Myrtle Vanette Thorsell

Myrtle Vanette "Nette" Thorsell was born July 29, 1916, in San Pedro, Los Angeles Co., CA, and died November 19, 1990, in Karawa, Zaire, at age 75. She is the daughter of Claes Thorsell of Jämjö, Blekinge lan, Sweden, and Hannah M. Sjoquist of Illinois. Never married.


The 1910 U. S. Census taken on April 16, 1910, shows John G. Sjoquist (age 72) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having emigrated in 1866 and Naturalized is a Church Minister owning his home free of a mortgage and living in the Village of Dassel, Meeker Co., MN. Living with him is his wife of 39 years, Eva M. Sjoquist (age 60) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having emigrated in 1869, with 6 of the 7 children born to her still alive. Also living there is his unmarried daughter: Ruth Sjoquist (age 25) born in Minnesota to Swedish-born parents.

In 1910, Theodore Sjoquist is a Bookkeeper at a Grape Juice Factory and living in Turlock, CA, and is married to Anna for less than one year.

Claes "Charles" Thorsell and Hannah M. Sjoquist were married October 6, 1915, in Los Angeles Co., CA. He is listed as age 32.

Myrtle Vanette "Nette" Thorsell was born July 29, 1916, in San Pedro, Los Angeles Co., CA.

The WWI Draft Registration Report dated September 20, 1918, shows Charles Thorsell is living at 411 N. Mesa, San Pedro, Los Angeles Co., CA. He is a Ships Master for the Fred Linderman Steamship Co., and is employed on the Steamer Mary Olson. His wife is Hanna Thorsell.

On April 9, 1919, C. Thorsell (Master) and wife Han... were on the Ship "Cricket" Port of Departure: San Francisco, CA; Port of Arrival: New York, NY. They were in Nicaragua on March 18, 1919.

The 1920 U. S. Census taken on January 12, 1920, shows Charles Thorsell (age 36) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and a Naturalized citizen is a Sea Captain on a Boat renting his home at 411 N. Mesa, City of Los Angeles, San Pedro Twp., Los Angeles Co., CA. Living with him is his wife, Hanna Thorsell (age 42) born in Illinois to Swedish-born parents. Also living there is his daughter, Vanette Thorsell (age 3-5/12) born in California to Swedish and Illinois-born parents. Six boarders also live in the house.

The 1920 U. S. Census taken on January 6, 1920, shows John Sjoquist (age 86) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having emigrated in 1867 and Naturalized in 1892 is the Head of Household owning his home free of a mortgage and living at 233 Orange Street, City of Turlock, Stanislaus Co., CA. Living with him is his wife, Matilda Sjoquist (age 70) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having emigrated in 1869. Also living there are his two unmarried daughters, born in Minnesota to Swedish-born parents: Alma Sjoquist (age 40); and Hilda Sjoquist (age 30) a Shipping Company Bookkeeper.

On February 8, 1921, Claes Thorsell applied for a passport.


On February 26, 1921, Hannah M. Thorsell applied for a passport.


Modesto Evening News, Modesto, CA, Saturday, February 26, 1921


TURLOCK, Feb. 26 - Rev. and Mrs. J. G. Sjoquist received word this week of the death of their daughter, Miss Alma Sjoquist, in San Pedro. Miss Sjoquist was in San Pedro visiting her sister when her death occurred. She had been sick a long time and her death was not unexpected. The remains have been shipped to Turlock and will be interred here. Funeral services will be held Monday afternoon at 2 o'clock from Gankler's undertaking parlors.

On August 5, 1921, Claes Thorsell, wife Hanna, and Vanetta and Stanley left Copenhagen and arrived at the Port of New York on August 16, 1921, aboard S. S. Frederick VIII.

The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA, Saturday evening, October 8, 1921


TURLOCK, Oct. 8. - At the Swedish church Thursday evening the golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Sjoquist was celebrated. The edifice was beautifully decorated. Under a floral arch Mr. and Mrs. Sjoquist again pledged their vows. Following the ceremony a banquet was served to a host of relatives and old friends.

Matilda Sjoquist died May 12, 1924, in Turlock, Stanislaus Co., CA, at age 96.

