Johan Erik - a freemason child

In the church record from Vidbo parish north of Stockholm 1797-1809 it says that Johan Erik is a freemason child. Johan Erik who was born 1796 was the grandfather (father's father) of Karl Johan Selldin. But what is a freemason child?

Barnamordsplakatet (law against child murder)
In the 18th century it was illegal to have children out of wedlock. It was very difficult for an unmarried mother and her child to be accepted and to find a way to earn her living. Therefore it was not unusual that she murdered her newborn child. In 1778 the king Gustaf III established a special law (barnamordsplakatet) to prevent murder of children. The law gave an unmarried woman the right to give birth to her child anonymous and than give it away. This law was not cancelled until 1915.

It was mainly in Stockholm that women chose to be unknown. Many of these children were born at the Public Maternity Ward in Stockholm (Allmänna BB).

Freemason Orphanage
The Freemasons had four orphanages in Sweden in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Karlskrona and Kristianstad. The freemason orphanages cared for children who had became orphans after their parents had died. But it was more common that they were children of unmarried mothers. Mothers who couldn't care for their children and chose to give them away. The orphanages were raised by gifts and donations. Wellborn families could pay for the orphanage to take care of an unwished child.

The freemasons considered occupational training valuable for the children. The children were trained in skills like shoemaker, tailor etc.

The freemason orphanage in Stockholm was founded in 1753. It could accept about 100 children. Since the need was very great they also accepted children that were placed in foster-homes in the countryside. The foster-homes got payment from the orphanage.

Johan Erik
Johan Erik was born May 13, 1796. All we know about his mother is what is in the journal of the Public Maternity Ward. On May 13, 1796 at 2 o'clock in the morning an unmarried woman aged 28 arrives to give birth to her third child. At half past three in the morning a boy is born. The boy is baptized on May 18 and is given the name Johan Erik. The mother and her son leave the maternity ward on May 22. The mother's name is not in the journal. We don't know were she goes with her child when she leaves.

From the Freemason Orphanage record from August 25, 1796 we learn that Johan Erik was accepted as #5129. Since his parents were unknown he has no surname.

Johan Erik was placed in a foster-home in Vidbo parish north of Stockholm. His foster-mother Anna Jansdotter was widow after a soldier named Jan Rehn. From the orphanage she got 8 shilling a week for the care of Johan Erik.

When Johan Erik was 10 years old on June 21 1806, he was dismissed from the orphanage. At the same time he got a special money gift from the orphanage.

Johan Erik becomes apprentice, farm-hand and tailor-hand and he moves from place to place in the area. It's not until he leaves Vidbo and moves to Östuna that he gets a surname. He gets the name Rehn after his foster-mother's late husband. (The soldier's name Ren is the Swedish word for reindeer.) By this time he is 16 years old.

When Johan Erik is in his early twenties he gets smallpox but fortunately he recovers.

In 1822 he enrolls as seaman #50 at North Roslag's 2nd company. As seaman he is given the name Holm. At the same time he marries his predecessor's young widow Britta Stina Mård and becomes stepfather to her daughter aged five. Johan Erik and Britta Stina got three children. Seaman Erik Holm advanced to navy corporal. On September 26, 1837 he died in Stockholm.

The freemason child Johan Erik became 41 years old and we will never know who his parents were.

last update: Sep. 12, 2000 by Karin Selldin ©