Saturday, November 14, 2015

John August Johnson - Part 5 - Epilogue - The Wish Fulfilled

John spoke often about his younger brother, Anders, back in Sweden. He wished for a day when his family could see the home and farm he had built. I don’t know when communication stopped between John and his family in Sweden but I do know he never got his wish. By the time we began looking for family, 100 years after John said goodbye to them in Sweden, too much time had gone by and the delicate threads we all know hold our family history together were broken.

Uncle Don (one of my dad's brothers) and I have looked for relatives in Sweden for years with no luck. I put everything we knew in my public tree on Ancestry and there it sat for many years. As I learned how to search Arkivdigital, the Swedish online database of old records, I added what I found. My tree was online for years and although it has been instrumental in finding many cousins on my mom's side, we never made any progress on the Swedish branches.

Meanwhile, in Jönköping, Sweden, an 86 year-old woman named Gunnel, often wondered what happened to the part of the family that had gone to America. Her grandfather, Anders Gustaf Johannesson told of a brother, Johan and a sister, Britta who had emigrated from Sweden to America in the 1869. She even had, in her home, Britta’s trunk which she had left behind when she emigrated.

Then, for 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 through
Anders and his wife, Amanda, (seated) at their home in Sweden. Gunnel’s mother, Svea, is in the background (center).

In April 2013, I received a message on from a woman in Jönköping 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 for a while 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 with the iPad she used to find me!
Once I knew I had relatives in Sweden, I had a great desire to go and meet them. Gunnel sent me pictures of the part of our family who had stayed in Sweden during the 2 years after we found each other. She also sent many pictures of their homes. 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 in the 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.
It 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 Gothenburg, Ängelholm (to meet a Facebook friend) and Malmö. Then we were on to Jönköping and our family!

On a beautiful June morning we stopped the car in front of Gunnel’s home. Her youngest daughter, Marianne stood on the balcony waving to us. We were welcomed in for a formal fika (a special coffee break in Sweden) set on the dining room table. Gunnel, her daughters, Marianne and Ninni and their husbands, and Marianne’s son, Johan were there to greet us. It was a powerful feeling just to be there in Sweden with them.
Ninni, Gunnel, and Marianne at our welcome Fika.
Altogether, we met 14 relatives! Our cousins welcomed us with open arms and we felt very comfortable in their homes!  We stayed with Gunnel in her home and celebrated Midsommar with them in Gunnel’s son, Anders', home in Jönköping and again later in Dalarna. 

Christina, Gunnel, Christer and Shari looking at genealogy.

My Cousin Christina’s husband, Christer, is also a genealogist. He presented me with a large notebook containing his work on the history of the family; complete with color pictures of family groups and the inside of some of the homes!

Kris and Shari celebrating Midsommar’s Day in Jönköping.
They took us south of Jönköping to the town of Vaggeryd in Byarum Parish. We visited Plätt Farm where my great grandpa John August Johnson, and his younger brother, Gunnel's grandpa Anders, were born and raised. 

Before my trip I did some thinking about the gift I would bring Gunnel. She sent me many pictures of family homes and I wanted to bring her something that she would think was special. Then I remembered what my Uncles and Dad had told me many times. John’s wish for his family to see his Kansas home had gone unfulfilled. 

Gunnel unwrapping her gift.

With the help of my kids, I retrieved a piece of wood from the abandoned home John and Ida built on the homestead now hidden from view behind barbed wire, brush and trees. I framed the wood with a photo of the house at its peak about 1915. 
That is what I brought to Gunnel. 

Anders may not have gotten to see John’s home but his granddaughter now has a piece of it hanging on her family history wall in her home in Sweden.


  1. I love your way of telling the story. Thank you for lettiing us share it. Hope see you again. Hugs to you and your Sister. ❤❤Ninni

    1. Thank you, Ninni! I hope to spend more time with you next time. I want to go on a photography day with you!

  2. Such a wonderful ending, well really beginning. It is so great that you have made all these connections - you can even see the resemblance of family! I hope to meet some of them one day!

  3. Thanks, Lisa! They would definitely fit in our American Johnson family gatherings; no questions asked! Maybe they will come this way sometime!

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