Mr Johan Cervin Svensson

Mr Johan Cervin Svensson was born in Knäred, Halland, Sweden on 5 March 1898.

He was the eldest son of Sven Peter Johansson (b. 10 February 1868) and Elisabeth Jönsdotter (b. 19 February 1864) and had six siblings: Anna Emilia (b. 1894), Jenny Linnéa (b. 1895), John Rudolph (b. 1900), Leonard (b. 1902), Reinhold Villiam (b. 1905) and Gösta Hilding (b. 1908).1

Johan was raised in Knäred, Halland but his father and sister Jenny had left Sweden in 1911 and settled in Alcester, Beresford, South Dakota, USA; the rest of the family was intending to follow and Johan, as the eldest son, would travel ahead first. When ready to go his mother sewed 15 Kr into his jacket lining as spare cash.

He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number 7538 which cost £9, 4s, 6d) and later recalled that when the Titanic was sinking he sneaked onto the first class boat deck and after being refused twice finally got into lifeboat 13, the third boat he tried to enter.

On board the Carpathia he was at first thought to be a first-class passenger but looking upon his clothes it was realized that was not possible and he was sent down to join the other steerage passengers. In New York, he was met by his uncle Isak Johnson.

New York Survivors

Johan Cervin Svensson with other Swedish survivors in New York

Once he got to South Dakota he changed his name to John C. Johnson and worked as a farmhand for his father at the family farm in Garfield, Clay County, South Dakota. The remainder of his siblings would follow him across the Atlantic before the close of the decade but his mother did not make the journey and she died in Knäred on 13 March 1914.

At the time of his 1917-1918 military draft he listed his father as his employer and he was described as being of medium height and build with blue eyes and with light hair; he appears on the 1920 census living with his family in Garfield.

At some point John travelled on to Michigan; there he met a Detroit woman Dorothy Lorena Christina Campbell.2 (b. 1911) and the two were wed in Ohio in 1929. The marriage produced no children and the couple eventually divorced. 

Johnson spent time in Kentucky before finally settling in Long Beach, California, where he worked as a ship's welder. He was married to Hazel G. Lindley (b. 13 March 1908) from Nebraska and they had a daughter named Joy. 

Johnson made his only return visit to Sweden in 1961 and was reportedly plagued by nightmares of Titanic for the rest of his life. He remained in Long Beach, California and died there on 4 July 1981 aged 82 and was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California on 8 July. His headstone reads:

JOHN C. JOHNSON
BELOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER
1898-1981
SURVIVOR OF THE TITANIC

His widow Hazel died in Long Beach on 25 December 1990.

Notes

  1. Anna Emilia, b. 21 February 1894; later Mrs Hiram Hendrickson; Jenny Linnéa, b. 31 December 1895; later Mrs Gustav Knut Danielson; died in 1954 in Indiana, USA.; John Rudolph, b. 9 September 1900; died 1967 in Vermillion, South Dakota, USA; Leonard, b. 17 September 1902; died 1965 in Indiana, USA.; Reinhold Villiam, b. 30 April 1905; died 1948 in Indiana, USA.; Gösta Hilding, b. 23 January 1908; died 1956 in Indiana, USA.
  2. Dorothy Lorena Christina Campbell was born in Michigan on 12 November 1911, daughter of William and Hattie Campbell. Following her divorce from Johnson she remarried, becoming Mrs Virgil Thomas Pitts. She died in Livonia, Michigan on 24 April 1987. 
 

Pictures

Johan Cervin Svensson
(1911) 
JOHAN CERVIN SVENSSON
Johan Cervin Svensson
JOHAN CERVIN SVENSSON
John Cervin Johnson
JOHN CERVIN JOHNSON
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Rhonda Serafini said:

    I am a fourth cousin of Johan Cervin Svensson, the 14 year old that was rescued in a life boat. I would like to try to get more information on him for my family website: . I am working on a full page devoted to Johan and his life story. I was given his family genealogy by a cousin in Sweden which will be added to the website, also. I would also like to get in contact any of his living relatives as well. Thanks for any help!

