Who is Miss Ruth Nystrom of Arleta?

By David Anderson (photo credit Jane Åmark-Vikman)

People who know me know I have an interest in Mount St. Helens and collect old postcards illustrating the mountain and surrounding area. I could give a dissertation on postal history and variations in cards using this image of the mountain since I have several in my collection. However, what prompted me to obtain this 1911 card at a recent postcard show was the addressee on the card:  Miss Ruth Nystrom in Arleta, Oregon. I know Arleta is a district in Portland. But who was she? The surname Nystrom certainly indicates Swedish roots. 

I know from the card mailed from Brush Prairie, north of Vancouver, Washington, on 25 Feb 1911, she is unmarried since ‘Miss’ is used. Another person named in the card is Ernest who “is learning the auto biz.”  So, a younger person starting to learn a trade is part of her family.

There is only one Ruth Nystrom living in Portland in the 1910 U.S. Census who was born about 1893 in Minnesota. She is the daughter of the Clergyman Bengt S. and Emma O. Nystrom both of whom were born in Sweden. She just happens to have a brother Ernest who is about two years older than she is. In 1920 she is still living in Portland and is a teacher. Her parents are now living in Lackamas, Clark County, Washington.

I now want to find where her parents, Bengt and Emma were born in Sweden.

I learn that Ruth went to China in August 1920 as a teacher on behalf of the Augustana Synod Mission, and returned in 1923 where she lived in Brush Prairie, Washington. On her return from China, she completed an Application for Registration – Native Citizen for the U.S. Department of State. In that document she names her father (Rev) B S Nystrom who was born October 13, 1857, in Sweden. There is a discrepancy between this date and the entry in Find a Grave for her father. The entry shows an entirely different date from the photo of his headstone. The date on the headstone agrees with the information Ruth entered on her application, but the date entered is September 13, 1857, and the birth parish is “Nasum, Bromölla kommun, Skåne län, Sweden.” So, which date is correct?

I like using ArkivDigital when doing research in Swedish records, and I turned to that database to help answer the question of where Ruth’s father was born. Nasum should be Näsum, and knowing how and where to use the correct Swedish vowels is particularly important. There are no Bengts born in Näsum on September 13, 1857. There is a Bengta, and she is definitely not our Bengt. Using Bengt’s name and birthdate of October 13, 1857, I find three possibilities with two Bengts born in Blekinge, and one born in Kristianstad, a part of Skåne.

I go back to the hints for Bengt in Ancestry.com and find a listing from the Geneanet Community Trees Index. This Index, like entries in Find a Grave, is a secondary source of information. Any data found there needs to be compared with information from primary sources, such as the Swedish church records found in the ArkivDigital database. The Geneanet Community Trees Index entry gives Bengt’s birth location as Hillehaga, Oppmanna, Kristianstad, which is also confirmed with both the 1857 birth record and household survey records from Oppmanna parish.

From the Swedish church records, I can easily confirm Ruth’s mother, Emma Olivia Borell, was born August 2, 1858, in Horn, Östergötland.

The lessons learned from a postcard of Mount St. Helens used in 1911 are: (1) genealogical data based on secondary information must be verified with information from primary sources and (2) learning how to type the correct Swedish vowels needed to find the correct information.

Swedish Roots in Oregon genealogists Ann Stuller and David Anderson are here to help you in your search of your Swedish ancestors. We assist on a donations basis, and can be reached via e-mail at genealogy@swedishrootsinoregon.org

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