The Modesto Evening News, Modesto, CA, Thursday, May 15, 1924

Funeral Services Held For Mrs. M. Sjoquist

TURLOCK, May 15. - The funeral of the late Mrs. Matilda Sjoquist was held this afternoon at 2 o'clock from the Swedish Mission church. Rev. Paul Reed officiated and interment was in the Turlock cemetery. Mrs. Sjoquist passed away at her home on Orange street Monday night. She was a native of Sweden, aged 74 years. She has resided in Turlock for eight years. She was the mother of Mrs. Hannah Thorsell, Mrs. Hilda Hernes, Miss Ruth Sjoquist and Theodore Sjoquist.

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Tuesday, October 12, 1926

Police At Turlock Start Search For Missing Man

TURLOCK, Oct. 11. - A statewide search was launched here Sunday by Turlock police for Ted Sjoquist, 45, prominent Turlock citizen and son-in-law of Claus Johnson, member of the Turlock irrigation board. Sjoquist, who is manager of the Wood ranch, located six miles west and four miles south of this city, left his home last Tuesday afternoon for San Francisco. Indications are that he reached that city and transacted his business there and left, presumably for his home here. Nothing has been seen or heard of him from the time he left the bay city, according to his wife, who has sought aid of police officials in her hunt for her husband. Foul play is feared. Mrs. Sjoquist thought nothing of her husband's absence until several days after he had left home, and the time had arrived when he was scheduled to return. It was then she called parties in San Francisco with whom her husband was expected to confer. From them Mrs. Sjoquist learned that her husband had left the city for his return home. It is feared that Sjoquist may have picked up an itinerant on the road and that he may have met with foul play. Sjoquist was formerly manager of the West Turlock Lumber company. He is described as 46 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches in height, weighed 130 pounds and was slightly stoop-shouldered. He was smooth shaven and wore a brown suit and velour hat. He was driving a coupe. His wife and several children reside here.

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Saturday, October 23, 1926


With T. C. Sjoquist, prominent Turlock rancher, missing more than three weeks, local officers are inclined to agree with Mrs. Sjoquist's thaory that he has met death, possibly by foul play. "I am convinced that my husband is dead," said Mrs. Sjoquist. Circulars, 550 in all, have been sent to every sheriff, chief of police and constable in the state, describing Sjoquist, but without result. Private detectives are working on the case. Sjoquist was last seen alive when he left Turlock on October 5, with the announced intention of going to San Francisco to call on E. K. Wood, owner of a large ranch near Turlock of which Sjoquist was foreman. When Sjoquist failed tom arrive in San Francisco, Wood came to Turlock, upon his return home he employed detectives. Sjoquist's accounts were all in order, it is said, to the complete satisfaction of Wood. When Sjoquist left Turlock he had only pocket money in his possession. He took with him no extra clothes, expecting to return to Turlock the same night. Efforts are being made through the California Automobile Association to determine whether Sjoquist's machine was taken from the state. According to Mrs. Sjoquist, her husband seldom made business trips as he preferred to remain quietly at home with his wife and family. Sjoquist is the father of four children. Sjoquist was sometimes subject to attacks or weak spells resulting from an operation undergone several years ago. One of these may have figured in his disappearance, it is said. These spells lasted sometimes for two hours, the last manifestation of the attack having taken place last Christmas. The route to San Francisco has been carefully traced in a attempt to ascertain whether Sjoquist was seen along the way, but this too, failed to produce anything tangible.

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Friday, December 17, 1926


Story Around in Turlock Is That He Has Reappeared

TURLOCK, Dec. 16. - (Special) -

A report has reached the office of Constable Stahl that Ted S. Sjoquist, missing Turlock man, had been located in Arizona. It is said he was suffering from amnesia and had asked help in locating his wife and family. Sjoquist disappeared several weeks ago when he started on a business trip to San Francisco, He did not arrive at his destination and his car was located in a Sacramento garage about a month later. A wide search was made for the missing man, but it proved fruitless. Mrs. Sjoquist declined to discuss the matter as did Sjoquist's sister,, Miss Ruth Sjoquist.

