Elna was born in Alno, Sweden to Anders August Helgsten and Brita Persdotter on March 13, 1883. She emigrated to America on August 8, 1902 when she was 19. Two sisters, Anna and Nanna, and a brother Hilding (Hilly) also emigrated to America between 1900 and 1905. Elna met John while he was attending school in Minneapolis. They were married in Cooperstown, ND on August 29, 1903.
In The Johnson-Helgsten Family, Marilyn Fischer writes, "They settled on the home place and John's mother, Brita, lived with then until her death in 1913. Life was not easy on the prairie: days were long and hard--tilling, planting, harvesting, caring for the animals, caring for a large household. During their married life, 10 children were born to them, 6 boys and 4 girls. One son died in infancy. John died November 16, 1925, two weeks before his 47th birthday. The farm was sold in 1929. Elna had already moved into Cooperstown with the younger children who were still at home. She worked hard raising her children during the ensuing years, making a living as a seamstress at the Model Clothing Store and later taking in boarders. By the late 1930s, she was living with her daughter, Ann, and working as a cook in a boarding house in Minneapolis where her brother and sister both lived. In her later years, she spent most of her time in Duluth with Ann and her family. She eventually got an apartment of her own in Duluth, but lived in it only a short while before she had a stroke. She had a second stroke while visiting her daughter, Vina, in Cooperstown and died on July 23, 1957, at the age of 74. Her niece, Evelyne (Ost) Fosse, commented that, when Elna died, she thought "how much knowledge is gone from this world--it would have filled volumes!"
John and Elna had ten children. In the order of their births, they are:
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