The excitement surrounding the meeting of the Swedish cousins is based, in no small part, on my mysterious grandmothers, one Norwegian, one more Swedish than we knew. The grandfathers have been more easily knowable. In the case of Grandpa Neset—I lived next door to him as a child and I was able to find my Norwegian Neset cousins fairly easily. Getting to know them over the years has been enormously interesting and pleasurable. As for Grandpa Floren, who died when my mom was only two, while I could not know him, I know some of the American-Floren cousins and something about the family, who emigrated from Trondheim, Norway sometime in the mid-1800s.
But those elusive Grandmas. Grandma Neset (Asborg Eilifsdotter) remains almost a total mystery, perhaps to be known a little more during this trip, perhaps not. Grandma Floren (Magnhild Strom) was the reason for this journey to Sweden and is slowly coming into focus.
Here’s what I know for sure about Grandma (Strom-Floren). Magnhild’s father was Per Strom of Funasdalen, Sweden who emigrated to America around 1880. Her mother was Maret P Halvarsdotter Olofsson from the same area. I have now been to their very home, stood in a cellar quite probably built by them, gazed over their fields and forest.
There are still many unknowns, especially connected to Maret whose family tree is not very certain at this time. However we can trace Per’s lineage quite far back. My new cousins gave me some information I did not have which will be included in my tree when I get home. For now though, I have this. Per’s father was Steffan Svenson Strom; Steffan’s sister, Gertrud Svensdotter was the matriarch of cousin Barbara’s (from Oregon, with whom I connected through our DNA tests) branch of the family which includes the new Swedish cousins. We are fourth cousins.
If you are not interested in ancestral trivia or, as I choose to think of it, vital information, this may not seem like a big deal to you. To me, it is a colossal deal. It fastens me to another place on the world map; it’s another story, another journey. It represents roots, branches, whole trees. I feel more whole and/or complete and/or grounded because I’ve stood on Per and Maret’s land in Funasdalen, Jamtland, Sweden. Am I making too much of this? I don’t think so…it makes me too happy to not be a good thing.
Family trees can be said to start at the deepest root or on that branch that stretches as far in the sky as one can see. The way I’m looking at the tree (that I share with my fourth cousins from Funasdalen, Gustav and Manfred, Gunilla and Jenny) is from the top. I cannot absolutely verify the first few branches—starting with Gullik Matsson born in 1670, who had a son Sven Gulliksson Strom (this is where the name Strom first appears) born in 1716, who had a son Gullik Svensson Strom born in 1753.
Then it gets real. Gullik’s son Sven Gulliksson Strom, born in 1778 married Kirstin Steffansdotter and had several children, among them Gertrude Svensdotter Strom, born 1806, and Staffan Svensson Strom, born 1808. Gertrude was the great-great grandmother of Barbara (from Oregon), and the cousins from Funasdalen. Staffan was my great-great grandfather.
Now the story starts to feel personal. Staffan’s son was Per Strom, born 1838. Whose land I visited just a few days ago. Per was the father of Magnhild, my grandmother.
Staffan’s sister, Gertrude, married Olof Jonsson, her son was Jon Olofsson who married Sigrid Hansdotter, and they were grandparents to Manfred and Gustav and their cousins Jenny and Gunilla, all of whom I met on this visit.
Enough with the begats…but it gives me history…me in history…I love that.
According to Swedish cousin research, Per and his ancestors, going back some generations, were miners. There was a huge mine in the area, owned by one man, who may have also owned adjoining farmland where the miners could grow some things for their personal use. Even though there are many more things to know about Per, this is a start. We know he went on to become a successful South Dakota farmer so he obviously had experience farming before coming to America.
I think Magnhild’s mysteries will have to be solved through her mother’s family tree. I had some information for Maret P Halvarsdotter Olofsson, Per’s wife and my great grandmother, but it appears it may be wrong…so I’ll say no more about her until I have time at home to dig a little deeper with ancestry.com. The mysteries of the reindeer herder grandfather, my three percent Russian/Finnish DNA (which is a fairly typical Sami mix I’m told), why my grandmother was said to be part Norwegian (when it appears she’s totally Swedish), and why my mom’s lefse was different from all other known lefse must remain mysterious for now.
I am so happy to have met Gustav and Manfred Hoglund, Margareta Hoglund, Steig Englund, Gunilla Oskarsson Englund, and Jenny Moen. What warm and kind and interesting people they are. Their professions include working with people with hearing disabilities, plumber, builder, and assisting young migrants and refugees to Sweden with the education and means to make new lives. One of them, Jenny, is an accomplished local researcher and writer, and one of a handful of people I’ve met over the years that I wanted badly to know, but with whom language made easy communication impossible—I feel we could be such great friends…but we will try anyway. I’m so pleased to be part of this agreeable new Swedish family.
Although some family members live nearer the urban regions like Stockholm, the people I’ve now met all choose to remain here in what surely must be one of the most rural parts of Sweden. These families’ histories go far back in this part of the country. Funasdalen is a small town but the only such place around, every other habitation is far in the country or in tiny villages. It’s hilly and tree-covered there and reminds me of the countryside east of Duluth. In the summer the reindeer herds come through, hundreds maybe thousands. It seems they’re owned by Sami for the most part but I’m not sure how the grazing situation works.
Here in Sweden some small things felt so familiar such as mom’s way of saying thank you—a thousand thousand thanks or tusen tusen tack. Also the scrambled eggs at my hotel were sweetened and only mom did that. If only I could call her and share these moments.