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Tuesday, December 21, 1926


Ted Sjoquist located at Home of Sister in San Pedro; In Ill Health

Ted Sjoquist, Turlock rancher, missing since October 5, has been located at the home of his sister, Mrs. H. Thorsell, at San Pedro, according to word received by Mrs. Sjoquist at Turlock. Sjoquist arrived at his sister's home Friday night, it was learned, and seemed ill, both mentally and physically. He will be examined by physicians, Mrs. Sjoquist said before leaving Turlock for San Pedro with her son, Ronald. According to meager information received over the telephone from Sjoquist until December 12, when his wife received a letter from him, addressed to his sister in the south but intended for her. In the letter Sjoquist said that he would arrive at his sister's home by the end of the week. The letter, Mrs. Sjoquist said, was not clearly written, and indicated that something had befallen him. Before leaving Turlock, Sjoquist was employed on the E. K. Wood ranch near Hatch.

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Thursday, December 23, 1926


BERKLEY, Ca., Dec. 22. - Theodore C. Sjoquist, 45-year-old ranch foreman, today was enroute back to his Turlock home to rejoin his family, eager to greet four children who to him have been mentally dead since October 6. MORE..................

The Modesto News-Herald, Modesto, CA, Wednesday, January 5, 1927


TURLOCK, Jan. 4.

Theodore Sjoquist, who returned to Turlock recently after an absence of two months, during which time his family and employer knew nothing of his whereabouts, has departed with his family for Nogales, Arizona, where he states he has accepted a position as salesman for an automobile firm. Sjoquist, who, according to his family, was a victim of amnesia at the time of his disappearance, has apparently fully recovered from his affliction. He was formerly manager of the Wood ranch seven miles southwest of Turlock.

On September 13, 1930, Claes Thorsell was a 2nd Mate serving on the Ship "S. S. Dorothy Wintermote" Port of Departure: Wamino, British Columbia on September 12, 1930; Port of Arrival: Tacoma, WA. He had tattoos on both arms, age 45, Swedish, engaged March 19, 1930 in San Francisco, and has served as a Seaman for 27 years, is 5 Feet 8 Inches in Height and 172 Pounds in Weight.

The 1930 U. S. Census taken on April 8, 1930, shows Claes Thorsell (age 46) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and first married at age 32 having emigrated in 1904 and a Naturalized citizen is a Shipping Master Mariner owning his home valued at $15,000 at 1107 Ninth St., City of Los Angeles, San Pedro Dist., Los Angeles Co., CA. Living with him is his wife, Hannah Thorsell (age 52) born in Illinois to Swedish-born parents and first married at age 38. Also living there is his daughter, Myrtle V. Thorsell (age 13) born in California to Swedish and Illinois-born parents; and his son, Stanley Thorsell (age 9) born in California to Swedish and Illinois-born parents. One lodger also lives in the house.

The 1930 U. S. Census taken on April 1930, shows John G. Sjoquist (age 96) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having emigrated in 1865 and a Naturalized citizen is a widowed Head of Household owning his home worth $2,300 and living at 233 Orange Street, City of Turlock, Stanislaus Co., CA. Living with him is his unmarried daughter: Ruth Sjoquist (age 46) born in Minnesota to Swedish-born parents.

John G. Sjoquist died October 23,1930, in Turlock, Stanislaus Co., CA, at age 96.

On August 17, 1921 the Claes Thorsell family were on the Ship "Frederik VIII" Port of Departure: Copenhagen, Sweden on August 5, 1921; Port of Arrival: New York, NY.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette, Berkeley, CA, Wednesday, July 4, 1934

Will Live Here

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thorsell and daughter and son from San Pedro have established their home at 464 Alcatraz Avuenue, Oakland. Their daughter will attend the University of California next year.

Claes "Charles" Thorsell died May 21, 1940 in Longview Co., WA, at age 56.

Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA, Tuesday, December 24, 1946

Licenses issued THORSELL - JACOBS - Stanley, Berkeley, and Florence, Oakland.

In late 1945 or early 1946 Miss Vanette Thorsell of Berkeley left California for the African mission field.

Hannah (Unknown) Thorsell died July 1, 1959, in Stanislaus Co., CA, at age 82.

The Modesto Bee, Modesto, CA, Thursday, July 2, 1959

Hannah Thorsell

TURLOCK - Hannah Thorsell, 83, died yesterday at Bethany Home after a short illness. She was born in Illinois and came to California in 1896. She lived in San Pedro, Los Angeles County, until 1934, when she moved to Berkley. She had lived in Bethany Home since 1956 and was a member of the Berkley Mission Covenant Church. Mrs. Thorsell leaves one son, Stanley Thorsell of San Francisco, and one daughter Vanette Thorsell, a missionary in the Belgian Congo.

