Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Johnson & Johnson

When Anna Olivia Johnson married Carl Johan Johnson in Manchester, Connecticut in 1895 it was not only the beginning of a new branch of our family tree, it was also a recipe for confusion for future generations of family historians, or at least for me.

1-Johan Albin Johnson, 2-Mathilda Alfina Johnson, 3-Carl Oskar Johnson
4-Anna Olivia Johnson, 5-Unknown

Anna Olivia Johnson, like my great-grandmother Mathilda Alfina and the rest of their sisters, was born with the last name Martensdotter because they were born in Sweden at a time when children were given the last name that indicated their lineage as children of their father. This is called patronymics. Their father was Marten Johansson, so their last names were Martensdotter for the girls and Martensson for the boys. I don't know for sure when Anna and her siblings started using Johnson as their last name, but I believe it was probably as they immigrated to America. Only one of their siblings stayed in Sweden and he continued to use the last name Martensson.

Johan is as popular a name in Sweden as John is here, so it is no surprise that there are many Swedish Johnsons in the United States and when Anna married Carl it meant that her maiden name and married name were both Johnson, something that gave me fits for a little bit as I sorted out who was who. At first I assumed (I know, I know) that all of the other Johnsons in Anna's plot were her husband's family, but I realized later that one of the Johnson men is a brother, Johan Albin, who never married and the other couple are Anna and Carl's son and his wife.


Anna Olivia Johnson, my great-grandmother's sister
Carl J. Johnson, Anna's husband
Johan Albin Johnson, my great grandmother's brother.

Ragnar Wilbert Luther Johnson was one of Anna and Carl's twin sons.
Dorothy May Bentley was Wilbert's wife.

I didn't even realize my mistake until I found Johan Albin on a census, listed as one of my great-grandmother's boarders, and began to research his life in America. A search for his burial led me back to the plot I had visited a few months earlier. Actually, I'm starting to think that every Johnson in East Cemetery is a relative!

It certainly taught me, though, how even just a fleeting thought you have while doing something as simple as taking photos of headstones can potentially lead to missed opportunities and even big mistakes in your tree.

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