Mrs Elna Mathilda Ström (née Persson) was born in Julita, Södermanland, Sweden on 3 August 1882.
She was the eldest daughter of Per Ulrik Persson (1854-1932) and Christina Mathilda Larsdotter (1859-1927) and had four known siblings: Ernst Ulrik (b. 1886), Emilia Sofia (b. 1888), Edith Kristina (b. 1891) and Esther Karolina (b. 1896).
Elma had emigrated in 1907, arriving in New York on 17 January that year aboard the Majestic. She settled in Chicago and on 21 September 1909 was married to Oskar Wilhelm Ström (b. 13 April 1884), a smith and fellow Swede. The couple's only child, a daughter named Telma Mathilda Wilhelmina, was born on 15 December that same year. The family later settled in Indiana Harbor, Indiana and lived at 3905 Grapevine Street.
In early 1912 Elna and her daughter had been visiting her parents on Julita farm back in Sweden. A few days before their planned departure to back America Telma scalded her hand on hot water. They had to postpone the trip in order for the scars to heal and the delay led to them travelling on the Titanic.
Elna and her daughter boarded the Titanic Southampton on 10 April 1912 as third class passengers (ticket number 347054 which cost £10, 9s, 3d). Also was travelling with them was her married brother Ernst Ulrik Persson. It is believed that they (the ladies) occupied cabin 6 (in section, or possibly deck, G) which they shared with Agnes Sandström and her children. Whilst on board Elna had to bring her daughter to visit a nurse every day to have new bandages put on.
On the night of the sinking the Sandströms and the Ströms lost contact with each other on the way up to boat deck. According to her brother Ernest, he tried to keep himself as near to his sister as he could but they arrived near the boats too late. At 02.15 when they were on the poop, Titanic made a lurch and Ernst lost the grip and never saw them again.
Elna and Telma were lost in the sinking and their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.
The Mansion House Fund paid 874.08 Kr (£48) to Elna's parents on 23 January 1913. Financial relief was also forthcoming from the American Red Cross:
Case number 437.(Swedish).
A wife, 29 years of age and daughter of 3 were returning from a visit to relatives, were drowned. They were accompanied by her brother, who was saved. The husband, employed in a steel mill in Indiana, was terribly shocked and distressed by his loss. He spent his savings in coming to New York to search for his wife, and in assisting his brother-in-law who did not immediately secure work. Later he suffered a severe injury and required hospital treatment for several weeks. ($500).
455.50 Kr (£25) damage claims were paid to her parents 16 July 1914.
After his arrival in New York Elna's husband tried to identify his daughter among the children who survived but when this failed he was joined by his brother-in-law, Ernst Persson and they travelled back together to Indiana Harbor, Indiana where Wilhelm found Ernst a job at Standard Forgings. Wilhelm worked as an ironworker and Ernst was a bricklayer. They lived together until Ernst's wife and children joined him from Sweden in October 1912.
Wilhelm Ström wrote on June 20, 1912 to the consulate in New York asking for help. "because I would like to have the case up to court as soon as possible so that I could in my despair got some compensation for the fact that I have lost everything I owned" The consulate asked him to contact the Red Cross and then wait for the law case. The size of damage claims paid to Wilhelm Ström is not known. He became a naturalized US citizen on 15 April 1913, one year to the day from the loss of his wife and daughter and was at that time living at 3608 Parish Avenue, Indiana Harbor but would later return to Chicago and lived with his brother-in-law Ernst Persson, appearing with them on the 1920 census.
After about six years Wilhelm and a friend were to meet two young Swedish women in Washington Park, Chicago on a Sunday afternoon for a date. When the two men saw the ladies that they were to spend the afternoon with, Wilhelm was immediately taken with the other woman that his friend was supposed to be with. She was sitting on a park bench, playing the guitar.
Alma Helen Karlsson (born July 25, 1888) was from Trollhatten, Sweden. She was sponsored by an aunt and came to Peoria, Illinois but found that Peoria was too quiet for her and came to Chicago. where she worked as a domestic servant for a wealthy family on the East Side. She had learnt to play the guitar for the Salvation Army. Wilhelm bought her a strawberry sundae and they started courting. They were to be married a year later in April. Alma did not know that Wilhelm had been married before and he did not know how to tell her. He decided to tell her about his wife and child and she became angry with him because he had been married and did not tell her right away. It was never discussed after that.
Wilhelm and Alma had four children: Helen Augusta (b. 1923), Elsie (b. 1928) and Frederick (1930-1997); another child, their first, was stillborn. Their eldest daughter was nearly lost at age 5 or 6 as result of pneumonia and their son Fred became a Korean War veteran.
Wilhelm lived with his family in Chicago for the rest of his life. He died on died October 9, 1964. His widow Alma later passed away on 10 July 1989.
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Articles and Stories
Chicago Daily News (1912)