Vanette Myrtle Thorsell
From 1916 to 1990
Covenant Church
Democratic republic of Congo

Translated from French:

Vanette Myrtle Thorsell was born in San Pedro, California, in the United States, on July 29, 1916. Her parents Charles and Hannah Thorsell had two children, Vanette and her younger brother Stanley. Her father was a captain in the naval force of the American army.

Vanette grows in a Christian family and gave her life to Jesus as of his childhood. It was called for the mission at the age of twenty-six years, five years after having finished her studies of first cycle in pedagogy at the University of California. Her studies of the Spanish language, science of education and theology qualified her for a teaching career several years in Democratic Republic of Congo (RDCongo). Answering the questionnaire of the committee missionary of its church in May 1943, Vanette wrote what follows to justify its engagement missionary:

Since my childhood, the Lord put in my heart the enthusiastic desire to serve it out of ground of mission far from my country. This desire me forever left. I thus quite simply realized that it is with that that the Lord called me. I never thought only one moment that my life would be complete without obeying this call. For me, obedience means outward journey where the Lord wants to send to me.

Vanette allotted her vocation missionary to her mother. In the same questionnaire, she specified that the prayer of her mother played a great part in her engagement missionary: “The prayers of my mother were probably the great force which encouraged me with the mission. All my life, my mother requested that the Lord can send to me where it was not able to go itself.”

Vanette was devoted for work missionary by Evangelical Covenant Church in 1945. She left its country the following year to serve in the primary schools and secondary in the north-western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Gemena, Karawa, Gbado, and Bolenge close to Mbandaka. In a context where teaching in the Protestant medium was enormously lacking, God was useful himself of Vanette to prepare hundreds of young Congolese to the responsibilisation. Several of its alumni, as well of the primary schools as secondary, occupied of the important stations in Democratic Republic of Congo, in the government, the commercial activities, in primary education education, secondary and university, like in the various ecclesiastical ministries.

To achieve this catalyst role, Vanette was characterized by a mobility which was worth to him the English nickname of “Moving Van.” It was always in displacement to teach in the schools and to encourage the teachers. Speaking about its impact on the life of the other missionaries, Barbara Johnson who knew it during twenty-six years known as what follows:

I knew Van like an optimistic, adaptable, flexible maidservant. She always aspired to excellence, and multiple the moment of discouragement never changed its vision of the world. It helped us to maintain a glance positive on any situation. It continued to recall us that people, and not the tasks, were important for our work for the Lord.

It is this determination and this vision of the world which characterized the ministry of Vanette which decided to remain on the field of mission until her death. She died in Karawa, on November 19, 1990, at the age of seventy-four years. Like said it Helen Cepero in a recent homage dedicated to Vanette, the impact of this devoted maidservant of God did not evaporate with her death, because “deaths still remain with us” by their works.

Fohle Lygunda files

December 2006

Hello, Leigh!

Are you preparing for Christmas? Your Swedish relatives are preparing for another occasion, called Lucia. Do you recognize it? It’s in honour of the young lady Lucia who was burned to death in Syracusa on Sicily 304. Lucia, in Sweden, is celebrated on December 13th. By the way, thanks Evan for the last email. It’s so beautiful and reminds us how happy we should be of what we have and that the majority of the world’s population don’t have.

I thought it was time to give some additional information about the family. This issue could be pretty complicated; who is who and who is related to who and how. Not all of the stories are pleasant though. I have put in what Jaime wrote in order to describe the Lucia celebration in Seattle. Family matters can be pretty complicated, so just let me know if there was something below that you didn’t understand and/or if you had any interest in it at all.

I have added some information regarding our relative in Africa. Her name was Vanette Thorsell and her great grandfather, Peter, was the uncle of Olaus Larsson. Peter was vaccinated in the 1810's. Sweden was if not the first, at least one of the first countries in the world that give the population an extended vaccination. Almost every little child in the 1810's and after went through this process. But it didn't help Peter from getting another diseases. He later was "crippled with rheumatism". Olaus Larsson's father, Lars, got small poxes. One of Lars' sister, either Cajsa or Stina, also had small poxes. But she survived as well. Peter became a peasant and got many children. One of them, Petter, was a school teacher and changed his last name from Petersson to Thorsell. Petter Thorsell also had many children of whom four moved to USA and settled down there. Klaes (Charles) Thorsell had - as to the best of my knowledge - two children; Vanette and Stanley. Vanette Thorsell appears to have lived an exciting and dangerous life, since Congo/Zaire for decades has been affected by civil war and dictatorship. It was most likely not a bed of roses.

