Till Amerika C.A. Jacobsson

“Till Amerika” Newly Translated

Sunday, the 20th of April 1902, the departure date of my trip, had arrived. With mixed feelings, I anticipated saying farewell to my dear friends and family….

C. Albin Jacobsson, 1902

Twenty-six-year-old Carl Albin Jacobsson left his home in Sweden for America 117 years ago. Albin chronicled the journey, starting when his train left Norberg (“my dear childhood home”) at 5:12 on that Sunday afternoon in April and ending when he found room-and-board with other Swedes in Brooklyn, New York. A new English translation of his travel account was just completed.

Some time following Albin’s death in 1958 my mother (his daughter-in-law), Dorothy Helen Phillips (Jacobson), took an interest in the account, written in a composition book. She did not read or speak Swedish, but knew the story of the manuscript and began looking to have it translated to English. As Mother said, she soon discovered it was hand-written in “old Swedish,” so she looked for an old Swede! Fortunately, my parents attended First Lutheran Church in West Haven, Connecticut, which had a long Swedish tradition. There she found 90-year-old Victor Arvidson.

Together they did their best to read Albin’s handwriting. Mr. Arvidson admitted to making some guesses in the translation. When they thought they had it right, in 1989, my mother typed it up.1 I am grateful for their effort. A signed version of Albin’s journey passed to me in 1997. I would not have understood and valued its contents without being able to read an English translation. Thanks! In 2015, I donated the Swedish hand-written account to Historic New England (HNE record 2015.129.3) and, at my request, they promised to scan it.

1902 Composition Notebook Cover.
C. A. Jacobson’s 1902 composition notebook cover.

Private Swedish schooling had educated Albin well (e.g., he’s said to have spoken five languages, though not English in 1902).2 Last year I began wondering if there was nuance missing in Mr. Arvidson’s translation; other people had edited the English with a modern eye after he was done, too. Was there humor or a turn-of-phrase that had been overlooked in the 1902 manuscript?

I found a translator experienced with hand-written Swedish manuscripts, Cynthia Wentwood, through the Swedish Genealogical Society of Minnesota. Cynthia found Albin’s account quite charming and deserving of translation, so I contracted with her to begin. She soon found gaps in the earlier work, as well as inaccuracies, and advised that a completely new translation would best capture Grampa’s writing.3

I’m excited to now offer the 2019 translation for download: Follow the “To America” link below to read Albin’s account. Historic New England will soon post both the translation and original 1902 Swedish manuscript, so check back for that link.

>> DOWNLOAD: "To America" - English (PDF, 425KB). Wentland, Cynthia, transl. “To America by Carl Albin Jacobsson: An Emigrant’s 1902 Journey from Norberg, Sweden.” Bruce Jacobson, ed. Privately held by Jacobson (Beacon Street, Boston). 2019.    
"Till Amerika" - Swedish (PDF). Jacobsson, Carl Albin. "Till Amerika.” 1902. Held by Historic New England (Liburary and Archives, 141 Cambridge Street, Boston), record 2015.129.3. 
New York Bound - 1902” —- Summary post of Carl Albin Jacobsson’s voyage from Sweden to New York, based on “To America.”
Eskilstuna in Miniature ~ Brooklyn, New York” —- Summary post of Carl Albin Jacobsson’s arrival in New York City, based on “To America.”

Creative Commons

This work by Bruce Jacobson is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 International License—Attribution-ShareAlike.

Header image of Carl Albin Jacobsson’s manuscript title and image of 1902 composition notebook courtesy of Historic New England.

Last Updated on 5 May 2024.

  1. I believe she first used a typewriter, then re-keyed it in her early 70s when I helped her acquire her first computer, a used Macintosh.
  2. Lillian James, “The Journal of Lillian James: Her Writings, Reflections, and Remembrances” scrapbook, 1983, p,1., privately held by Bruce Edwin Jacobson, Seal Cove, Maine).
  3. I discovered in November, 2019, that Grampa had penned two copies of his “Till Amerika.” The copy translated for my mother is not the copy that I donated to Historic New England. The latter copy is signed and dated, while the other is not, which may indicate that I had his final version. Two versions may account for discrepancies in the two translations.

9 thoughts on ““Till Amerika” Newly Translated

  1. Comments from a 2015 Facebook post of the 1989 translation.
    Ron Beard – What a wonderful connection, over the years to sense his excitement… which so many of our immigrant ancestors experienced…

    Judy Hazen Connery – Very cool!

    Robin Osipova – Lovely! To have such history available!

    Beverly Runyan – What a gift to have so much information!

    Deb Wade – Very good work. I am going to have to hustle (as usual) to keep up with my work; as usual, you inspire!!!!#

  2. I read the new translation, and looked at the other items as well. It reads very smoothly. I don’t think the earlier translator made up those addresses, you or she must have missed something somewhere?

    1. They did not make them up, but I looked at every single page in the document several times. Even went to the Historic New England archives yesterday and looked at the original manuscript. There are no addresses. Must be another document Mother and Mr. Arvidson consulted.

      1. Mystery solved. Our grandfather penned two copies of his “Trip to America.” The copy translated for my mother had the Brooklyn boardinghouse address. The copy translated for me did not. The latter copy is signed and dated, while the other is not, perhaps indicating the final version.

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