Anna Carlsson was an authority on multiple proverbs, figures of speech, and sayings originating in Sweden’s ancient farming community.
Anna Carlsson was born on Råby farm in Vaksala parish, Uppland in 1865. The farm was owned by her paternal grandfather and his two sons. Anna Carlsson’s father, Per Jakobsson, actually farmed the land whilst his brother served as his farmhand. Her mother, Anna Stina Hansdotter, hailed from Lejsta in Rasbo.
Anna Carlsson attended Vaksala church school and then began to help out at home at the farm. In 1890, when she was 25 years old, she married Alfred Carlsson and they took over the farm at Ytterbacken, Råby:3. Anna Carlsson’s parents became superfluous. Their proximity to Uppsala meant that the farm produce was taken to be sold at market in that town’s squares and markets. The largescale Vittulsberg farm, which belonged to the De Geer complex of properties under Löfstabruk iron works, lay nearby.
Anna Carlsson’s husband Alfred became the church warden and church treasurer within Vaksala congregation. When her husband died in 1912 Anna Carlsson and her only son Carl took over the running of the farm. It has not been established how long they ran the farm but eventually Ytterbacken was sold. Anna Carlsson then lived in Karlberg, close to Vittulsberg, and later moved to Svartbäcken in Uppsala. Finally she settled in the Eriksberg quarter of that town.
Sigvard Cederroth became an important figure in Anna Carlsson’s life. He was 45 years her junior and had family connections to Uppland. He had grown up in Funbo and Vaksala, and attended secondary school in Uppsala, although he had left early. Having spent some time at sea he then returned to Uppsala where he took up a range of occupations. From the end of the 1930s onwards he primarily worked as a countryside postman. His delivery area comprised Vaksala parish, where Anna Carlsson lived and worked.
During the 1950s Cederroth reviewed prose for Bonniers Litterära Magasin BLM, Tidningen Upsala, and Jordbrukarnas Föreningsblad. He was an excellent writer and expert in art but he withdrew from public literary life in the early 1960s in order to dedicate himself to research into folklore. His primary source then became Anna Carlsson. For a few intense years, up until Anna Carlsson’s death, he noted down around 1,400 proverbs, 400 figures of speech, and 40 sayings from “Gammel-Anna” as she was nicknamed. Following Cederroth’s death in 1979 the Uppsala librarian Thomas Brylla compiled his notes from Anna Carlsson in 1986 into a publication entitled Lexikon för livet. En allmogekvinnas ordspråk, ordstäv och talesätt.
Anna Carlsson was brought up with oral history and her father was an extremely gifted story-teller. She herself had an excellent memory and even late on in her life she remained an avid book- and newspaper-reader. Sound recordings were made of Anna Carlsson’s voice on behalf of the then Dialekt- och folkminnesarkivet in Uppsala (now known as Institutet för språk och folkminnen, an institute of ethnographic and folkloristic material). An important collaborator in these efforts was the archivist Wolter Ehn, also from Vaksala. Cederroth’s folklore notes were donated, on the death of his widow Lisa Cederroth in 2006, to that archive.
To Cederroth Anna Carlsson represented the typical Uppland farmer woman. His dream was to create a kind of farming authority of the immeasurably rich Uppland folklore material. Anna Carlsson was just one of several informants. His dream was realised when the Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy published his work, entitled Bondsagan in 2014. Cederroth was named as the main compiler. Following the death of Thomas Brylla in 2009 the Uppland museet, along with Iréne A. Flygare and Barbro Björnemalm, took over the project. The notes were transferred into digital format and the number of entries increased in number to 10,000.
Anna Carlsson’s comprehensive memory of proverbs, figures of speech, and sayings were saved for posterity thanks to Cederroth’s notes. She had a vital influence on valuable publications, especially Lexikon för livet, but also for Bondsagan, which emerged after her death. These works provide a micro-detailed description of conditions and situations in the Uppland farming community at the time of the turn of the 1900s. They are invaluable to those engaged in folklore research.
Anna Carlsson died in 1966, then aged 100.