I have put in what Diane Prior (the niece of Vanette Thorsell) wrote to me about Vanette Thorsell.

Vanette Thorsell was my father’s sister.  She was a missionary for Swedish Mission Covenant Church in the Belgium Congo (Zaire, Dem. Republic of Congo … the country had many name changes since the 1960’s).  She died in Zaire in 1991 and is buried there.  She spoke many languages including French, Lingala (Congo trade language), some Spanish, Swedish and of course English.  I studied French in high school but that was a long time ago.  Her father, my grandfather was Charles Thorsell.  He was in the Merchant Marine (we don’t call it “navy” as “navy” refers to the military).  Part of his career was as captain of the ship; he was known as “Red Charlie” because of his red hair.  He died in 1940 of an illness while the ship he was on was in Oregon or Washington (state, not D.C.).

You asked about our Lucia is held this coming Sunday night, and unfortunately this year I have a concert conflict.  (I have joined the Seattle Flute Society Flute Choir and we have a rehearsal at that time, so now we are unable to go as we usually do.) Even though I am involved in several Christmas concerts, the Santa Lucia service is one we have attended, rather than performed in. We are not  formal 'participants' at the Swedish ceremony, but rather participate in the congregational responses and singing.  We have attended this service for many years and enjoy it immensely.  My girls have never been a Lucia bride (except for fun at home)...the church chooses young ladies from their own congregation for this honor.  (We attend a different fellowship). If I find a program from the past, I will let you know the particular songs we do each year.  I will look for one and let you know what they are.

Another tradition in Sweden was the cemetery dances on Midsummer Eve Night and the Botvid Night were common in the old days on many places in southern Sweden. The young people gathered and danced, sang bawdy and scandalous songs and sometimes even made love on the cemetery. The origin of this tradition is duskily, but the cemetery is a place which is connected with both love and death. Complaints came from the bishop in Lund but to no avail. The tradition continued, for how long I don’t know though. The author Vilhelm Moberg has written about this in the book The Brides’ Spring.

The church wasn’t always the sacred place that we might think. Our ancestors danced on every party. They danced at the harvest and feasts and even at the wake. The reason was that it was not only pleasant but necessary. It was important, during the wake, that the deceased would resume dead and not return (ghost). They tried to conjure up the deceased so that wouldn’t happen. If the relatives and friends also could give the fresh body a nice last moment before he or she forever was put in the earth, so much better. But the church didn’t agree. The exhilarated dances at the wake met a stern destiny. The phenomenon was banned in Norway (1607), Denmark (1656) and Sweden (1644).

But our ancestors in Sweden had been the centre of the church’s interest 300 years earlier. On a bishop meeting in Slesvig (1222) promulgated the papal legate Gregorious de Crescentio an edict that banned ring dance, games, drama and scuffle in the church buildings, something that clearly shows what the Scandinavians thought was fun and natural to do.

But the complaints continued. People were sitting on the organ loft; played cards and spitted on the people sitting in the benches under the loft. Church visitors consumed alcohol outside the church and some even threw up in the church and some fell asleep. This was the situation in the area where our ancestors and relatives lived around 1750. Even the priest was not immune. There were indications that he was unfaithful and broke against the church’s own rules, however he got support from some people in the community and one of them was our ancestor, Nils Andersson, which is rather interesting especially when you consider what the priest was accused of.

From 1731 farmers who paid an extra tax were allowed to hooch or moonshine for so-called “household requirements”. There were also speakeasies in Torsås too. I’ll see if I can come up with some pictures of the Lucia celebration in Sweden on 13th December.

Anna Johnson was born February 1891 in Nebraska. She was the daughter of Claus Johnson of Smaland, Sweden (born October 29, 1860) and Axelina Warn of Ostrejotlan, Sweden (born January 23, 1859).

December 24, 1946, Oakland Tribune, Marriage License: Stanley Thorsell and Florence Jacobs