Born in 1770, Anna grew up in an urban family whose livelihood didn’t depend on tilling the soil. This didn’t protect her from the grim realities of city life back then, when (un)sanitary conditions often made cities “population sinks” that had to be constantly refilled from the healthier countryside.
She was the sixth and youngest daughter of Jönköping bookbinder Gustav Adrian and his second wife Catharina Pilgren, and spent her first seven years in the provincial city in south- central Sweden. Many of her mother’s forebears were ministers, and her great-great grandfather was the well-known Jönköping local judge Anders Ericsson Ruda.
But her home in town soon vanished. Her mother died before Anna turned 2, and when her father Gustav Adrian died five years later, she was orphaned. She seems to have spent the next several years in the country town of Reftele, in household of her mother’s mother, Sara Britta Drysenia, who was in her 60s, and Sara’s second husband, the minister Olof Unnerus.
After Sara’s death at the age of 70 in 1785, Anna apparently went to Forserum, where her mother’s half sister Anna Unnera and her minister husband Carl P. Elmstrom were living. Forserum is closer to Jönköping than Reftele, and quite close to Öggestorp, where her husband-to-be lived.
A month after her twentieth birthday she married a widowed 30-year-old farm foreman Magnus Bogren of rural Öggestorp – becoming the instant stepmother of six-year-old Jonas. She and Magnus had seven children in their 13 years together. In 1798 they moved from Öggestorp across country to a different province, where Magnus was employed as a supervisor (of what isn’t clear) and later a miller. Whether he was on the way up or down, he resembled her father in that he wasn’t tied to the land. He also died relatively young in 1804, leaving Anna with several young children.
Anna’s situation didn’t improve — and it’s here where we really feel the complete lack of first-person information or stories. As a widow she moved again to her home city of Jönköping, became pregnant, moved out to a rural suburb where she had a son named Magnus Filip, who lived only eight months.
The family moved back to the city and in 1810 at the age of 40, Anna married blacksmith Peter Billman, with whom she had three children. Her oldest daughter with Magnus, Sara Katrina, lived northwest of town (in the same parish where Anna had gone in 1806) and gave birth to a son, Anders Magnus, on September 11, 1823. In November, two months later Anna officially gave her away in marriage to farm foreman Jöns Andersson. (We’ve assumed he’s the father, in part because the child appears to be named after its two grandfathers.)
Sometime after 1815 Anna and Peter turned to innkeeping, and it was here that they were caught in the cholera epidemic that swept Jönköping in 1834.
In the absence of any live memories or writings, there are many ways to read the tumultuous events of Anna’s life. I see her as a resilient, emotional person who made her own rules and her own way. But who can say? We don’t even have any idea what she looked like, much less how she would have summed things up if we could’ve visited her some late evening at the inn in the early 1830s.
born 12 May 1770 Jönköping city, Sweden
married (1) 19 June 1790 Magnus Bogren, son of ??, born 1760 Smaland, Sweden, died 13 Feb 1804 Falköping, Skaraborgs län, Sweden
married (2) 24 September 1809 Peter Billman, son of ??, born ~1770, died 22 Aug 1834 Jönköping city, Sweden
died 22 August 1834 Jönköping city, Sweden
ANCESTORS: Her father came from a family of bookbinders in Kristianstad. In her mother’s direct female line, we know three generations and have speculations about three more, which if true would take us back to about 1600.
COUSINS: Anna had seven full siblings and seven half-siblings (her father was married three times); we know that three sisters and three half-sisters had descendants.