Two historic developments set the course for the early history of our Elg family. The first of these was the inflow of Finnish settlers into several forest areas of central Sweden in the first half of the 17th century. One of these settlers was our first known ancestor, Pål Larsson Turpoinen.

The second development, a century later, was the growth of ironmaking in central Sweden, which furned the Finnish slash and burn farmers into millworkers and blacksmiths.

I grew up in a small town called Ludvika only 20 miles from Saefsen where our common roots are. This used to be the heartland of ironmaking in Sweden, and most of our ancestors were blacksmiths in this area for close to 250 years, from the early 17th century to the late 19th.

In the 17th century Sweden was the largest exporter of iron in the world. Before the steam engine and the Bessemer process, ironmaking was widely dispersed throughout the mining districts of central Sweden. Each mill needed a surrounding area of forest to supply wood, not just for smelting the iron ore, but also as charcoal for reducing the iron oxide ore to metallic iron. The capacity of the mill determined the needed forest area, this in turn determined the minimum distance to the next mill. Or, more likely, the cost of bringing firewood and charcoal to the mill determined its capacity.

Since the mill's location was decided by access to forest land and a waterfall, the workers had to follow. Small company towns sprung up around the mill, and the millowner controlled most aspects of economic and social life. The term "bruk", which appears in countless place names of this area (as in Liljendals Bruk), not only refers to the mill as a physical entity, but also to the mill as an economic organization and to the company town surrounding it.

Most of these mills were closed in the second half of the 19th century, outcompeted by the more efficient Bessemer process which used fossil coal imported from Germany. This created a lot of unemployment, and was one of the forces driving emigration to the US at that time.

Last updated 02-10-27, 08.38