Our Mortenson/Nelson Family History  

The Name

Sweden has used the PATRONYMIC naming system for centuries.   It started to go out of style in the 1860's but even though a law was passed in 1901 ending its use, there are some areas of Sweden where it is still used.

The spelling of names in Swedish is different than in English however the pronunciation is pretty much the same.   Morton in Swedish is Martin or Marten depending on who is doing the spelling.  The a will have a small o above it indicating that it is pronounced like as a long O.  Such as Mårten.  Nelson is Nilsson and Mortenson is Mårtensson.  Under the patronymic system, Nils Martensson and Peter Martensson were both sons of a Marten.  Who is he?  We will find out in time.  Andrew in Swedish is Anders, Swan is Sven and Peter is Per.

It appears that our ancestors followed Swedish tradition prior to coming to America.  Thus the names in the following paragraphs on the families in Sweden are somewhat confusing.   Swedish girls sometimes used the suffix 'dotter' however most of the time when they came to America they appeared to use the 'son' suffix.   In Sweden there normally was a space between the name and suffix, such as Martens dotter or Martens son.  One can see then how Mortenson came about from Martensson.  

The Nelson (female side) family in Sweden.

The Nelson family as we know them were the children of Nels Martensson and Girtrude (Gertrude) Martenssdotter.   They came from Inglestorp, a small town to the east of Storra Herrestad in the county of Kristianstad in southern Sweden.  There were five children in the family.  These included:  

                        Marten                         Nils son  

                        Christina                      Nils dotter

                        Swan                            Nils son

                        Ellen                             Nils dotter

                        Catherine (Kate)            Nils dotter  

The birthdays of Nels and Girtrude were 5 September 1815 and 28 June 1819 respectively.  These dates were derived from an old birthday book belonging to Maude and Mort Mortenson.   Girtrude died in 1869 when Kate was 7 years old.  No further data is available on Nels at this time.  

All five children immigrated to America however Marten returned to his homeland.  The others remained in the Illinois/Iowa area.  

There are three different birthdates, which are possibilities for Marten as there were three of them.  More research is required here.  

Martha Helen has Kate's Swedish bible, which indicates her name was Karna Nilsdotter in Sweden and she lived at #13 Inglestorp.  

The Mortenson (Male Side) family in Sweden

Peter  (Per Martens son) was born on 21 September 1860 and lived on a farm about two miles from Storra Herrestad in the county of Malmohus (His Swedish bible shows his Swedish name, where he was confirmed and the date of his confirmation - 23 April 1876).  He was the youngest of six children (3 boys and 3 girls).   His father’s name was Morten Nelson and his mother's name was Tilda Lars dotter.  Peter was confirmed in the church on 23 April 1876 and he pursued blacksmithing as a trade there in Sweden.   Martha Helen LaDuke has the bible that Peter received at his confirmation.  Some of this family data came from that Bible.   There is more data in the bible but it is hard to read - even a Swedish friend couldn't decipher it, however it does imply that there were some girls in the family.  

Little is known about Nels Mortenson in Sweden except that he was born there on 6 April 1846 and worked as a tiler in Sweden, Denmark and Germany before he migrated to America.  The obituary of Peter Mortenson published in the Star-Courier stated that he was "survived by his brother Nels Mortenson" in addition to the rest of his descendents.  This would tend to prove that Nels and Peter were brothers.  It is unknown who the remainder of the brothers and sisters were.   


Marten Nelson was the first known member of the family to immigrate to the United States.  This must have been in the early 1870's as Swan immigrated in 1875.   Marten for some reason returned to Sweden.   

Catherine and Ellen immigrated in 1879 or 1880 and went directly to Swan's farm near Galva.  Somehow Catherine moved to Davenport, Iowa where she worked for about three years before marrying Peter in Galva.  

Thus we have two brothers marrying two sisters, Nels Mortenson married Christine Nelson in Sweden and Peter Mortenson marrying Catherine Nelson in Galva.  

Nels immigrated by 1881 although I haven't yet located an exit permit for him from Sweden.  We found documentation that his wife, Kirsten Nilsson, age 34, and two children, Gartrude, age 2 years, and Anders, age 8 months, came from Inglestorp to Galva on the Bremer lines.  They left from Malmo on September 1, 1881.  Dad had told me that Nels came over twice, once to look over the country and then he went back and collected the family and brought them over. It is possible that Dad remembered it wrong and that Nels came over and then sent for his wife and children.  He was not with Kirsten and the children when she came over.  At least he is not listed on the passenger list. 

It appears that Peter immigrated in 1882.   I found a P. Mortenson, age 22 who exited to America from Herrestad on May 18, 1882.  The file number is 3616:5520.  This file number could very well be a Mormon number - haven't checked further.   The permit or in Swedish, Flyttningsbevis, that is in the possession of a cousin indicates that it is number 13 from Volume 16. It is dated 16 May 1882, so it would appear we have a match.   

