Skip to main content
swenson center logo


Magdalena Persson Mårtensson letters, 1883–1951


Collection Title:    
Magdalena Persson Mårtensson letters

Collection Number:    
MSS P:25

1883–1951 and undated (bulk 1883–1929)

1 box (.25 linear feet)

Swedish (bulk), English

Mårtensson, Magdalena Persson, 1854–1929
Mårtensson, Nils, 1853–1937

Subject Headings:    
Persson, Maria, 1866–1924 
Persson, Kristina, 1868–1950 
Mårtensson, Lars, 1835–1920
Mårtensson, Ola (O.W. Marten), 18xx–1936. 
DeKalb, Ill.–History
Emigration & immigration—Swedish—United States
Inheritance and succession
Letters—19th century
Letters—20th century
Malmöhus län (Sweden)
Modernization, globalization, and social transformation
Swedish Americans—Illinois.

Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Letters from relatives of Magdalena Persson Mårtensson in Sweden and the United States concerning financial matters and legal issues of inheritance. The letters also describe the living conditions in Sweden during the late 19th and early 20th century and the experience of an ordinary family in Sweden during and after the First World War. The collection gives insight into trans-Atlantic communication during the height of Swedish emigration to the United States. 


Conditions Governing Access:    
Collection is open for research.

Reproduction and Use:    
Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the Swenson Center and the copyright holder. 

Preferred Citation:    
[item identification], in MSS P:25 Magdalena Persson Mårtensson letters, Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. 


The collection was received by Kermit Westerberg on September 4, 1981. The letters were received from Mrs. Floyd A. Johnson of DeKalb, Illinois. Mrs. Johnson is a descendant of Magdalena’s husband Nils Mårtensson. 

Source of Acquisition:    
Collection donated by Mrs. Floyd A. Johnson of DeKalb, Illinois in September of 1981.

Prior to 2019, the collection was titled “Nels Martinson and Magdalena Persson papers.”

Processed By:    
Finding aid written by Victor Trollsås, 2019 following DACS description convention.


Administrative/Biographical History:
Magdalena Persson Mårtensson was born in Sjörup parish, Malmöhus län on January 24, 1854 to the farmer Anders Jonsson. Nils Mårtensson (Nels Mortenson upon arrival in America) was born in Baldringe parish, Malmöhus län on January 1, 1853. Magdalena married Nils on June 7, 1881 and they arrived in America from Sweden in 1882 together with their son Alfred and settled in DeKalb, Illinois. He was born in 1881 in Säby parish, Malmöhus län. Magdalena and Nils had their second son, Mauritz, in 1887 in DeKalb. 

Upon arrival in America, Magdalena had regular correspondence with her relatives in Sweden, mostly with her uncle (on her mother’s side) Lars Mårtensson, her sisters Maria Persson and Christina Persson. Magdalena also had some correspondence with her other uncle (on her mother’s side) Ola Mårtensson (O.W. Marten upon arrival in America) and her cousin Mathilda O. Rosendahl in Helsingborg, Sweden.

Magdalena died on January 24, 1929 and Nils on July 26, 1937.

Scope and Content:    
This collection contains letters written primarily to Magdalena Persson Mårtensson (nicknamed Malena) and her husband Nils between 1883 and 1929. Some of the letters are written to her husband Nils and her children in the aftermath of her death in 1929. Some of the letters are written in the 1930s and 1950s during which Magdalena’s youngest sister Kristina dies. 
The letters contain information about various people related to or known to Magdalena and about recent events in her home parish and nearby Skåne, Sweden. 

The bulk of the letters are written by her uncle Lars and sisters Maria and Christina regarding issues of financial matters, such as whether the land inherited from their uncle Nils should be leased instead of sold due to harsh economic conditions in Sweden. The letters also contain vivid information about ordinary life in the countryside of southern Sweden during the early 20th century, the impact of industrialization of the Swedish economy, the First World War and the following social and economic crises of the 1920s. 

The collection also contains other types of records, such as power of attorneys for settling matters of inheritance, statements of economic activities, wills, a funeral prayer card, and obituaries. Most of the letters are written in Swedish, but some are in English.

System of Arrangement:
This collection is arranged by sender, in chronological order. 

Collection Inventory:    

Folder 1. Biographical records. 1 certificate of naturalization for Nils Martenson in English dated October 9, 1888.

Folder 2. Letter from Johanna Österlund (previously Nilsson), Rosenhäll, Sweden. 1 letter in Swedish, dated April 1, 1883.

Folder 3. Letters from uncle Lars Mårtensson, Sjörup, Sweden. 22 letters in Swedish dated 1883–1915.

Folder 4. Letters from sister Maria Persson, Skivarp, Sweden. 11 letters in Swedish dated 1903–1915; 1 letter of attorney dated 1914; 1 envelope.

Folder 5. Letters from sister Christina Persson, Skivarp, Sweden. 17 letters in Swedish dated 1919–1929.

Folder 6. Letters from cousin Mathilda O. Rosendahl, Helsingborg, Sweden. 4 letters dated 1921: 2 in Swedish, 2 in English.

Folder 7. Letters from uncle Ola Mårtensson (O.W. Marten), in 1883 from Silverton, Oregon, in 1898 from Salina, California, in 1919 from San Francisco. 8 letters between 1883–1919 and undated: 6 in Swedish and 2 in English. Some letters are incomplete. 

Folder 8. Correspondence concerning settling of estates after: 
-    Nils Jacobsson (uncle of Magdalena on her father’s side), ca. 1885.
-    Per Mårtensson (uncle of Magdalena on her mother’s side), 1914.
-    Lars Mårtensson, ca. 1920.
-    Magdalena Persson Mårtensson, 1929.
-    Ola Mårtensson, 1936.
-    Maria Persson, 1924 & Christina Persson, 1951. 
2 letters of attorney, 11 letters, 3 envelopes, 1 obituary, 1 letter of financial statement.

Folder 9. Letters after the deaths of Magdalena and Nils, and another. 1 funeral prayer card of Mrs. Nels Martinson; 2 letters in English addressed to Mr. Andrew D. McArthur dated 1921 and undated; 2 incomplete letters undated; 1 letter in Swedish to “mor sister” (aunt) Christina from Mauritz dated July 26, 1937.

Join our mailing list!

Enter your email and we will keep you up to date!