erik Alfort at Liljeholmen, where he eventually met Maria.

Södra Ekeberg. Photo: Margareta Sigbladh 2019.

When she became pregnant and had the child Brita Margreta in 1727 she retired to Kopparhult to bear the child, who was baptized there rather than in church, and it is likely that her parents attempted to avoid too much attention around the illegitimate child, as they were still hoping to be able to persuade Maria to marry someone more suitable from their own class. In this they were utterly unsuccessful, and Maria had her second daughter Hedvig Catharina at Helgebo in 1728.

Kopparhult. Photo: Esben Alfort 2019.

What happened during the next two years we do not know. Maybe the couple remained at Helgebo, or settled somewhere else together. The next we hear of them is when Jonas joins the army in 1731 and they move to Mosstugan under Skyttlingebäck, alone in the woods of Askeryd parish, far from family and friends.

Jonas Ekstrand’s life journey.

Throughout the 1730s Jonas seems to have been away with the army for most of the time, at least during the part of the year when the tax collector passed by, leaving Maria at home to care for a growing flock of children in their small cottage. Presumably, he was there at the time of year when the tiny field in the clearing needed plowing, sowing and harvesting, though. There is no doubt that it was very hard work.

Mosstugan. Photo: Esben Alfort 2017.

In 1735 the taxman noted that they were very poor and had five small children. Exactly which children these were, is unfortunately not known to us; Hedvig was there just as Carl Fredrich (b. 1731) and Ulrica (b. 1734), and presumably the first child Brita Margreta was still living even though she is not documented anywhere, but they must have had yet another child which would have been born sometime 1729-1730. The cottage must have been very crowded, and indeed during the years 1735-1737 the number of taxpaying inhabitants is registered as zero. They simply did not have anything left to pay taxes with, and they were not alone; other soldiers in the neighbourhood were in the exact same situation.

Fortunately, Maria’s relationship with her brother Gabriel Ahlfort 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, Sophia (b. 1736), and though we do not know whether she survived there is no doubt that the removal to Gunnarstorp was a turning point for the family; they now had a reasonable chance of giving their children a future to look forward to. In addition, the fact that the farm was freed of taxes must have been a big advantage. Jonas had recently become a vice corporal. He still represented Mosstugan, but his wife and children could live wherever they wanted, and no one would protest if he farmed at Gunnarstorp when he was back from the army rather than staying at Mosstugan. Gunnarstorp became the foundation for this family branch for many generations.

Gunnarstorp. Photo: Esben Alfort 2017.

Their new farm may in fact have saved them at the last moment, because in 1739-1742 Sweden was hit by severe crop failures. The soil only yielded a third of normal capacity, leaving many destitute and famined. On top of this, Maria bore another four children, Eric Gabriel (b. 1739), Carl Hindric (b. 1740), Axel Ulric (b. 1744) and Reinhold (b. 1746), so they had a lot of mouths to feed. One of their children died in 1741, but unfortunately we do not know who that was, as no name is given.

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

7 of their 10 children were still living in 1753 when Maria’s mother decided to write her last will: Hedvig, Fredrich, Ulrica, Eric, Ulric and Reinhold. Brita Margreta, Sophia and the child whose name is completely unknown to us must have died before that year.

Jonas is registered as a corporal in the Jönköping infantry until 1741 when he falls ill, possibly as a result of malnutrition caused by the famine. He is then replaced by a fresh 22-year-old, Erik Pärsson, or Erik Ekstrand as he is henceforth called. Before his dismissal Jonas seems to have been given the title of rustmästare, which involved having responsibility for weapons and ammunition.

Noble farmers

It seems that even during these years of hardship Maria never gave up on her attempts to hold on to the social standing she had been born to. She was trying to brand herself and her family as upper-class, not wanting to be considered a mere soldier’s or farmer’s wife but someone who had higher claims. In Askeryd she sometimes appears with the epithet ”adel”, i.e. noble, which is of course incorrect. One wonders whether she put about the rumour herself. It is not so far from the truth, even though her father’s appeal for nobility was rejected, because her mother was indeed a noblewoman. If her father could not achieve nobility in spite of his long military career and his marriage to a noblewoman, however, then she could hardly really have harboured any such aspirations on the part of her own lowly husband. He generally had to make do with the less flattering epithet ”fattig”, i.e. poor.

