Life of
Brita Kristina Gidlöf

Brita Kristina Gidlöf
Nov 30, 1886 - Feb 14, 1972

Brita Kristina was born November 30, 1886 in Gideaberg, Edsele, Vasternorrlands lan, Angermanland. We know very little about her early life.

For those who possess the now "famous" family picture, she is the child in the back row, second from the right. This means that she was the fifth child or the fourth living child, and the second oldest girl.

The family was very poor and Brita had to go to work when she was only seven years old. A "rich" family nearby employed her as a "domestic helper". She cooked, cleaned, and took care of the employer's many children. Evidently, they were very undisciplined and used to curl up their toes making it difficult for her to put on their socks.

Brita has told us stories about the Laplanders with their many herds of reindeer and we know that Brita was good at skiing and could ski using only one foot.

Brita Kristina didn't got much schooling. She was entering school in 1900 and began grade 2. She only went to school for 1 year, she left school in December 6, 1901. She could read, although not well. In her old age, she enjoyed reading little articles from a magazine called "The Reader's Digest" in English.

Brita told us that her father, Anders, was a shoemaker and was gone for long periods of time. He travelled to nearby farms making shoes for the whole family. I have learned that Anders died of a heart condition in 1905.
Following his death, the family was obviously struggling. There were many children to feed and no father. It was decided that Brita Kristina should go to America to get married.

On August 17, 1907 she left Edsele and went to Gothenburg where she 6 days later came aboard a steamship called the Calypso which was operated by the Wilson Line.
It was from the deck of the Calypso that she said goodbye to her beautiful Sweden, never to return.
The waters of the North Sea were cold and people were sick. The Calypso reached its destination in Hull, England a few days later. There she transferred to another boat -- the R.M.S. Cymric. It was owned by the White Star Line and was very large (13096 tons). The waters of the Atlantic Ocean were calmer and there was dancing on board. Grandma was asked to dance by a gentleman from First Class. Following the dance, a rude lady informed her that it was inappropriate for an Economy Class passenger like her to dance with someone from First Class.

The boat landed in Boston, Massachusetts on September 6, 1907.
The next thing we know about Brita is that she married Albert Andersson the following day in Monson, Maine on September 7, 1907.
A 1910 census indicates that Albert who was from Nora, Vasternorrlandslan, Angermanland, arrived in America in 1904 - three years earlier than Brita. Although Ellis Island records shows that Albert arrived in America already in 1901, it means that he arrived 6 years before Brita Kristina.
We are currently trying to discover how and when Brita and Albert met. They must have known one another in Sweden.
According to the 1910 Cencus, they lived on Moose Head Lake Road, Monson, Piscataquis county, Maine. They then bought a nice little home on the Greenville Road i Monson.

Evidently, Albert paid for the boat fare to America in 1913 of Brita's sister, Hulda. She lived with Albert and Brita for the winter and then went to Portland to work as a maid. She later married William Gleason on December 31, 1918.

Unfortunately, there are sad events ahead. Brita's beloved husband, Albert, died suddenly on January 12, 1916. According to the Monson, Maine Town Records a rock fell down and fractured his skull, in the slate quarry mine where he worked . Evidently, the company thought so little of labourers that they never even told Brita about his death. They merely deposited the boots that he had worn to work that day on her doorstep after the accident. Grandma cried when she told us this story. She described Albert as a "kind man". Albert was 40 years old, he was 10 years older than Brita.

                         Ada K. Anderson
Brita gave birth to a little baby girl named Ada K. Anderson on July 9, 1913.
We do not know what the middle initial-K-stood for.

She died on February 18, 1916. Her age was 2 years, 7 months, and 9 days.
This means that she died just little more than a month after Albert's death.
Read the newspaperclippings about Albert's accident and the obits here »
Both Ada and Albert are buried in Hillside Cemetery, Monson, Maine.   See grave »

Cause of her death was listed as bronchial pneumonia, cold, and rickets. Rickets is a very "old" disease caused by lack of Vitamin D.
No one ever dies of rickets in the industrial world today. I believe it is associated with extreme poverty.

Now think about where Brita was in her life -no husband, no baby and no way of feeding herself. A woman could not survive without a husband in those days. Enter Albert's younger half-brother (same father, different mother) Olof Axel Andersson (my grandfather). He had immigrated to America on October 13, 1906 from Tjerned, Nora.
Apparently, Olof Axel became Brita's husband shortly after Albert's death. They journeyed to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to get married. See Marriage Certificate

Following the marriage in Winnipeg, they moved to Fort William, Ontario, Canada. The city is located on the north -west shore of Lake Superior. It had a large Swedish population in 1916. Axel's half -sister (same father, different mother), Anna Stina Andersson, her husband, Nils Petter Nilsson and children were living there. We are currently trying to discover the details of the Nilsson family emigration to Canada and ultimately the U.S.A.

My beautiful mother, Irma Katarine Anderson was born on March 14, 1917 in a barn-shaped house on Harkness Street belonging to her aunt Anna Stina Andersson-Nilsson. Evidently, grandma wanted to have a healthy baby and ate lots of Swedish buns while pregnant. My mother was a big baby when she was born.
It is believed that my mother was named after Olof Axel's mother, Katarina Karlstrom. She was the second wife of Per Andersson. I have recently learned that I was named after Olof Axel's grandmother, Carin Mattsdotter, (Katarina's Karlstrom's mother). The spelling of my name has unfortunately been changed to "Karen".

It appears that Fort William was slightly kinder to the Andersons than Monson, Maine. Grandpa was a carpenter who built houses. They were eventually able to buy a few "nice things" like table cloths and a bit of silverware, for the dining room.
Later, during World War One, Olof Axel worked at Canada Car and Foundry. I think they made vehicles for the Canadian troops overseas. It was here that Axel accidentally chopped off the three middle fingers of his left hand with a saw.

The family lived in several houses in an area of Fort William called West Fort eventually settling at 735 Harkness Street.
Brita, Axel and Irma were members of the Swedish Lutheran Church on Pearl Street. Mother wrote her Confirmation exams in the Swedish language.
Both Brita and Axel loved music and enrolled my mother in piano lessons. My mother was a very talented student. Irma married in 1945 and had four children.

Brita Kristina and Family 1952
Irma standing (pregnant with Andrea) Brita on left
holding baby Kalvin, Olof Axel holding Karen

Brita Kristina in our back yard in 1952.
Lilacs in the background

Brita loved and cared for Olof Axel as long as she was able in their little house at 735 Harkness Street in Fort William. Grandpa Olof Axel was difficult man for us children to get to know because he was very quiet. I now think he was quiet and strong. Grandpa died Dec.19, 1968 at 81 years.
Brita moved in with our family when she was old. My youngest sister, Adrienne, took care of her. Hulda and Rita Gleason-Emmons visited Brita, my mother, and our family in around 1969. Brita Kristina died on Feb 14, 1972 at age 86.
My grandmother, Brita Kristina gave me many gifts. She taught me how to knit and sew. She enjoyed smelling the lilacs in the spring and I always think of her when I smell them. I miss her energy.

** Article written by Karen Korpela-Beaujot**
Irma Andersson's oldest daughter
May 2006

A big thank you to Karen for sharing this wonderful information about Brita Kristina and her family.
As I have Karen's permission to make changes and add more info to this article, as we learn more about Brita Kristina, more info have been added and a few corrections have been done!



Back to Brita Kristina