Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Travel Tuesday - Sweden Trip

Last week I wrote about a Swedish cousin, Gunnel, who found me on Ancestry and made all of my genealogy research on that branch of the family much more real! 

Once I knew I had relatives in Sweden, I had a great desire to go and meet them. Gunnel had sent me pictures of the part of our family who had stayed in Sweden in the emails she sent during the 2 years after we found each other. My sister, Kris, and I began to plan a trip to Sweden last fall and it seemed to be the perfect retirement celebration for me as I retired this spring from 35 years of teaching. I emailed my cousin, Gunnel, with our plans and learned that she was very excited to meet us also. 

This was the first visit to Sweden for Kris and I and we immediately felt as if we were home. We grew up in a very Swedish-American culture so actually being in Sweden validated so much of our lives and childhoods in ways nothing else could. On our way to Jönköping, we visited the western and southern cities of Gothernburg, Ängelholm (to meet a Facebook friend) and Malmö. Then we were on to Jönköping and our family!

Altogether, we met 14 relatives! Our cousins welcomed us with open arms and we felt very comfortable!  We stayed with our newly found cousin in her home and celebrated Midsommar with them in Jönköping and later in Dalarna. 

One cousin's husband is also a genealogist and he presented me with a large notebook containing his work on the history of the family; complete with color pictures of the inside of some of the homes and family groups! 

They took us south of Jönköping to the towns of 
Vaggeryd and Byarum. We visited Plätt Farm where my great grandpa John August Johnson and his younger brother, Gunnel's grandpa Anders, were born and raised. 

I was overjoyed and very touched with the warm welcome and acceptance! 

I just got home a few days ago and the last month still feels like a dream! I would never have believed this could happen to us, even two years ago!

Take-Away: Never give up on the missing branches in your family and keep a public tree open! They might be looking for you!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Motivational Monday - If you're looking for family, keep a public tree!

 My great grandfather, Johan August Johannesson came to America from Jönköping in 1869 and settled near McPherson, Kansas. He homesteaded there and married the neighbor girl, Ida Matilda Johnsdotter (Johnson) from Kalmar. He always told about a younger brother back in Sweden but by the time we began looking 100 years or more later, too much time had gone by and ties had been broken.

Uncle Don (one of my dad's brothers) and I have looked for relatives in Sweden for years with no luck. I put what I knew on Ancestry in my public tree there several years ago. As I learned how to use Arkivdigital, I added what I found to that file. It was online for years and although it had been instrumental in finding many cousins on my mom's side, we never made any progress on the Swedish branches.

Meanwhile, in Jönköping, Sweden, a woman in her mid eighties named Gunnel, often wondered what happened to the part of the family that had gone to America. Her grandfather, Anders Johannesson told of a brother, Johan and a sister, Brita who had emigrated from Sweden to America in the 1860's.

Then at Christmas 2012, Gunnel received an iPad as a gift from her children. As she learned how to use it, she decided she would try to find her family in America.
Johan August Johannesson
and family in Kansas

Anders and his family in Sweden.
The next April, I received a message on Ancestry from an 86 year old woman from Jönköping (from her new ipad) saying that she thought we were related. I was very excited but also afraid of being disappointed if I found out that it wasn't a match. After MUCH checking and matching of our information, I finally allowed myself to believe I was communicating with the granddaughter of my great grandpa's younger brother, Anders. I just about reached hero status among my aunts and uncles and of course my own dad who has since, died just for having put the family tree on ancestry where it was found.

Gunnel and I have been emailing back and forth for the last two years. We send greetings, family information, questions and answers, and plenty of pictures (old and new). It has been wonderful!

I'm writing this to motivate others to keep a public tree online. The benefits outweigh all.

Come back tomorrow for Travel Tuesday. Yes, it's what you think! (hint, hint!)