Emigration within Pehrsson family

Catharina and Pehr Olofsson had six sons. Four of them emigrated to North America.

  • Petrus was the first one, left Sweden in July 1903 at the age of 25
  • Johan, christened as Johannes, left Sweden one year later, 1904 and the age of 25
  • Kristoffer left Sweden together with brother Johan, with permission from his guardian, uncle Jonas. He was only 19 year, underaged. At this time both father Pehr and mother Catharina had left the earth. The sons did probably not feel any boundaries to Sweden, the farm would not support all the sons and maybe they also longed for adventure, Petrus may had encourged them.
  • The youngest son in the Pehrsson family, Erik, had to wait some years, but was able to leave Sweden the year of 1905 with the permission of his guardian, uncle Jonas. Erik was to be 17 years old.

The most common first job for immigrants was as tiehacker, a job to chop down and cut trees, for transport to sawmills and sawing them into smaller pieces and then into railway sleepers. The government had started a big railway project to cross the country and labor was needed.


Petrus left in July 1903, with permission of the King and at the age of 25, number two of the children of Pehr and Catharina Olofsson. In his Swedish family he was named “uncle Petter”. In USA he changed the name to Peter or Pete. The surname was Pehrsson, as a son of Pehr, but just before leaving he called himself “Westman”. The reason is unknown, but in my thoughts – he was a man going west -, there was also a maid in their home named Westman who could had inspired him. The reason for his emigration is not really known, but a great grandchild I met in Wyoming, told us that Pete had to escape the country after being involved in a fistfight. Something had happened as Pete was working in a mind up in the north of Sweden. My research has not been able to confirm this story, but a exciting story for a young boy.

With a relocation certificate from the vicar in Nätra parish and admission from “konglig Majestät” – The King – Petrus left the home in Utby, Nätra. Admission from the King was demanded for conscripts. He had gone through the military service the year of 1898. Why did he leave? Maybe bad future prospects was the reason (there were six sons in the family), but in the Swedish family Petrus often was called “adventurer”. Truth or fantasy? Who knows! I think the epithet comes from the fact that Petrus returned to Sweden at least two times and took young men with him.

Petrus entered the steamship Volo in Gothenburg July 13 th 1903, with destination Hull. From there he probably went by train to Liverpool and than by RM/S Commonwealth to Boston, where he arrives 23 th of July. The family name is changed from Pehrsson (the son of Pehr) to Westman. The surname was changed to the more English name Peter.

After just one year in the new country Peter handed in a declaration of intention of being an American citizen. He renounces fidelity to the Swedish King Gustaf V, declares he is not an anarchist or a polygamist. The year of 1911 Peter applies for American citizenship at the court of Fremont County Wyoming. He had lived in Wyoming since 1906 and fulfilled the demands for being a citizen. The same year he had joined a lottery for homesteading on land in the Wind River Valley, out of the wilderness, land that was meant for Indian Reservation. The area was 160 acre and he felt very lucky. Immediately he started to build a modest two room, sod-roofed log cabin.


Johannes was a two years younger brother of Petrus, born in 1879. He made his military service the year of 1900. One year after Petrus, Johannes left his home country. He got the permission from the King in May 1903, but his relocation certificate is dated one year later. Why he waited one year I can only guess. Mother Catharina died March 1904, maybe Johannes waited this year to help her with the farm. Johan returned to Sweden in February 1921, visited brother Jonas, but just after some months moved to Stockholm. He married Helga, born in Lidköping and they lived there in different places the rest of their life. I have wondered how they met. In my research I found Helga working and living at the “Stadshotell”, so my theory is they met at the hotel in Örnsköldsvik just after he arrived from America. In Stockholm Johan practised bakery and had a cofféshop. Johan and Helga got one daugther, named Ulla. Her – “The girl from Stockholm!” – visited Högbyn, Arnäs the year of 1930 a big event among the children of Karin, with several stories, involving my mother. The family Johan Westman visited Utby serveral times, escpecially during harvest time, a possibility for Johan to walk around, remembering his birthplace and childhood. Helga became a common guest in Nätra and Arnäs, sometimes with Johan and family sometimes alone. Her last visit, I think, was 1972, when she together with my grandmother and aunt Gertrud visited me and my newborn baby – Karin-.

Johan/Johannes Pehrsson/Westman in military uniform, year 1900, number: 173 192/1900, infantryman
Helga, daughter Ulla, 10 years and Johan Westman, 1931
Johan in old days with a body marked by rheumatism


Kristoffer went together with Johan, but he used the family name “Olofsson”, the family name for his father – Pehr Olofsson – in the emigration documents. Why? All those changes of names gives you difficulties when researching. Kristoffer was young, needed the permission from his guardian, uncle Jonas.

Both Johannes and Kristoffer left the country from Gothenburg in June 1904 with destination Duluth. In the act of Kristoffer he is noted as passenger (medåkande), meaning he went together with someone, his brother. They landed in Boston and informed the authority they have a brother (Pete) taking care of them, probably a big bonus.

Kristoffer started, like most of the immigrants, as a tiehacker, but got rather soon tired of that kind of physical work. He met Christina, married her, became stepfather to her children – Rose and Arthur – got two sons with Christine – Wallace and Jonnie – . He lived most of his life in count Dade in Florida, renting rooms (some stories says he was a “hotel owner”). Of what I heard he also had an orange farm.


Erik Pehrsson had probably longed for the time to unite with the brothers in North America. In the year 1905 he left Sweden with the permission of his guardian, uncle Jonas. He had not gone trough the military service. He left Sweden from Stockholm, got onboard on the vessel United States in Christiania (Oslo) and landed in New York in September 1905.

After a tough period working in the forest of Wyoming, he moved to San Francisco California, worked as plasterer. He met Ida from Eskilstuna, they got married, lived in Los Angeles, where two children was born – Ingrid 1926 and Edit 1928 -. The family moved to Fresno, where they bought some land. Eric became a farmer.

Eric sent in his declaration of intention in November 1927, 39 years old and only one month later his petition of naturalization. At the same time he announced the change of name to Edward (Ed) Westman.

Eric and Ida got two more children – Elsie (1929) och Werner (1931) -. Werner visited Sweden and his father´s place of birthday in connection with the military service in Germany in the summer of 1950. At that time Ida took the time to see her relatives in Eskilstuna and also Örnsköldsvik, where she joined her son Werner. Eric and Ida lived in Fresno, California until the death of Eric, 1959.

A picture from USA showing brothers of Märta just after son Emil arrived. From left: Johannes, Erik, Kristoffer, Emil and Petrus