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

They did end up owning noble land, and it is even possible that they somehow succeeded in acquiring a sort of lower nobility status in connection wih this ownership, because when their granddaughter Magdalena Edman married in 1819 she was called frälsemannadotter, i.e. a (lower) nobleman’s daughter. It is not clear whether this was true, or how her father had in that case acquired such a title. Indeed he is never mentioned with that title anywhere himself.

One thing she did to encourage an impression of their family as someone who had connections in higher circles, was to give all of her children names which would have been perfectly acceptable in those circles, rather than the names used in Jonas’ family such as Sven, Anders and Ingeborg, which one would otherwise have expected to have been chosen.

It was not until her mother died in 1754 that Maria was told that her parents had disinherited her, and this seems to have shocked her. On the other hand she did not know that her mother had in the end decided that her children were to inherit either. She could keep Gunnarstorp, as her brother had persuaded their mother that she ought to be able to keep what had been her home for more than a decade.

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 her son Gabriel helped her.

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.

Translated from Swedish

The noble cottage Lövingsborg outside Skänninge town she had not wanted to give to Maria; instead she had bequeathed it to her favourite grandson Gustaf Ståhlgren, illegitimate son of Carl Henric Ahlfort who had died in the war in Finland, but Gabriel had protested, claiming that the estate was not of a legal type to allow such a bequest away from the main family line. Presumably this was because it was noble land and therefore could only be owned by nobility.

The noble land (frälseutjord) Lövingsborg has been donated by the deceased Captain’s wife to the schoolboy Gustaf Ståhlgren, but is contested by Captain Ahlfort for the reason that the estate was not of a type that it could be given away.

Translated from Swedish

Apart from Lövingsborg cottage and its fields she owned a town field in Östra Pålslyckan to the west of Lövingsborg, as well as right of claim on two fields there and at one of Skänninge town’s paddocks. Presumably this came with the cottage.

In the end it was Maria who got Lövingsborg after all, much against her mother’s wishes in life. She and Jonas probably never lived there, but the tax collector registers her as owner 1756-1758. After that she left it to their eldest daughter Hedvig, who had married in 1756 on receiving her unexpected inheritance. By then she was using her new stylish surname Edman, which Jonas had taken at some point, perhaps on leaving the army, perhaps when they inherited and rose in society, or perhaps when they started to move about in Skänninge town – we only know that at Lövingsborg Maria is called the wife of former rustmästare Jonas Edman. As mentioned above, this name probably came from his childhood home Edstorp, but it could also have been inspired by the Edman family in Askeryd, where the vicar’s mother bore that name among others. This family is likely to have a very different origin, however, with roots in the age-old important Edshult manor in Askeryd. It has not been possible to trace Jonas’ ancestry sufficently far back in time to check whether there might possibly be any connection, but it seems rather unlikely.

The new name, the estates and the inheritance together bolstered the family’s respectability and paved the way for some very successful descendants. Maria could be satisfied at last.

Lövingsborg today. Source: Google.

The court tailors

When the eldest daughter Hedvig Edman (4/8 1728 – 24/10 1789) married Johan Siöstrand in Säby in 1756, the morning gift was only 12 lod silver, so he was no rich groom. Presumably she was the wealthier of the two, but she hardly had to worry about her parents complaining about this as her mother had done the exact same thing.

As mentioned, they settled at Lövingsborg, but in 1762 they left the cottage to her younger brother Eric Edman and moved to the Norrköping area. It seems they first settled in Kvillinge north of town, but the sources are highly defective during these years.

By then Hedvig had had a son Carl at Lövingsborg. We only know of one other child, Maria Sophia (b. 1765 at an unknown location), named after Hedvig’s maternal grandmother who had let them inherit at last and secured a future for them.

In 1766 they moved to the cottage Hultet under Lindö estate south of Norrköping town, where Johan subsequently made a living as a tailor for the rest of his life. They were quite poor, but they managed as a respectable tailor’s couple. At their cottage they had a black and white cow, a red cow and a little pig with piglets.

Johan must have been a good tailor, for he is soon mentioned with the title gårdsskräddare, which presumably meant that he was appointed tailor for the royal estate Bråborg close by. His son, who continued the business, was called court tailor, and his marriage was secured by the court tailor Sjöstrand, which must have been the father.

The children and grandchildren in the F branch did not lead easy lives; most were poor workers, many of them day-paid forestry workers in the dark forests of Kolmården, where they would move between various remote sawworks every year in the hope of getting some work in order to survive. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they did not. The second court tailor’s son Carl Johan Sjöstrand became a successfull artist and moved to Stockholm where he founded an international family of artists including the sculptor Carl Eneas Sjöstrand, pianist Gerda Sjöstrand, painter and singer Acke Sjöstrand and his cousin and wife, painter Helmi Sjöstrand.

