Every so often I get an inquiry about St. Ansgarius and the records held here in the Swedish-American Archives of Greater Chicago. Our website displays the finding aid of the materials in the collection along with the unfortunate announcement that the member books we hold cannot be accessed due to their fragile condition. As an alternative, I am able to point researchers to the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center in Rock Island, Illinois where they have microfilmed copies of the member records of St. Ansgarius. There one can also find a wonderful index of names found in the St. Ansgarius records. The index created by Nils William Olsson is invaluable as the handwritten records can be a stumbling block to even the most practiced of genealogists.
One recent researcher requested photographs of the church; the two images here are from the collection.
Another researcher in Chicago sent an email inquiry after seeing the church building today on the corner of Sedgwick and Locust Avenues. In response to her question about the Swedish-American history of the building I was able to provide this short history from the finding aid.
Founded in 1849, St. Ansgarius Church was first located at Illinois and Franklin Streets, Chicago, IL. It was founded by Gustav Unonius, a convert to the Episcopal Church who previously led a group of Swedish immigrants to settle at Pine Lake, Wisconsin. At the end of the century, St. Ansgarius was located on Sedgwick Avenue, one block north of Chicago Avenue, in Chicago. The church remained at this location until 1920, at which time the church effectively closed due to the departure of the rector, Carl August Nybladh and the majority of the congregation. However, in 1924, the bishop of Chicago re-opened St. Ansgarius at a temporary location on Lincoln Avenue, and later built the Jenny Lind Memorial Chapel at 2514 West Thorndale Avenue, Chicago. In 1940 the church was re-dedicated as St. Francis Church, and this congregation survived into the 1990’s. (Information courtesy of Richard R. Seidel, Historiographer, The Diocese of Chicago, 1999).
Incidentally, I met Richard Seidel in August at an event of the Society of American Archivists at St. James Cathedral in the Loop. After his expertly crafted tour that detailed the history of every nook and cranny of St. James, Richard and I got to talking about the St. Ansgarius materials held here at North Park University. Having not known the circumstances under which the records found their way to the collection, Richard speculated that they were transferred to the Swedish-American Historical Society in the late 1970s or early 1980s. This was coincidentally the time when Lennart Setterdahl was microfilming Swedish-American church and lodge records throughout North America.