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This Swenson different from most

By CHRIS OLWELL
DCN Correspondent

Swen G. Swenson was born on May 11, 1902, in Klagstorp, Sweden. He had immigrated to the United States by 1920 and by 1930, he married. She was an older woman, Margret O. Swenson, and they were living by themselves in Minneapolis.

Swen Swenson was a literate man, which must certainly have helped his case when he applied for work. In 1940 he was hired at Gooderham & Worts Ltd. where he worked until 1967.

In 1944, Swen was elected for initiation into the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks by Bob Newhouse. One can only wonder how honored Swen must have felt when in 1974 when he became a lifetime member of that same fraternity.

On Sept. 13, 1968, his wife passed away. Swen paid $200 for her cemetery plot.
Swen died on Feb. 13, 1982, at St. Luke’s Hospital. His cremated remains are buried at Park Hill Cemetery in Duluth.

My first stop for this project was the cemetery, where I got the records that indicated when his wife died and how much he paid for the plot, but that was actually at a later date. From there I went to the Web site Pat Maus recommended to get the date of death. With that date in hand, the next stop was the library for microfilm (or microfiche) research. I got an obituary that way, and that obituary gave me most of the other details I used in the story including where he worked at and for how long, and that he was an Elk.

That’s where the trail got a little cold. Out of desperation, I called the Elks lodges in Duluth and Minneapolis and they told me when he was initiated and who had nominated him. Most of their records were destroyed in a flood or something, so I didn’t get that much from them.

I couldn’t get to the downtown branch of the public library, but I got to the Mount Royal branch, which is open later on Thursday nights. I got on Ancestry.com and found all the census data that indicated any details from the first paragraph, but I couldn’t actually view the documents because I needed some kind of library administration password, which nobody had. Luckily, you could preview the documents, which gave me, well, something, I guess. Also, the Ellis Island Web site didn’t have any records of when he immigrated, and there’s plenty of other holes.

And as we all know, something is better than nothing.



This biographical sketch was written for the Research for Reporters class at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Each student in the class went to a cemetery in Duluth, got a name from a grave marker, and then used a variety of primary and secondary sources to find out as much as possible about the person.