Acke Sjöstrand. Self portrait.

A living symbol of reconciliation

When the above-mentioned brother of Hedvig, Eric Gabriel Edman (3/3 1739 – 16/11 1827) was named after their deceased maternal grandfather Erik Alfort and their mother’s brother Gabriel Ahlfort, this could be taken as a sign that their parents wished to repair the relationship to the family who had disbanded them after their marriage. Gabriel too contributed to the reconciliation between his mother and his sister and saw to it that she inherited Gunnarstorp in spite of her having been disinherited, and little Eric was also eventually going to benefit from Gabriel’s positive attitude.

Having grown up at Gunnarstorp and then Lövingsborg, Eric settles in the latter cottage 1761-1763. He then moves to Axstad in Högby parish, where he marries the maid Dorothea Magdalena Örnberg, who is presumably a daughter of the jeweler Anders Öhrnberg in Axstad. She is a good match for him, so the morning gift amounts to 30 lod silver and 2 gold ducats – a quite substantial sum. What remains for him now is to get a good job so he can support his family.

He succeeds in getting a position as tax visitor in Skänninge town, which is a highly respected profession. At first, they live in the house of dyer Linquist’s widow in the Sprättebrunn neighbourhood no. 28, where they have their first child in 1764. By 1766 they have moved to the Follinge neighbourhood, and in 1768 they return to Axstad, where he becomes rusthållare for the army. Half of this farm was at one point owned by Gabriel Ahlfort, so perhaps he has once more helped the family afford a proper home.

Eric’s signature at the great partition at Axstad in 1772.

Axstad undergoes the mandatory great partition 1771-1773. All the farm owners meet up in October 1771 in order to inspect the fields and agree on the partition. They are in a hurry because of the approaching autumn, so they quickly measure up the land. When they meet again a week later in order to divide the land between themselves, Eric is dissatisfied with the result and wants to change everything. This engenders a long dispute which takes up the entire day, so he returns home and thinks out a better way of partitioning the area. This idea he presents the next day, and his suggestion is accepted, so presumably Eric’s evening thoughts that day are the reason that the Axstad farms lie the way they do in the landscape to this day.

Eric only owns half of Axstad Södergård, and from about 1777 until 1788 his cousin Brita Fredrica Ahlfort and her husband Esaias Ögnelodh use the other half. They then move to the neighbouring farm Oxlegården, which has earlier been owned by the secretary Eric Uhr, who was married to Gabriel’s eldest daughter.

From 1800 Eric is a tax-paying farmer at Skrukeby Berggård in what was then V. Skrukeby parish. He owns half of the farm.

Eric’s descendants make up the I branch. The son Anders Peter marries a daughter of a lifegrenadier living at the farm and in 1817 takes over his father’s farm. The parents then hire lodgings at Skrukeby Östergård instead. The couple spend their old age at the poor people’s house in Skrukeby.

The inofficial family estate

Maria and Jonas’ children not only grew up at Gunnarstorp; most of them remained there together for life, or returned after a few years. It was really only Hedvig and Eric who moved to Lövingsborg and by that means avoided the by now rather crammed farm. These brothers and sisters had of course been used to living in tiny spaces from childhood, but it was hardly ideal for a whole family of farmers to have to share so little land, even if it was freed from taxes. Some of them improved their chances by buying shares in other farms of the area so they got more land without having to acquire or care for additional farms. However, during the crop failures of 1771-1774 they were all hit very hard, and those who could no longer afford to retain land elsewhere had to return home to the inheritance and share what little there was at Gunnarstorp with their brothers.

Gunnarstorp. Foto: Esben Alfort 2017.

The eldest son Fredrich seems to have done quite well at Gunnarstorp. Presumably he had certain privileges as an eldest son, and his descendants are clearly wealthier and more successful farmers than the other branches from Gunnarstorp. Both Carl and Ulrica’s husband needed to buy more land in order to cope. It could have gone well, if the harvest had not failed for several years in a row. The years 1771-1772 in particular the yields were catastrophically low, and these were followed by two years of famine, epidemics and high mortality. Younger brother Ulric, who had married a maid from the cottage Rubban far out in the forests of the Gransbo estate, was still too young and poor to be able to buy extra land when the crop failures came and destroyed what little they had, so he and his family could simply not survive on it and ended up in the poor people’s house. This was no ideal launching pad for their descendants, the J branch. Things were equally bad for Ulrica’s husband; they started as relatively well-to-do farmers, but due to the crop failures they ended up at Gunnarstorp with her brothers.

Rubban ligger långt ute i ett vilt skogsområde. Foto: Esben Alfort 2019.

A large part of the next generation thus also grew up at Gunnarstorp, and consequently it became a kind of inofficial family estate for the Gunnarstorp branches. It was everything to them.

Highly respected farmers

When the eldest brother Fredrich had grown sufficiently old, he helped his father run the farm. One day he is going to take over Gunnarstorp himself, so it is important that he learn everything.

Gunnarstorp. Foto: Esben Alfort 2017.

In 1759 his parents feel that they are too old to carry on running the farm and let Fredrich take over. The following year he is a wittness at the baptism of his sister Hedvig’s child at Lövingsborg, and there he is called Fredrich Edman. However, back at Gunnarstorp he is simply known as Fredrich Jonsson or Jonasson; it is only in town that a stylish name is a necessary prerequisite. Three years later he marries a fellow farmer’s daughter Catharina Andersdotter from the neighbouring farm Gissnabo. They remain at Gunnarstorp for the rest of their lives.

Old shed at Gissnabo. Photo: Esben Alfort 2019.

One should not be fooled by the fact that they did not move away from where they grew up, however, because Fredrich was much more than just your average farmer. In 1783 he was elected responsible for the Björka district (around a dozen homesteads), and he was also a member of the parish council. That people trusted him is also clear from the fact that he was responsible for the church pews where the people from around Gunnarstorp would sit from 1783 to 1799.

In 1767 he shares Gunnarstorp with his younger brother Reinhold, who however gets a bad fever (possibly the flu?) and dies within the year. After that Fredrich shares the farm with Carl and Ulric and his brother in law Måns Nilsson who has married Ulrica, although the latter couple do not live at Gunnarstorp but rather farm their share of the land from Sutarp under Varvestorp. Each of the brothers (and brother-in-law) has a quarter of the farm at his disposal.

Several of Fredrich’s children also got respectable professions. His eldest son Erich Fredrichson even made it as member of the Swedish Parliament and settled at the beautiful Rås, while another became juryman and church warden. Two daughters married jurymen. There is no doubt that this was a highly respected family with a mind for much apart from farming. They were not particularly wealthy, but nor were they poor either; the children get to share an inheritance of 182 riksdaler after Fredrich’s death.

Rås in Säby. The building are of a later date, but the gates might well be from Erich’s time. Photo: Esben Alfort 2018.

Erich Fredrichson’s political career starts when he becomes a member of the church council (no later than 1802) and in addition is elected one of many overseers at the restoration of the church tower. In 1804 several family members are chosen as district overseers of the parish: The brothers Fredric Månsson of Hyckle and Nils Månsson of Åsvallehult and their cousins, brothers Reinhold Fredricsson at Gunnarstorp and Erich Fredrichson himself in Rås. All in all the family gets at least 4 out of 17 positions. Another brother, Gustaf Fredricsson of Tokarp, is elected member of the church council. So this is a locally very important family of farmers.

From 1805 Erich is titled juryman, and 6 March – 9 August 1815 takes part in an extraordinary parliamentary assembly in Stockholm which was called in order to come to terms with Norway with which they were at war. This gives him the right to call himself a member of the Swedish parliament for the rest of his life. Denmark, who had supported the wrong party in the Napoleonic war, had been forced to recede Norway to Sweden in 1814, but the Norwegian people were not particularly keen to become Swedish citizens, so they started a rebellion which led to the Danish prince Christian Fredrik being elected king of a new independent Norway with its own constitution. Sweden refused to recognize their independence and started a war. The rebellion was quelled by the Swedish army, which was led by one of Napoleon’s generals, Bernadotte, who had fled to Sweden. It would be the last time Sweden went to war against another country. At the parliamentary assembly in 1815 a personal union between the two countries was negotiated.

The jews were also discussed at this assembly, and in the end it was decided that Jews may not henceforth move to this country and settle here. There was a financial crisis after the war, and it was comfortable to have someone to blame.

