Hilda Maria Winberg (born April 9, 1872) was the oldest of four children born to Bernard and Ingrid-Marie Winberg. She had two brothers, Viktor Emanuel (b 1874) and Bernhard Reinhold (b 1876) and a sister Amelie Naemi Adele (b 1880) Her aunt Hedvig (daughter of Hilda’s sister) also lived with them while she was growing up in Karlskrona. Hedvig was about 16 years old when Hilda was born and helped with the household and children. When Hilda was a teenager, they moved from Karlskrona to rural Gothenburg where many of the industrial workers resided.
In the late 1800’s Gothenburg was a large, modern, industrial city whose population had grown tenfold since the turn of the century. Anders Johan Tornberg (born October 1, 1869) was a shoemaker working in Gothenburg. He and Hilda met – when and how we do not know – and were married on November 7, 1891 he was 22 years old, she was 19.
In August of 1892 their first child was born. By the time they left Sweden in 1917 Hilda had given birth to at least ten more babies, five of whom died very young.
- Elsa Viola Henrietta – born August 19, 1892. Elsa emigrated in 1910, accompanying two younger cousins (ages 10 and 7) to the United States.
- Ingrid Angelina – born May 3, 1894, died May 5, 1894 of innate weakness.
- Rosa Androwna Marietta – born March 25, 1895. Rosa married in 1914 and stayed in Sweden until 1919. The ship’s manifest shows that Rosa arrived in New York with her husband, son, daughter and her sister Barbro.
- Carl Johan – born November 8, 1896, died November 10, 1896 – I can’t decipher what his cause of death was.
- Astrea Oskara Emanuel – born December 1, 1897. Astrea emigrated with her parents in 1917.
- Arnold Sixten Marina – born February 2, 1899. Arnold came to the US in 1922, but returned to Sweden soon after.
- Barbro Sirene Gabriella – born May 15, 1900, died July 14, 1901 of bronchitis
- Tage Helge Lennart Minothi – born August 3, 1901. Lennart came to the US in 1919 but eventually returned to Sweden.
- Barbro Syrene Dalase – born January 10, 1903, died June 27, 1903 of measles
- Bror Jarl Osvald – born April 3, 1904, died May 22, 1904 – I can’t decipher what his cause of death was.
- Barbro Elviy Ros-Mari – born February 20, 1917. Barbro was raised by her sister Rosa. She came to the US in 1919, eventually moving back to Sweden.
Below are the death certificates for the youngest children. (Click on the thumbnail, which will open in a separate window. Then click on it again to enlarge it). If any of you can decipher the causes of death, please let me know. I’d love to update the family history.
In November of 1895, Anders traveled alone to the US, leaving Hilda to care for their two young daughters.. There isn’t much information about this trip so I’m not sure how long he was here. Perhaps he was denied entry and that’s why there are minimal records and references. In January of 1911 Anders traveled to the US again. Hilda stayed home with four children, the oldest would have been 16-year old Rosa. Perhaps he wanted to check on his firstborn Elsa, who had sailed in 1910, or perhaps he was visiting his brother and sister-in-law, Sven and Alma Tornberg who emigrated to the Boston area in 1903.
When I was growing up, I always knew that Nana had two sisters and two brothers so I was surprised to find out that she actually had three sisters, Elsa, Rosa and Barbro. I knew there was a Barbro (Americanized as Barbra), but I didn’t know her as one of my Aunts. As you can see, Barbro was a ‘late in life’ baby. Hilda was 44 when she was born. By that time Rosa was married with a two-year old son and for some reason Barbro was left with Rosa’s family when Anders, Hilda and Astrea emigrated.I do not know if Barbro knew she was Rosa’s sister, or if she grew up believing that Rosa was her mother. I do not know why Hilda left Barbro with Rosa. Perhaps she was sick at that time, remember she only lived to 1926. Perhaps her body was worn down due to a combination of the number of births and her age.
What prompted Anders and Hilda to leave Sweden? Why did they take Astrea and leave Barbro? Good questions – but we may never know the answers. Perhaps they left because of what was happening in the spring and summer of 1917 in Sweden. The country was characterized by hunger rebels, the struggle for women’s right to vote and protests for peace.
The shot in Sarajevo started the first World War in 1914. Sweden already imported cereals and there was no concern about securing the import of grain when the war began. In 1916 the harvest failed and grain was lacking. Exports of meat continued because Sweden was paid double by the war countries. The consequence was that there was neither bread nor meat. In addition, the proletariat in Russia revolutionized which inspired Swedish left activists. Demonstrations occurred in many of the cities in April and May, about not only grain and peace, but also demands for equal voting rights because women did not have the right to vote. In most of the large cities there were activities. In Stockholm, Västervik, Uppsala, Halmstad and Gothenburg there was a riot of police officers calling for military assistance. Almost 50,000 were demonstrating in Gothenburg and Sweden’s military power was in the highest preparedness.
If they were hoping for a calmer atmosphere in the US, they were certainly disappointed. At the request of President Woodrow Wilson, the US Congress declared war on Germany in April resulting in a mandatory draft for men from 21-30 years old into military service, soon after expanding draft eligibility to ages 18 to 45. Suffragists were holding demonstrations across the US demanding that women be given the right to vote. In August of 1917, food rationing began. Anders and Hilda must have felt like they weren’t any better off here. There was a large Swedish community here and they had many family members nearby, so I’m sure they drew comfort from being close to friends and family. I imagine it was a difficult time for them. Especially Hilda, having left her baby girl behind.
By 1920 Anders, Hilda, and their son Lennart lived in a rented apartment in Brockton, MA. Anders, now 51 years old (the census lists his age as 48), was a stitcher in a Cobbling Shop. Hilda, 47 years old, was a stitcher in a shoe factory. Although he was 18 years old, there is no occupation listed for Lennart. None of them had begun the naturalization process. Hilda died in Brockton in 1926. By 1930 Anders was living with his daughter Astrea, her husband and three children, along with Astrea’s widowed step-mother. He was working in a shoe shop, spoke english, and had filed his Declaration of Intention for US Citizenship. By 1940 he was 71 years old and was renting a room at a rooming house in Brockton. According to the census he had no job, but had ‘other income’. It also states that his residence in 1935 was the same place so he had been there for years. There were four other lodgers, ranging in age from 30-56. Anders died in 1943. He and Hilda are buried in Melrose Cemetery in Brockton MA.
I want to give a big Thank You to my cousin Crister Anderson who lives in Sweden and has become my translator. We have been coordinating our research and much of the content for this story was contributed by him. There are many more stories to come! I want to follow each of these ‘children’ and tell you what we know about their lives. If you have any special requests – let me know. Thanks for visiting!