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!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ida Matilda Johnson - 52 Ancestors

Ida Mathilda Jonsdotter was born 21 October 1865 in Brånhorvan, Vena, Kalmar län, Sweden. She left Sweden with her family when she was 5 years old. Her family homesteaded on land northeast of McPherson, Kansas.  

She grew up on the farm and when she was 16, married the next door neighbor, Johan August Johannesson on 1 Sept 1882 in McPherson. Because of a shortage of marriageable women in the area, John waited until Ida was old enough to marry and married her. Their American names were Ida M. and John A. Johnson. Ida moved next door and so, came to live in the house that she had always been able to see from the window in her parents’ home.

They had 9 sons and 2 daughters. All but the first 2 sons survived and helped run the farm.

Arthur and John (both died as children)
Arthur (my grandpa)

By 1920, they had left the running of the farm to their son, Arthur and his wife, Ida, and moved to the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas. They built a vegetable and fruit farm near Alamo, Texas.  Several of their children helped them with both of the farms.
After John died in 1940, Ida and Edith stayed in Texas; moving to the house at the right. This is the last house they lived in. Ida died 17 August 1952 in Alamo, Hidalgo, Texas.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Uncle Reuben's Journey Movie - The Uncle Reuben Project - Year 3

School is out for another year and I have more to add to "The Uncle Reuben Project" files. I was afraid that by the 3rd year, I wouldn't have anything else new to do for the project but that isn't the case! 

In January, my class had enjoyed making a movie about Simeon Swartz for our Kansas/Pioneer unit and they enjoyed it so much that I decided we needed to do that for Reuben, also. The story is a fairly long one so each child had to have 2 parts. They drew pictures and I filled in with some photographs from my genealogy files. I wrote the script from notes taken during interviews between Uncle Reuben and my Uncle Don.

When we were finished, we shared the movie with some other classes and our principal. They enjoy sharing their work with others. I let parents know the show times and several showed up to watch. We also invited the students from years 1 and 2 of the project (now 3rd and 4th graders) to see the new addition. 

We hope you enjoy it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Never Give Up - Friday's Faces from the Past

My family tree has a few researched branches so long they almost reach the sky. I can't take the credit for most of that growth. Much of it was accomplished years before I ever began my research.
Memorial stone in Byarum Parish, Jönköping, Sweden
My loose translation: Memorial To the memory of the
532 Byarum residents who 1853-1930 emigrated to America,
to seek their 
My great grandfather, Johann August Johannesson, was one
of the 532 that left Byarum in 1869.
I have had help and I've been fortunate to meet some wonderful cousins along the way who dropped crumbs for me to follow when I needed it.
Other branches have only grown a few inches in all the years my family has been working on our genealogy.

One of the most stubborn branches has been my dad's Johnson and Nelson lines. All four of his grandparents came to America from Sweden in the mid 1800's as young, single adults. We had vague stories of Sweden, and a few names that had been passed down, but little else.

If you know anything about Swedish names before the 1900's, you know that each generation received new last names.

August Johannesson really was Johannes' son! Johanna Håkansdotter really was... you guessed it, Håkans' daughter!

That makes for very difficult searching made even harder by the fact that I didn't speak much more Swedish than "thank you," "yes," and the names of some traditional dishes.

It was a very slow growing branch! 

The information I had on my Swedish ancestors existed on my Ancestry.com tree for years without comment, as the branches around them grew with new information and newly found cousins.

Years of searching and waiting ended abruptly one day last spring when I opened a message from a
Anders and his family in their home in Jönköping, Sweden
woman in Sweden claiming that her grandfather, Anders, and my great grandfather, John, were brothers. John had come to America while Anders had remained in Sweden.

The pictures started coming and I found myself looking into faces of family. Familiar family resemblances! I never dreamed this would happen after so much time.

After many questions, much research, and major breakthroughs in my understanding of Swedish records, I am proud to call Gunnel my cousin. We write back and forth and share new and old bits of family news.

And... I've started planning a trip to Sweden!

Never. Give. Up.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Finding the Time and Space - Motivation Monday

This week is my "deep summer" week. I know it's summer and hot outside but, in my mind, this mid-week of summer (5 out of 9) feels cool, calm, and refreshing.

You see, I'm a teacher, and my summer months are very different than my winter months.

Much of my days have been filled with doing the things in my house that have waited for me all year. So far, I have painted two rooms and turned one of those into an office - for ME! I'm working on the rest of the house also, but my office is where I want to be. There is plenty to do in here! I have spent hours filing, sorting, and scanning.

I've been blessed with a large collection of old pictures of ancestors, along with letters, documents, and artifacts. I'm very grateful for it all but, I also feel the pressure of responsibility, as the family genealogist, to keep it safe and honor it with some attention.

Now that I have a spot, I am motivated to begin setting down goals for future work in my new space!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - Summer Memory 1963, Age Eight

It's the first day of summer. Summer mornings bring back memories of home.

I wake to my open window as the sun and a cool morning breeze hit my white cotton curtains. They sway in the air, nudging me from my dreams. I stretch, enjoying the morning coolness that will be gone all too soon from this summer scene, and then lay still to listen for the noise of others in the house. Hearing nothing, I sit up, put my feet on the smooth wooden floor, and gaze out the window in front of me. I'm looking for my mother. After a few moments perusing the straight rows of corn, potatoes, beats, beans, and other assorted vegetables, I spot white fabric billowing in the breeze. I know it must be Mom's housecoat I've spied between the single row of fruit trees and the blackberry bushes that stretch the length of our small grove. 
Shari (8), Kristi (6), Laurie (3)

I open the door and step out into the hall where I can see my little sisters, still sleeping in their twin beds, through the slightly open door across from mine. It won't be long before they wake and the house becomes active and full of life. 

As I walk past my parents' room, I notice their bed is neatly made and ready for the day. The windows have been opened and the single air-conditioner, that has run through the night in my parents' window, is getting a rest; waiting for the sun to make its way to the room's west windows. Dad's watch, pocket protector with his pens and mechanical pencils, and change for his pocket are no longer in their spot on the corner of the dresser; a sure sign that he has already left for work for the day. 

I make my way through the living room with its large picture window, on through the dining room, and into the kitchen. Every room looks, smells, and feels like summer.
My Mom is nowhere to be found in those rooms but I see signs of her presence. The double doors in the dining room lead to the backyard. They are open and doing their best to bring in cool air before the afternoon heat takes over. A coffee cup with a brown liquid ring sits on the kitchen table next to a small plate displaying evidence of toast with jelly; a crumpled paper napkin completing the picture. 

Vera Dibbens Johnson
I continue past the churning washing machine in the utility room and out the wooden screen door that leads to the north side of the house. I feel the cool morning breeze as it penetrates my summer pajamas. The small porch sits comfortably between two large flowerbeds full of columbines and snap dragons. English ivy has wound it's tendrils over the red brick of the north wall for so many years that the brick is no longer visible.

I run barefoot, down the steps and into the wet grass, on my way to the garden; our collie, Laddie, matching my steps on the other side of the chain link fence.

As I scan the garden again, I spot Mom bending over a row of snap beans. Her fingers working quickly to pull the ripe pods from their branches. She has nearly finished filling the large plastic bowl. She looks up and smiles as I come to stand beside her on the soft, cool garden soil. I help her finish filling the big bowl and we head for the kitchen where I will help her snap the ends off of the fresh beans. 

As my sisters bounce into the kitchen, I know the rest of the day will be full of summer activity. But, the early morning time with Mom cements the rich memories in my mind forever.