A Biography of Harry Eugene Petterson, 1888-1925


Harry Petterson 1924 , digital image of front and back of snapshot, 4/2017, Petterson family collection. restored by Donna Sexton 2018.

Last night I was reading through various social media posts about genealogy research techniques, collections, etc. and came across an article about Genealogy Gophers and decided I’d try some basic searches using the surnames and home towns of my grandparents.1

I didn’t find anything for the first 3 surnames I tried,2 but this appeared on the first screen for my 4th try.

Snip from Genealogy Gophers

Clicking on it brought me directly to page 301 and this biography. I’ve added, a hopefully accurate, transcription below.

Biography of Harry Petterson
American biography: a new cyclopedia, Vol. 33 (New York, New York: American Historical Society, 1928), p. 301-302; digital images, Genealogical Society of Utah d.b.a FamilySearch, FamilySearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org : downloaded 2 February 2018; Genealogy Gophers search, https://www.gengophers.com.

PETTERSON, Harry Eugene, Doctor of Dental Surgery.

To the broadening interests of dentistry in their present-day study and application, Dr. Harry Eugene Petterson contributed very ably and effectively in behalf of the profession for which he proved himself well fitted by inclination and training. A veteran of the World War, he rendered an efficient service with his contingent overseas, and he received the honors due the soldier who shared therein the lot of those who fought for country, and gave professional aid to the comrades in the ranks. He was a son of Lars Magnus Petterson, a building contractor, who was born in 1857 and died in 1920, and Regina (Erickson) Petterson. Lars Magnus Petterson, a native of Dejefors Bruk, Wermland, Sweden, came to the United States in 1880, settling in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he became one of the leading builders, starting in as a carpenter and establishing his contracting business in 1883.

Dr. Harry Eugene Petterson was born October 7, 1888, at Worcester, Massachusetts, and he was graduated at the English High School in that city in 1908. Preparing for his profession in the Dental School of the University of Pennsylvania, he was graduated there in 1911 with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery, establishing himself in practice in Worcester, in August of that year. In the year 1924 he opened his offices in Cleveland Ohio, where he had become popular in practice, and was held in highest esteem by his many patrons and friends, and where he was associated in dentistry with the work of the United States Public Health Services and the Veterans’ Bureau.

Fraternally, Dr. Petterson was affiliated with the Thule Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows’ Athelstan Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; Eureka Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; Hiram Council, Royal and Select Masters; Worcester Commandery, No. 5, Knights Templar; Aleppo Temple, Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; Alethea Grotto; and Knights of the Rose Croix Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. He was also a member of the Truman Dental Society and of Xi Psi Phi Fraternity. His favorite recreation was hunting and fishing. When the United States entered the World War, Dr. Petterson enlisted and was in the service of the Untied States Government from September, 1917 to July 8, 1919. He served in France with the 303d at Hospital No. 87 at Annecy area; and at Detention Camp Hospital No. 45. He was made a first lieutenant in the Dental Corps and a major in the Reserve Corps.

Dr. Harry Eugene Petterson married, September 6, 1921 at Cleveland, Ohio, Ethel Helena Nygren, daughter of John Eric Nygren, a steam mill roller.

Dr. Petterson died August 15, 1925, in Cleveland, one of the most popular and skilled men in his profession, who made lifelong friendships for his geniality and his pronounced ability.

  1. I know this is NOT how genealogy research should be done. It’s a waste of time, because without keeping track of what searches I did, I’ll  have to do them again. I didn’t even keep track of where I read about Genealogy Gophers. The only excuse I have is that it was just too exciting to find out it existed. Family History Books, part of FamilySearch, is a collection of more than 350,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to find books that include information about a specific person or an easy way to find that part of the book.  That’s what’s so great about Genealogy Gophers.  Its search engine not only find the publications, but it also finds and displays  the information that matches your search.
  2. I was doing this on my phone late at night and could have easily missed someone.