Erich’s success was also to benefit the rest of the G branch, both during his lifetime and at his death. He and his wife Eva had no children, so his fortune was spread among the children of his brothers and sisters:

After the deceased brother Reinhold Fredricsson from Önnestorp in Lommaryd parich, his children: The son Gustaf at Rås, Säby parish; the daughter Eva, married to the crofter Samuel Isacsson at Liljeholmen under Johannesberg in Flisby parish; the daughter Carin, married to the coppersmith Petter Bergmark at Enebo under Ekekulla, Linderås parish,

After the deceased brother Gustaf Fredricsson from Källås in Säby parish, his children: The son Carl in Hårkrankeryd; the daughter Fredrika, married to the yeoman Gustaf Johansson at Bredstorp, Säby parish; the daughter Majastina, married to the yeoman Johannes Zachrisson at Carlslund, Lommaryd parish; the daughter Sophia, married to the yeoman Gustaf Samuelsson at Vinterstorp, Säby parish; the daughter Anna, married to Carl Johansson in Kimstad under Hubbarp, Säby parish; the daughter Hedda, married to the yeoman Johannes Persson in Vippersjö, Linderås parish; and the son Otto, living at Julseryd in Säby parish;

The deceased sister Eva Fredricksdotter, who has been married to Nils Persson from Julseryd Säby parish, their children; the daughter Annamaja, married to the crofter Johannes Andersson at Gölen under Ängaryd, Säby parish;

The deceased sister Stina Fredricksdotter, who has been married twice, viz. first to juryman Lars Larsson, and then to the rusthållare Gustaf Isacsson at Övrabo, Säby parish, her children of the first marriage: The son Gustaf at Hökhult, Lommaryd parish; the daughter Annastina, who is a widow, and living at Nobynäs in Lommaryd parish, who has been married to the deceased tenant Eric Jonsson of Brostorp, Vireda parish; the daughter Eva, married to the former juryman Jonas Jonasson, now living at Noby in Lommaryd parish,

and the living sister Carin Fredricksdotter at Haga, Marbäck parish.

Translated from Swedish

In addition to this, several named people and pious institutions benefited from the will. For his wealth to be spread over the entire branch in this way of course also gave the branch as a whole a more solid foundation.

The old gates at Rås. Photo: Esben Alfort 2018.

The brother Gustaf Fredricson’s status was confirmed when he married the four year older daughter of a lieutenant Märta Törne. They settled at her brother’s army estate Tokarp, where Gustaf eventually became both mamber of the church council, juryman and church warden. When his wife died in tuberculosis at the age of 50, Gustaf moved to Bredstorp Norrgård, which he owned together with Erich. Gustaf’s son Gustaf Adolf then moved to Rås.

There is no doubt that Gustaf Fredricson’s first marriage was advantageous; Märta belonged to old nobility and contributed a fairly large amount of money to the couple’s wealth. As a consequence, he was a quite popular with the marriageable women when she died, and in 1822 the then 47 years old Gustaf married the 19-year-old Eva Lotta Andersdotter. She too seems to have come from a relatively wealthy family; her brother had another army estate called Äpplaryd. Once more Gustaf settled on a farm which had come to him from his wife’s family, viz. her parents’ own farm Källås Norrgård, which he was allowed to take possession of immediately. His father moved to the farm’s retirement home, where he died shortly after.

After 10 years of being married to his young wife, Gustaf suddenly died in a tragic accident on a cold evening of February 1832. He had just returned from a ride and was about to water his horse when he slipped on the ice by the well and fell head first onto the pump. Nobody was around, so the accident was not discovered until the following morning.

Gustaf left 9 children living. The eldest son Johan Gustafsson was also a highly respected man. He was a juryman like his father and is said to have been very religious.

Anders Johan Gustafsson. Portrait kindly provided by Chris-Marié Wessels.

It must therefore have come as a shock when he and his wife Hedvig Zachrisdotter suddenly had to send away their maid to another parish in order to have her child, for might not Johan be the father of the child?

Hedvig Zachrisdotter. Portrait kindly provided by Chris-Marié Wessels.

The couple later adopted the child, and it is of course possible that they just did this as an act of charity and kindness, wanting to help a young girl who had had a child ”by mistake”. They had no children of their own, so one possibility is that Hedvig could not have children and was glad to have one in this alternative way.

What makes it all a bit suspicious is the fact that after a few years they appear to flee, perhaps from rumours true or false, to Stockholm, where they stay for a while before emigrating to South Africa.

Until I contacted the descendants there, they were unaware that the 14 year old daughter Anna Charlotta who emigrated with her parents in 1844 was at the very least not the biological child of both of them. Even at her death she is claimed to have been born in Stockholm, which is demonstrably incorrect, so it is likely that her true origins were kept as a secret, perhaps even from Anna Charlotta herself.

