Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Goteberg

William James Dolan - Step Great Grandfather (right)
with Co-Workers - circa 1891
Goteberg, Sweden
In the late 1800s, the Johnson Shields Company of Newmilns, Scotland, was expanding. They opened a couple of new lace factories, one in Barcelona, Spain, and the other in Goteberg, Sweden. In order to aid in the start-up of these new endeavors, lace weavers from the home factory were sent to the new factories to work and share their knowledge and expertise.

Among the group sent to Sweden was the man, who while he was there, would become my great- grandfather and give me my surname. William James Dolan, with the nice 'stache, is pictured above with two of his lace weaver friends from Newmilns.

But ... as the story goes, a funny thing happened on the way to Goteberg.

As the 1880's came to a close in Ayrshire, Scotland, a young couple, William Dolan and Catherine Boyd, were making a new life for themselves in Newmilns, a little manufacturing town on the Irvine River. They had a little girl named Mary Ann. Then the unimaginable happened. Somehow, little two year old Mary accidentally drowned in the lade - a small watercourse or rivulet of the Irvine River just a short way from their home. It was a horrible tragedy that struck about the same time as the new factory opening in Goteberg.

Perhaps not coincidentally, and maybe fortuitously, William and Catherine moved to Goteberg, no doubt trying to begin a new life after the tragic loss of their daughter.

Before the 1890s were over William was back in Newmilns, only now with a new wife, 5 Swedish step children, and 3 children of his own. Sometime, somehow, shortly after arrival in Sweden, first wife Catherine is out of the picture. She must have died, but it remains a mystery to me. No record or reference has been found - yet.

Also, about the same time the Dolans arrived in Sweden, a young Swedish family had a tragedy of its own. Axel Ljungberg was found dead, drowned in the Moldals Creek near their home in Goteberg, leaving a widow, Augusta, and those 5 children, one of which was my grandfather, just a year old at the time. Widow and widower somehow meet, get married, have those 3 children of their own, and then return to Newmilns. They must have been the talk of the town!

There is a short biography that I have written about William James, but it is too long for a vignette on these jottings. I may have to get it out, clean it up a bit, and let you read it if you wish. There are more pictures too. Likewise, sooner or later I'm gonna have to tell Axel Ljungberg's story. It's a lalapalooza!  And don't you want to know what happened to Catherine too?!

So, in a little over a decade, a lace weaver get's married, has a daughter, loses a daughter, moves to Sweden, loses a wife, finds a wife, inherits 5 children, has 3 more children, and goes back home. And that's not even the whole story.

Like I said, a funny thing happened on the way to Goteberg.

William James Dolan and Catherine Boyd Dolan
Sweden 1891


  1. I love the mustache, but the top picture kind of creeps me out! Those men look scary! I love the stories Dad...keep 'em coming!

  2. I also love the mustache, but Katie's right. Those other guys look sketchy... The one in front looks like he should be a villian's sidekick in a Disney movie!

  3. Wow. What a story. I would like to know what happened to Catherine too!

  4. Great story! Paul & I stayed in Goteburg for a couple days a number of years ago - didn't know we were tracing Dolan footsteps!