  2. Jan C. Nielsen said:

    Johan was the guy known as "Titanic Johnson," I think. It is reported in a newspaper article on this site that he suffered, in his later years, from memories of the disaster. He lived in California. You might want to check with Mike Herbold (mherbold @ hotmail.com) regarding some more information on him.

  3. Mike Herbold said:

    Jan- Thanks for the note. Rhonda: "Titanic" Johnson worked for quite a time for a marine construction company based in the Long Beach harbor, not far as the crow flies, from the Queen Mary. He and his wife lived in a simple one story house on the corner of Termino Avenue and Stearns Street in Long Beach, not far from the infamous Long Beach Traffic Circle. They are now buried side by side on a slight slope in the beautiful Rose Hills cemetery near Whittier, California, which is about 20 miles north of Long Beach. His gravemarker mentions that he was a Titanic survivor. Phil Gowan was... Read full post

  4. Colleen Collier said:

    Welcome Rhonda! Jan and Mike beat me to the punch line, but you are on the right track! Colleen

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  5. Rhonda Serafini said:

    Thanks, everyone for the help. I hope to have the web page up soon; I'll let you all know when it's ready. Mike Herbold is sending me some great photos of Johan's home and gravesites. As soon as I get my scanner updated, I can post them on the site. Thanks again!!!

  6. Rhonda Serafini said:

    Hi everyone. Please drop in if you have time, and I would appreciate if you sign the guestbook. Thank you, everyone for your contributions!!! Y

  7. Brandon Whited said:

    That was fascinating -B.W.

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  8. Mikael Jonsson said:

    Interesting... I was just searching for titanicpassengers who passed away around when I was born. Johan passed away almost excactly 9 months before I was born. He was also Swedish like me. I loved your page Rhonda. It's interesting for me as a Swede to read about swedish immigrants in USA. Millions of people emmigrated from Sweden at the end of the 19th century so I know a lot of people with relatives in USA. Thanks for sharing the link. I will add a link to it on my swedish titanichompage. Best Regards, Mike

  9. Rhonda Serafini said:

    Hejsan Mikael, Hi there Brandon, Thanks for the kind words. I have had lots of fun with this Titanic link to my family, even though it was not a direct link, like a grandparent, etc. Mikael, I also find the Swedish immigration stories interesting. So many came here! I was also amused to learn that there are more Swedish blooded people now here in the USA than there are in Sweden. ;o) Thanks also for adding a link to your page. Your site is great, too! I hope to visit your beautiful country soon. Rhonda

  10. Cornelius Thiessen said:

    Evening folks I have really enjoyed reading the biographies here on Titanica, you people have truly done a remarkable job.I definitely hit the Titanic jackpot when I stumbled in here. I read the biography of Johan Cervin Svennson and discovered information on an article that was new to me and I wonder if anyone can confirm this.Pasted here directly from the article is the info I had never heard." Other recollections included the image of inexperienced crew members fumbling with a life-boat lowering winch and spilling a boatload of people into the Atlantic. " ... Read full post

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  11. Hildur Panula-Heinonen said:

    His last name is Svensson, not Svennson.

  12. Art Johanson said:

    Rhonda please contact me regarding Johan Cervin Svensson at as my father & Johan were 1st cousins & I would like to know more about any genealogy info you have on the family.

  13. Mark Baber said:

    Hello and welcome, Art. Please note that Rhonda Serafini is no longer a registered Message Board user and that her last message here is nearly 18 years old. She might, therefore, neither see nor answer your

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Leif Snellman, Finland

References and Sources

Sioux Falls Argus Leader (South Dakota), 22nd March, 1998, SD Man survived Titanic's plunge
Claes-Göran Wetterholm (1988, 1996, 1999) Titanic. Prisma, Stockholm. ISBN 91 518 3644 0
Red Wing Daily Republican, 29th April 1912
Long Beach Press-Telegraph, 9 July 1981, death notice.
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Johan Cervin Svensson (ref: #1250, last updated: 16th January 2018, accessed 9th August 2020 04:55:51 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/johan-cervin-svensson.html