Both Nels and Peter indicated in the 1900 census that they were naturalized, however there is no record of this in Henry County.  The immigrations department wrote that 1881 was before they kept records, so who knows. Sweden has kept excellent records back to the 16th century so tracing them shouldn't be difficult, just time consuming.  

The Peter Mortenson Branch in America

Peter met Kate Nelson presumably through his brother, Nels.  A police magistrate married them on 7 September 1884.  They lived in Galva, IL their entire married life.   In 1887, he purchased a lot on Market Street where he started a blacksmith shop.   He worked at this shop for over 30 years until about six months before he passed away.  He was one of the strongest and most powerful men in the county.  Four children were born of this marriage.   They include; Alice Lydia, Nana Sophia (called Nan), Agnes Alvina and Walter Leander.  

Alice married Guthrie Johnson in 1911.  Nana was married three times, first to Lloyd Lindquist, second to Howard Reed and lastly to George Anderson.  Walter was a soldier in World War I and was injured in France.  He never married and passed away on 6 July 1937 in Galva.  

Peter was a large rawboned individual who enjoyed life.   One interesting comment in the newspaper article on his passing states  "His daily work all these years was hard and rough and this also had its effect upon his nature however all this was overshadowed by the honesty and integrity that he practiced both in his work as well as in his every day life".  I wonder what they were trying to say or not to say.  

Kate was a large woman but she was very pious and walked to the Lutheran church two blocks from their home every Sunday.  She did beautiful lacework, quilts, doilies, etc.  Martha Helen still uses several items she made regularly.  Kate enjoyed animals and always fed the squirrels and birds around the house.  

Peter passed away at the early age of 59 on 23 June 1920.   One newspaper article indicated that his passing was due to cancer.  Another article did not give the direct reason but stated that being kicked by a horse started his last illness.   Kate lived to the ripe old age of 88 before passing  away  on  27 December 1950.  

The Nels Mortenson Branch in America

Nels Mortenson and Christina Nelson were married in Sweden.   Four children were born there in Sweden before they immigrated to America.  Two, Jennie and Andrew, survived.  Three more children were born in Galva.  These included Morton Almer, Olaf Nels and Alexander Godfried (Elec).  Note:  Alexander was the name given for Elec in the 1900 US Census by Nels.   According to a newspaper article, Nels was a farmer and after retiring they lived about two miles east of Galva along the old Kewanee/Galva interurban line (CB & O).  He also was a tiler.  They moved into Galva in about 1919/1920 to 309 S.E. 6th Avenue, a few blocks from where Kate lived on 3rd Street.  

Jennie married Eric Abelin in about 1899.  Andrew married Marie.  Morton married Maude Hughes in 1910, Elec married Grace Pierson in 1912 and Olaf married Hattie McBride in 1914.  

Christina passed away on 16 June 1928 due to complications caused by a fall in her bedroom.  Nels passed away on 6 July 1932 at Olaf's home  (18 S.W. 8th Ave) in Galva.  Cause of death was listed as Cerebral Thrombus.  

Our line continues through their son, Morton Almer Mortenson.  Mort was born January 12, 1883 in Galva, Henry Co., IL.  He married Maude Hughes on February 2, 1910 in Spring Hill, Warren Co., IA and then moved his new bride back to Galva.  They actually lived in a little suburb called Lafayette.  Their first son, Arnold (my father) was born on December 2, 1910 in Lafayette, IL.

Click here to see Mort and Maude's 50th anniversary picture.

The Swan Nelson Branch in America

Swan Nelson, brother to Catherine and Cristina, immigrated to America as a young man and took up farming in the vicinity of Galva, Illinois  (Section 31).  He was married at least twice.  His first wife was Carolina Selman.   Three children were born to this marriage.  They include: Jenny, Freda and Lena.  

Carolina died on 7 May 1884, according to her tombstone.  It appears Carolina died in childbirth.   He was next married to Anna Peterson.   Three children were born to this marriage.  They include: Phoebe, Julia and Segrid (Sadie). A cousin says that he remembers Swan and that his wife's name was Ellen Johnson.  So she must have been his third wife.  

Not much is known about this branch of the family.  Lena married Peter E.  Johnson and Phoebe married a Hill of Salt Lake City.  Sadie married John Munson in 1915.  John died in 1947.   Jenny married Albert E. Shaner of Neponset.  Nothing is known of the other two, Freda and Julia.  Two of the six passed away before him.  Swan passed away on 8 February 1929.  

The Ellen Mortenson Branch in America

Ellen married Swan Swanson and one child is known from this marriage, Ann Sophia who was born on 9 November 1894.  Her death certificate indicates that she was born in Iowa.  Ann married a Mitchell and there are no known children born of this marriage.  Ann died on 20 June 1972 at the Grohaven Nursing Home in Forest City, Iowa.


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