Thomas Street Church Confirmation May 1913

Petterson Family Collection; Betyg i Kristendomskunskap; 25 May 1913, 2nd Swedish Methodist Church, 59 Thomas Street1, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Among the many treasures saved by the Petterson family is this document that, without knowing any Swedish, I assumed to be Wallace Petterson’s Confirmation Certificate from May 1913.  But in order to be sure, I decided to try to translate it.  I started with Google translate and then looked up words that just didn’t seem right in a Swedish-English dictionary from around that time. I came up with the following…



Christian Knowledge

PSALM 199:9

Wallace Petterson
participated in Christianity education
was reviewed publicly and approved
at the 2nd Swedish M.E. Church
on the twenty-fifth of May 1913
Worcester, Mass.   24 May 1913
D.K. Englund       Pastor

I was very happy to find this photo among the photos copied from a CD borrowed from Epworth United Methodist Church.  I love the way the girls in front are posed!  Wallace, 2nd from the right in the back row, wasn’t able to keep from moving and ended up  a bit blurred.

Confirmation Class – 2nd Swedish Methodist Church of Worcester Mass , 5/25/1913;                digital image, 5/31/2010; privately held by Epworth UMC, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609. restored by Donna Sexton 2018.

This article from a Worcester newspaper clears up the identity of the rest of this class and provides information about both services.  I used the same methodology  to translate this article and broke the article into sections to make it easier to read.


“Thomas St. Krykan,” Skandinavia (Worcester, Massachusetts), 21 May 1913, p.20, col. 3; online images, (http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/swedishamerican : accessed 21 January 2018), Minnesota Historical Society Swedish American Newspapers; Digitization by the National Library of Sweden in collaboration with the Media Conversion Center at the National Archives of Sweden, funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation.

Thomas St. Church. Next Sunday is the completion of this year’s Reading Class, which consists of the following; Anna Anderson, Edla Anderson, Selma Anderson, Walter Arnberg, Egnar Berggren, Arthur Bloom, Stina Bogren, Ebba Karlson, Evelyn Carlson, Herbert Carlson, Ruth Carlson, Elin Danelius, Gunhild Ekstedt, Esther Gavert, Elsa Holmström. Adolf Johnson, Adeline Kaner, Elsie Kinander, Helen Larson, Jennie Löfgren, Philip Nelson, Frances Peterson, Hildur Petterson, Wallace Petterson, Edith Steelman, Ivar Stohlberg, Agnes Swenson, Hilda Söderberg and Elna Söderquist.

The morning’s worship begins at half past 11 and consists of:
1. Organ Prelude, Fridolf Carlson.
2. The class marches in.
3. Congregation Song, Psalm 11.
4. The Confession of Faith, the Reading Children.
5. Prayer, Emil T. Rolander.
6. Gloria Patri, the Assembly.
7. Bible reading.
8. Song, Quartet.
9. Baptism.
10. Shorter sermon, pastor David K. Englund.
11. Examination in Christianity, the Reading Children.
12. Song, the choir of the assembly.
13. Notices and offering.
14. Praise and blessing.

The evening’s worship begins at 7 with the following programs:
1. Organ Prelude, Fridolf Carlson.
2. Reading Class marches in.
3. Congregation Song, Psalm 512.
4. Prayer, Emil T. Swenson.
5. Song, the choir
6. Speaker, Pastor N. P. Glemaker from Moline, Ill.
7. Song, the choir.
8. Reception into Membership.
9. Congregation Song, Psalm 444.
10. Celebration of the memory of Jesus Christ.
11. Distribution of grades and bibles.
12. Conclusion.

We expect to see the parents of the Reading Children present at both worship services and hope their other relatives and friends also appear.

  1. Methodist Churches.—There are nine Methodist-Episcopal churches in Worcester, including two African. The list is as follows:
    Trinity, 650 Main street, formed 1834.
    Laurel Street, Laurel Hill, formed 1845.
    Webster Square, New Worcester, formed 1860.
    Grace Free Church,Walnut street, formed 1867.
    Coral Street, Coral street, formed 1872.
    First Swedish, Quinsigamond Village, formed 1879.
    Second Swedish, 59 Thomas street, formed 1885.
    Zion (African), 86 Exchange street, formed 1846.
    Bethel (African), 302 Main street, formed 1867.

