Brick Wall Case Studies #8: Finding the birth place and family of a Swedish immigrant living in Massachusetts

Frank lived in Massachusetts and records showed he was originally from Sweden, but the town of his birth hadn't been found. A World War I draft registration card, a marriage record, and Swedish household books led to finding his Swedish family.

What We Knew

  • Frank Johnson was listed in the 1920 census in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts with his wife and children. He was listed age 41 and born in Sweden, making his birth year about 1879.
  • A marriage record had been found for Frank Julius Johnson who married Signe Elizabeth Anderson in 1908 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He was listed as 28 years old and born in Sweden. His parents were listed as Johnes Johnson and Johanna Johnson.
  • Frank and Signe had several children and their birth records had been located in the Massachusetts vital records. The spelling of Frank's name on some of these birth records was Frans Johansson, which indicated a possible birth name in Swedish.

Records We Located

  • We located a World War I draft registration card for Frank Julius Johnson. He listed his birth information as 10 July 1878 in Sweden.
  • has all of the Swedish household books on their website which cover the population in Sweden starting in 1860. Because we had a name and an exact date, we could search for Frans born on that date in the household books.
  • We located a Frans Julius Johansson born 10 July 1878 in Dragsmark, Västra Götaland, Sweden. His parents were Johannes Phersson and Johanna Elisabeth Ohsdotter. Because Frank's marriage record listed his parents as Johnes and Johanna, this appeared to be our Frank. Note that in Sweden at this time a patronymic naming system was used. Rather than taking the last name of their father, people took the first name of their father as part of their last name, so Frank had the surname Johansson indicating his father's name was Johannes, and his father Johannes Phersson had a father named Phers.
  • Frans was not found in later household books, indicating he had moved to the United States


Frank Julius Johnson was born with the name Frans Julius Johansson in his home country of Sweden. He was born 10 July 1878 in Dragsmark, Västra Götaland, Sweden. His parents were Johannes Phersson and Johanna Elisabeth Ohsdotter. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of Frans Julius Johansson in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID LKDR-QYS.

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