Anna Charlotta with her husband Adolph Andreas Krogman. Photo kindly provided by Chris-Marié Wessels.

Anna Charlotta was to play an important role among the pioneers of South Africa, and she proved herself to be a strong and bold woman during the Anglo-Boer War. Her farm Driefontein was right on the battlefield at the battle of Elandslaagte in 1899, and her cattle were confiscated by the army, but she did not allow herself to be subdued; she demanded a compensation.

Anna Charlotta and Adolph Andreas Krogman’s home Driefontein.

Possibly the most economically opportunistic and astute Natal Afrikaner woman was the 74-year-old Annie Charlotte Krogman of Driefontein, Ladysmith. Krogman was forced to leave her farm when it became the scene of hostilities. The Boer forces allowed her to proceed to the farm of her son Andries Krogman in the [Oranje Free State]. Krogman maintained that the seizure of her 500 mixed head of cattle, three spans of oxen, 1 600 sheep, 500 goats, 15 horses and two wagons by the military left her destitute. Closer inspection by the Natal colonial authorities exposed Krogman’s claim as not entirely true. The British had only taken 281 head of cattle for which a receipt was issued, while the Boer forces had commandeered the horses, one wagon and the greater part of the sheep and goats. Since Krogman owned 16 000 acres and received £250 for mining rights on one of her farms and was awaiting compensation from the military she was not regarded as destitute. Her daughter, who was married to John de Waal, fully agreed with the Natal Government’s decision. This did not break the stride of the elderly Mrs Krogman, who now claimed that five of her oxen were running with the cattle of J van der Westhuizen, and that the Boers had commandeered nine large oxen from her. She was also quick to intervene on behalf of her imprisoned rebel son, Otto, demanding rent from the Africans placed on his farm Margate, by the military.

Johannes Michiel Wasserman (2005), The Natal Afrikaner and the Anglo-Boer War.
Anna Charlotta Krogman. Photo kindly provided by Chris-Marié Wessels.

In the end, the most famous member of the G branch by far is however Johan’s brother’s great-great grandchild, world-famous actress Greta Garbo.

Greta Garbo in 1924.


Ulrica married the farmhand Måns Nilsson from Klosterås on receiving the inheritance from her grandmother. The morning gift was 30 lod silver, which was fairly average. He was born at Romanäs but lived at Klosterås with his family, and that was where they settled. He was allowed to take possession of half of the land, while his brother Anders was given the other half until 1763 when Måns took over it all.

In 1770 the handed over the keys of Klosterås to baroness Charlotta Wrangel and moved to Sutarp (now gone), as they had bought half of Varvestorp in the form of this farm from the curate’s widow Juringia. They also continued farming a quarter of Gunnarstorp.

Varvestorp. Photo: Esben Alfort 2017.

They were soon hit hard by the crop failures. In 1772 the yield was once again only a third of the soil capacity, so in 1773 they returned to Gunnarstorp full-time. Presumably they could no longer afford owning Sutarp as well, so they had to settle for their tax-free share of Gunnarstorp. It was a very difficult time. They had five sons, who all went on to become rather poor farmers, and who make up the core of the H branch. Their son Reinhold Månsson eventually took over half of Gunnarstorp.

The youngest brother Carl was born in 1740, after the removal from Mosstugan to Gunnarstorp. He was named after his uncle Carl Henric Ahlfort who died as a soldier in Finland a few months earlier. Carl too grew up to become a farmer at Gunnarstorp along with his older brother, despite being described as handicapped. He also succeeded in getting a wife who could help him on the farm; her name was Sara Ericsdotter, and she came from Djurafall in Linderås parish. He was 42 years old when they married, whereas she was 10 years his junior. They had no children, but they did have 2 cows, 4 sheep with 3 lambs and 1 little pig at Gunnarstorp when he died in 1813. They were not so poor as one might expect. Firstly, they inherited 1000 riksdaler from his grandmother just like his brothers and sisters, and that would have helped immensely, but they probably also worked hard. They even succeeded in buying part of Djurafall Norrgård, where Sara settled after his death. However, she died of a chest fever soon after.

Chapter 7, Life and death on the seven seas, tells the fascinating story about captain Gabriel Ahlfort and his voyages to Indonesia, India and Mecca.

Selected sources for chapter 6

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

icon-check   02-12-2023