Written by David Anderson
On 14 October 1998 the Dala-Demokraten newspaper posters appeared in store windows in Hedemora, Dalarna declaring “David Från USA Fann Sina Rötter i Grådö.” And indeed, I had
I hadn’t always been interested in Genealogy. It was something my mom did and enjoyed very much. Back then, in the pre-internet days, research was done at the nearby Family History Library in Eureka, CA where she would order microfilm from Salt Lake City. After the film arrived, she would use the microfilm reader to laboriously extract the data. In her best schoolteacher hand writing, she recorded the data on family group sheets that would eventually end up in four sets of binders: one for her, and one each for us three kids. I vowed that when I got a PC, I would obtain a family tree program and computerize all those handwritten family group sheets. That was 30 years ago. We’ve come a long way technologically in that time period. No more trips to the Family History Libraries. No more microfilm and no more writing family group sheets by hand. That’s probably a pretty good thing since my handwriting is pretty atrocious.
My parents and I made our first trip to Sweden in June 1985, spending a week and a half doing a self-guided tour from Jönköping, over to Öland in the south, and then up to Falun in the north. We even stopped by Rök to see the world’s largest rune stone, not knowing that this was one of the parishes my ancestors came from. That trip was before I was bitten by the genealogy bug. In 1990 I obtained a PC, installed Family Tree Maker and started delving into my genealogy, concentrating on the Swedish side. Letters were written to genealogy groups inquiring about my Swedish ancestors. And then the information began pouring in. I was amazed at the generosity of Swedish genealogists and felt deeply in debt to them.
In 1995 we made another trip to Sweden, but this time had a better idea of where we wanted to go to see where the ancestors lived. We returned to Vadstena and visited the archives. There is nothing like doing actual research in the 16th century castle in which the regional archives are housed. The weight of history is palpable. We found out that some of our ancestors came from nearby Biskopstorp in Rök parish and asked where it was located. The next day we drove over and walked around Biskopstorp and paid another visit to the rune stone next to the parish church. Later in Hedemora, I brought several old carte d’visite photos of people that were taken in Hedemora. My grandfather had been born in Grådö, Hedemora. So, I went to the Dala-Demokraten office with photos in hand and explained that we didn’t know who these people were, and would they be interested in doing a story about why I would like to know if anyone might know? The reporter copied some photos and promised to run an article.
A week after I returned home, a large envelope from Sweden arrived containing the newspaper article and a long, handwritten letter in Swedish. It was from Anna Mattson, the granddaughter of my grandfather’s brother’s girlfriend, Pelles Anna. She didn’t follow my Uncle Eric over to Kansas in 1890, rather staying behind and marrying someone else. Pelles Anna’s granddaughter explained who the people were in the four photos telling me parts of the story I had heard that weren’t noted in the article. I knew that Anna Mattsson knew what she was talking about!
Three years later for my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, we again returned to Sweden. We met relatives in Tranås who showed us a soldier’s cottage in the Jönköping city park that had been moved there from Linderås where some ancestors of ours had lived in it briefly! We met Pelles Anna’s granddaughter who showed us family sites around Hedemora! It was a great trip.
I still wanted to do something to pay back all the time Swedish genealogists have spent in helping me and many other descendants of people who left Sweden to start a new life in North America. So, I started taking photos of headstones in cemeteries and making trips to the Oregon State Archives to scan documents relating to Swedish immigrants. One thing leads to another, and I was invited to join the small group of dedicated researchers – Swedish Roots in Oregon. It has been a pleasure working with the other volunteers and even co-authoring the book “Swedes in Oregon” that was recently published by Arcadia Publishing.
We are constantly looking for new ‘old’ photos to digitize and stories to translate and include in our database. What do you have?
Stay tuned! Part II of the story of David’s ancestral quest continues in our next blog post.