    Franklin Pierce Rice, Dictionary of Worcester (Massachusetts) and Its Vicinity (Worcester, Massachusetts: F.S. Blanchard, 1889), 53; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 21 January 2018.

  2. Swedish-English & English-Swedish Dictionary. [Chicago: Engberg-Holmberg, 1904. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100644144


Children of Lars Petterson & Regina Ericson – Massachusetts Births, 1841-1951

Lars Petterson  & Family – 1903
From left to right (front row): Ruth, Regina, Wallace, Lars 
(back row): Hulda, Harry, Elmer, Oscar

Photo from the collection of Pete Petterson. Year was given in the caption to the photograph on page 32 of  Swedes of Greater Worcester Revisited by Eric J. Salomonsson, William O. Hultgren, and Philip C. Becker. Arcadia Publishing: 2005.
My great-grandparents, Lars Petterson & Regina Ericson, had six children. They were born in Worcester, Massachusetts between 1884 and 1899.  Their youngest child, born on the 10th of December 1899, was my grandfather.

The database Massachusetts Births, 1841 -1951, consists of digital images of birth registries  required to be compiled by towns each year (since 1840) and then submitted to the state of Massachusetts. The originals are housed at the Massachusetts State Archives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Lar’s and Regina’s children are all listed; all records contain at least one misspelling:

  • Peterson for Petterson
  • Erickson / Erikson for Ericson
  • Brur for Bror
  • Ruth A. for Ruth E. (Amelia for Emelia)

Other misspellings were introduced when the database was indexed: Worchester and “Lars N.”

It appears that  Oscar (born in 1890) and Wallace (born in 1899) weren’t named until some time after their birth.

Search Results

Pages from the birth registries are shown below.  You can see larger copies by clicking on the title below each image.

Births Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1888

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FX6X-6GG : 1 March 2016), Harry E. Petterson, 07 Oct 1888, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #488, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,242.

Birth Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1884

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FXDN-2H6 : 1 March 2016), Hulda E. Peterson, 26 Sep 1884, Worchester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #Item 1, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,207.

Births Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1880

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FX69-1YX : 1 March 2016), Brur E. Peterson, 23 Aug 1886, Worcester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,239.

Births Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1894

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FXWP-JFS : 1 March 2016), Ruth A. Peterson, 27 Mar 1894, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #p 599 no 656, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,651,226.

Births Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1899

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FXF3-XRL : 1 March 2016), Peterson, 10 Dec 1899, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #p 510, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,843,712.

Births Registered in the City of Worcester for the Year 1890

“Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FXN7-YLJ : 1 March 2016), Peterson, 25 Dec 1890, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #p 525, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,245.


Carole Petterson’s 2nd Birthday – 26 August 1936

Carole & Laina
Laina & Carole & Irja
Laina & Barney & Carole & Dagmar

The reason that I know these photographs were taken on my mom’s 2nd birthday is this text was written on the back side of the bottom photo.

? on Barney ja Carole ja Dagmar ja Laina ? August 26, 1936 Carole’s 2 Syntymäpäivä


Not only is August 26, 1936 the date of my mother’s 2nd birthday, the Finnish word for birthday is Syntymäpäivä.  I wasn’t able to figure out what the first word was and have no idea what is written after Laina.

Since this is written in Finnish, I’m pretty sure that my great-grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother) wrote this information. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the tape off the back of the photo so some of the writing is hidden.

Dagmar is my mother’s mother. Irja isn’t identified but she’s my grandmother’s sister and the photo looks like her.

Since I can’t add Barney and Laina to my official family tree, they are mysteries:

  • Barney could be Dagmar’s ( & Irja’s) cousin whose last name was something like Hekkala and who moved to Minnesota sometime before WW2 and then to California.
  • I have absolutely no idea who Laina was.