Guest blogger Eric Stroschein was recently in Stockholm, Sweden connecting with relatives and researching his ancestry. This is the fifth and final post in a series of articles from his visit to the old country. You can read his first article here.
Karen and I made it to our gate at the Arlanda Airport without too much hassle, we are exhausted. Three weeks in the beautiful country of my ancestors has taken its toll. We both have lost weight, we have the aches and pains of a marathon runner, and our sleep bank is on empty. Despite all of that we are strangely and inexplicably energized. Sweden seems to have a magical quality about it.
As I get situated on the plane for the long fight back to Seattle, I am reminded of the words of the great playwright Shakespeare, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” The words do not adequately explain the depth of emotion upon leaving Sweden. Memories gush into my mind like meeting my cousins for the first time, the incredible generosity of people I have just met, doing a presentation with slides in Swedish and speaking in English, not knowing how to do the self-checkout at a grocery store, trying to pay at the pump while filling up the rental car, the fantastic discoveries that made brick walls disappear, holding an original 1815 map in my hands of the family property, or discovering information that casts doubts on family lore. Just a smattering of the hundreds of moments that are etched in my memory. So many, it is like trying to sip water from a firehose.
The one memory that leaves me still agape is the afternoon before we were to leave, that Karen, my cousin Tedd, and I spent with our cousin Anne Eek. Anne turns 85 in November and has lived at the same address for 75 years. She has been an avid genealogist for more than 50 years. She has accumulated so many original family photos, documents, letters, books, bibles, oil paintings, and memorabilia that it left me completely in awe. The collection that Anne holds was like going to the national archives exclusively for our family. She has so many items that she has lost track of what she has.
While searching through folders, I ran across an 1815 original map of our family’s farm near Värnamo called Edh. When brought to her attention she just giggles. The photo collection is in the tens of thousands of original photos of family members. I was looking in one box and came upon more than 100 silver emulsion glass plates of various family members, homes, and scenery. Anne does not see well but when we explain what we found she giggles and tells the story of where she got them and what they contain. We found hundreds of original letters between family members dating back to 1822. Several diaries written in French and Swedish plus family bibles.
We spent nearly six hours with Anne and did not even scratch the surface. This was my last day in Sweden and had it been my first I may have spent all three weeks in Anne’s apartment still not seeing everything she has. This is truly one of those experiences that leaves you speechless. All I could say was WOW!
After we left, Karen, Tedd, and I had dinner. We were all abuzz over the different things we saw. There were so many things that each of us had seen or remembered the others had not. We all agreed on the importance of helping Anne catalog, digitize, preserve, and archive her valuable treasures. The interesting thing is Anne’s story is not unique. There are more of my cousins in Sweden who have accumulated massive amounts of information and artifacts that are just sitting on a shelf or in a storage locker.
To say my time in Sweden was incredible seems to be a lack luster description and does not accurately describe my experience. On our last day in Stockholm, Karen said to me, “We have to come back, there are so many things that could get lost or destroyed, and we must come back.” I agreed with her and started coming up with a plan to return. So Sweden may be in my rear-view mirror today but it also in my future plans as well. And to think it is all because I connected with a cousin.
If you missed previous articles in this series start here.
Eric Stroschein is a Forensic Genealogist. He specializes in resolving difficult genealogical questions. Eric is very active in Swedish genealogical research and has resolved many difficult problems for clients. He is especially adept at finding the origins of Swedish immigrant ancestors. Learn more about him at GenerationsDetective.com.