Earliest Russell Ancestors

Late 1800's-Early 1900's


Russel Martin

Oberg Hilda

Earliest Russell Ancestors

The Russell family roots are in the small town of Hinby, near Malmo, Sweden, although the Russell name came into the family through marriage. Swedes usually carried a last name formed from the first name of his/her father. Thus we have ancestors named "Olsson", "Jonsson" and "Jonsdotter". Russell, however, was an English name. Aggie's father, Martin Russell, relates the story as follows.

Martin's maternal great grandmother, born in 1787, married a man named Hanson; the couples' first names are not known. They had one daughter, Martha, Martin's grandmother, born in 1817. Mr. Hanson died early in life; the widow Hanson remarried to a man named Rusell, who had served in the British Army, but was Swedish born [in Swedish, "Rusell" has just one "s"].

Mr. Rusell and the widow Hanson owned an Inn in Hinby. Martha, the widow Hanson's daughter, married Andrew Jonsson (1804-1859). Martha and Andrew Jonsson continued as innkeepers of the Inn at Hinby. They had five children: the oldest was Martin's father, Nels J. Jonsson. Martin relates that Andrew Jonsson had extensive land holdings around Hinby, and had eight or ten servants to help him till the land. In addition, he rented tracts of land to other farmers, who erected their own buildings on the land. Martin states that just before his death, Andrew Jonsson signed a will transferring all of his holdings outside the immediate family, forcing Nels and his four siblings to earn a living in Malmo and vicinity. We have no more details about these events.

Martin Russell ("Pops") was born in Sweden on February 14, 1868, the oldest of Nel's Russell's four children. Martin was 11 years old when his family immigrated to this country in 1879, settling in Chicago. At about age 12, Martin and his brother, John, had a job lighting lamplights in Chicago. This was a job often done by immigrants, as it required no knowledge of English. Martin worked for a time as an administrator for the Temperance Union, then about 1900 went to work for the American School and Technical Society in Chicago, where he remained for 40 years as the treasurer and member of the Board, a position that today would be called the Chief Financial Officer.

The American School was one of two mail order high school diploma companies in Chicago (the other was the International School). There were no students on site. Martin had a reputation as a tough task master. For example, there were clerks who made entries into the daily ledgers. These entries needed to be added and checked at the end of the day, the ledger books assembled, and brought to the safe for overnight. This latter task had to be done after 5, as the work hours were 9 to 5, and Martin considered these hours to be for "making entries" only!

The Oberg Family

Hilda Oberg's mother, Carolina Anderson, was born in Frosvidal, Sweden, in 1839. Her parents' names were Anders Erson (1804-?) and Maria Catterina (1805-?). We do not know more about them.

Violet Oberg, Martin Russell's second wife, was a granddaughter of Carl and Carolina Oberg. She wrote this about her grandmother:

"Carolina was born on the Estate of Tallhojden, Frosvidal, Parish of Kil, County of Orebro, Province of Nerike, Sweden. According to her [Carolina's] testimony, she became a Christian at an early age. In 1856, at the age of seventeen, she left her parents' home to earn her own living, and served in various homes for about seven years, until 1863 when she came to Frosvidal where Carl Johan Oberg first met her. They became acquainted, fell in love, and married in 1865. Four years later the couple moved to the estate of Hallbytorp in the same parish.

"In 1887 the family decided to emigrate to America where several children had preceded them.

"Carolina fell ill on 16 March 1897 ("inflammation of the stomach"), was attended by Dr. Sheldon, and died on 26 Mar 1897 at the age of 57 years."

Carl Oberg and Carolina arrived in Chicago on September 17, 1887. They moved to Morgan Park, Chicago, where Carl established himself in the shoe business.

After Carl Oberg's first wife, Carolina Anderson Oberg, died in 1897, he remarried to Carolina's first cousin, Lovisa Johnson Oberg, who is buried at Carolina's side at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery in Chicago, IL.

Carl and Carolina Oberg had seven children, of whom 5 survived childhood. The eldest was Martin Russell's wife, Hilda Caroline Oberg, born on August 19, 1864.

Children of Martin Russell & Hilda Oberg:

Ethel Francis Russell (1893-1971) m. Arthur Consaul Wickenden (1893-1967).
Herbert Russell (1895-1912) Agnes Martha Caroline Russell (1899-1986) m. Gordon Willson Bonner (1900-1951)