Guest blogger Eric Stroschein is currently in Stockholm, Sweden connecting with relatives and researching his ancestry. This is the first of a series of articles from his visit to the old country.
Making connections is at the heart of genealogy. Piecing together the puzzle of who our ancestors were and where they came from, becomes the framework of our research. All genealogists eventually run into a wall that seems insurmountable and the problems can look unsolvable. Cousins can hold key information critical to answering these questions and connecting with them is vital. Locating and connecting with living relatives not only can enhances our research but can be emotionally and spiritually rewarding as well.
My research journey began a number of years ago as a hobbyist. One of the first institutes I attended was the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) held annually in January in Salt Lake City, Utah. I chose to take the Advanced Swedish course coordinated by Geoff Fröberg Morris. Having learned so much about Swedish records and research from him, I still have revelations today and say, “Oh that is what Geoff was talking about.” One of the best pieces of advice I gleaned was to find cousins in Sweden and connect with them. If they too are genealogists then you just may have hit the mother lode.
Over the years I have connected with several cousins in Sweden. Websites dedicated to Swedish genealogy like Rötters[i] and Dysbyt[ii] have aided me in my search for family abroad. Thirteen years ago I connected with a cousin Anne Eek of Stockholm. Anne had a friend who was doing her own genealogy so Anne asked her friend if she would look up her family. They found an inquiry I had posted about my Hogner family in Sweden. Anne immediately responded and we connected. She is my third cousin once removed.
Anne was very gracious and excited to connect with family in the United States. She sent me a lot of information about the Hogner family in Sweden. I, in turn, sent her what I had so she could include it in the new printing of the Edh-släkten[iii] kalender[iv]. Edh-släkten was formed in 1946 “to strengthen the relations within the family and care for the memories of our family history.” We are the descendants of Johnathan Lindström (1794-1870) and Anne Eugenia Gonon (1811-1885), my third great grandparents. Our association holds a family reunion somewhere in Sweden or Russia every three years. Below is a picture of the very first banquet.
Our progenitor, Johnathan, had immigrated to St. Petersburg, Russia in about 1810 to ply his trade as a coppersmith. He began to work for a French wine merchant named François de Gonon. François and his family had also moved to St. Petersburg to escape the French Revolution. François had employed Johnathan as a coppersmith to aid in his business of brewing beer and distilling spirits. Johnathan fell in love with the boss’s daughter, Anne Eugenie, and married her 20 October 1829 in St. Petersburg. Eventually François and Johnathan became partners and both became very wealthy. It was from St. Petersburg in about 1842 that Johnathan had decided to retire back to Sweden and purchased the farm he later named Edh. This farm name is the inspiration for the name of the family association, Edh-släkten.
I have formed a deep connection with my second cousin Tedd Soost who is a board member for Edh-släkten. Tedd is my 2nd cousin. Born in New Jersey, he immigrated to Sweden in 1994 after marrying Monica Löwgren of Stockholm. I soon discovered his father, Jack, and my mother spent their summers together as children at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. Yet we had never met nor knew of each other. It has been amazing to discover between Tedd and I how little our families discussed the other side of the family and Sweden. Tedd only discovered from his grandmother, two hours before his wedding to a Swedish citizen, that both of his great grandparent were born in Sweden.
Tedd and I started our conversations in late 2011 regarding attending the 2012 Edh-släkten reunion, unfortunately I was unable to make that trip. As my research broadened, I became acquainted with many more relatives in Sweden. Though I had never met my family in Sweden I felt a deep connection to them. My roots run very deep in Sweden and my cousins have shared wonderful artifacts, records, and stories that have made my family tree come alive. It was abundantly clear my cousins had a veritable treasure trove of information that any genealogist would die to examine. So I purposed in my heart not to miss the 2015 family reunion.
At the end of a very long 17 hour day filled with flights, layovers, frozen airline food, and no sleep my cousin Tedd met us at Arlanda airport. We had spent years talking on Skype, using Facebook, and emails. But nothing can express what a treat it was to finally meet him in person. He had made arrangements for us to stay at his father-in-law’s house in Sollentuna, a suburb of Stockholm. It was a short ride from the airport.
After getting settled in, Tedd invited us to dinner at his place to meet his wife Monica and three children Linnea, Oliver, and Theodor. On the drive to his house Karen and I remarked at how similar Stockholm was to Seattle in weather and scenery, we seemed to feel right at home. When we arrived at Tedd’s home, we were warmly greeted by Monica who had alerted the children of our arrival. Oliver ran to tell his siblings, “The Americans are here, the Americans are here.” It was great to sit and talk about family with Tedd’s family and get our bearings. We had a couple of days to acclimate before the reunion.
The reunion was held at the Westmanska Palace which was a home built by Abraham Younger in 1799-1800 for him and his family. This building has an incredible history. The reunion was a two day event that included a family meeting to discuss our findings, finances, and the future of the association with about 50 family members in attendance. I was also on the agenda to speak on the use of DNA in genealogical research. Tedd had helped translate my slides into Swedish and I had all of my notes in English. This was very helpful to my relatives who speak English well but some things still get lost in translation.
I gave my presentation on the use of DNA and how it could help the association’s goals for our research. Our family has a story that Anne Eugenie Gonon was truly an illegitimate daughter of Hortense the Queen of Holland. Our family seems particularly interested in confirming or disproving this story. We have already done limited autosomal testing and one mtDNA test. It was interesting and intriguing when one of my cousins explained how she had mtDNA-tested her father, who was at the end of a direct daughter line to Anne Eugenie Gonon. She stated a person in Ohio contacted her because of a match. The person in Ohio said her mother was from Serbia and they had a family story of descending from a royal Romanian line. Made me take pause. Could this actually be true? I have definitely been the doubting Thomas. Needless to say this caused a bit of a buzz at the reunion.
This was followed by a social hour, where I finally got the privilege of meeting my cousin Anne Eek in person. She was the researcher I had email contact with thirteen years ago. It was incredible to speak with her in person. She is a lovely and gracious lady. When Anne heard I was coming from America, she was so excited that she took some priceless pictures of the family down from her walls to give them to Karen and me. Dinner followed and we were regaled with stories of relatives past and remembrances of family who had passed. It was a magical evening. I was asked to speak about the Hogners in America.
The next day we had a guided walking tour of Gamla-stan, the oldest and a very beautiful part of Stockholm. It was pouring down rain, much like the weather in Seattle at times. Karen and I were prepared - we brought rain coats. The Gamla-stan tour was all in Swedish but luckily we had my cousin Tedd and Lars Thomasson interpreting the important things. At the end of the tour everybody went to the restaurant Mårten Trotzigg to eat Biff ala Lindström. A beef dish named for Captain Henrik Lindström, one of the sons of Johnathan and Anne Eugenie. It was great to sit, talk, and connect with cousins over lunch.
After what seemed to be a whirlwind first couple of days I got a chance to reflect on the relatives I had met and the bounty of information and mementos given to me by my family members. I thought I had reached the pinnacle of our visit and the rest of our three week stay would be sightseeing and research. Boy was I in for a huge surprise. I Love Sweden.
Look for more Letters from Stockholm from Eric Stroschein over the next few weeks.
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.