Chicago Swedes Genealogy & Recollections 1871-1933

The Great Chicago Fire and the demand for builders and construction workers attracted many Swedes from 1871 until 1924 when US curtailed the welcome. Chicago became the home of our Swedish family roots in America.

Swedish life for our family began in early 1900 when Albert Källgren emigrated to Chicago from Sollefteå Sweden seeking prosperity and fortune. This blog primarily focuses on the life of my Grandmother Maja Källgren Wittenstrom.

Changing his Swedish name from Källgren to Charlstrom happened during Albert’s application interview for an American passport so he could travel back home to Sweden as a naturalized citizen.

Swedish Tycoon Albert Källgren Chalstrom and his wife Selma and daughter Margaret circa 1912

Albert sent a provocative note to his brother August in Sollefteå Sweden inviting him and his family to join him in Chicago. Twenty five year old Maja decides to take up her Uncle Albert’s invitation and challenge.

Maja’s father died of Pancreatic Cancer in 1921. Perhaps Maja was seeking a relief from her grief? Perhaps her father’s estate distribution may have made the voyage affordable? In 1922 Maja left Sweden to see what the Roaring Twenties in America was all about.

My Grandma Maja arrives in Chicago in 1922 with no plans to stay beyond a visit to see for herself if the claims about America were true. She begins as a registered immigrant.

Genealogy and family history are woven together in story form in my book: My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute.

Published in August 2020 by Amazon Books

This blog entry reflects Maja’s storytelling, documents, images and personal recollections of the author related to Chicago.

Swedes Flock to Chicago. This map shows where groups of Swedes are distributed around the city.
The very Swedish South Shore community in Chicago is located near Lake Michigan.

This blog will shares events thru the beginning of the Great Depression.

Source: Some details of Chicago ethnographic history related to Swedish immigration.

In 1922, Grandma Maja finds Carl Oscar Wittenstrom while attending church in Chicago. After a brief romance they are married and start a family.

Carl Oscar, Delores and Maja Wittenstrom
Two of three children survive and thrive in Chicago.

Carl Oscar Wittenstrom was 100% Swede relocating to Chicago seeking to make his fortune coming from Cadillac Michigan.

Coming from a farm and lumbering community, Carl Oscar tried his hand opening an auto repair shop. An explosion of automobile sales created a demand for mechanics.

Auto mass production meant many cars would need mechanics to keep them going.

Maja and Carl Oscar buy house in a Swedish neighborhood/community known as South Shore.

Maja settles at 7936 South Yates Avenue, Chicago Illinois. Many, like Maja speak Swedish and are intent to keep their language, culture and traditions. The Swedish American cohesion is strong and the intention is to pass along heritage to future generations.
Scandanvian gatherings for Lutfisk often via a church or ethnic society.
Swedish cooking and baking is universal and Chicago supports bakeries and delicatessens.

Carl Oscar dies suddenly of a heart attack in 1932. Maja and children travel to Sweden to grieve and decide how to survive what has become America’s Great Depression.

Maja and children return to Chicago from Sweden to face the Great Depression.

Children returning from Sweden to Ellis Island New York and then take a long train ride to Chicago.
Maja, my mother,-Delores, Peter and Linnea on the way to Chicago to struggle with the Depression.

Maja goes to work as a night nurse as breadwinner. She converts their bedrooms on the second floor for roomers/boarding house

Take a visual image tour as I share photos that represent Swedish life in the Chicago community for Maja and children, and later grandchildren.

Maja completes nursing training in Sweden.
Church life is important to Swedes. Neighborhoods breed friendships and keep traditions and culture alive.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

6 thoughts on “Chicago Swedes Genealogy & Recollections 1871-1933

  1. What a great story. I am making an assumption that the grandson Danny is Donnie grossnickle? And that the Delores in the story ultimately was Dolores grossnickle. If this is in fact correct great job!

    Tommy Benson!


  2. So beautiful .. so inspiring .. I only wish that someday I may be able to make that trip tp my Mother’s and Father’s homeland … but.. years have passed by too quickly , So I am so enjoying this whole page and all of it’s glory presenting the most wonderful traditions and people who made it so. My wonderful young life as the daughter of Swedish born parents was a complete joy and remembering all of those wonderful stories. Christmas was such an anticipated holiday to .look ahead . with all the baking and special tasks to be done and of course …The Glogg’ Daddy always looked forward to that . Beautiful Memories Tack Sa Mycket ! Ingeborg Goud (nee Bryggman )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: