Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Impressions of Sweden: Driving Around Småland

A major reason for our trip to Sweden was to visit Småland, the area in southern Sweden where my dad's forebears came from.

On Friday, July 4, Tim and I took the train to Växjö (pronounced — approximately — "Vex-yuh"). My sister and brother-in-law rented a car and drove down, and in the afternoon we met up at the hotel where we were staying.

Before leaving Stockholm, Palma had purchased a couple of maps of the area, ostensibly showing how to get to some of the places we hoped to find. Referring to the maps, we plotted the route we would take on Saturday's quest.

The first destination was a dot on the map called Kålltorp, where our great-grandmother Emma Sophia Sjöstrand was born. Finding it was definitely an adventure.

Our search took us down unpaved roads where you really hoped you would not meet someone going the opposite way. Actually, to call them "roads" is being generous. They had obviously seen vehicle traffic, because there were bare tracks, but in the middle was some very tall grass. The first such path we went down, Dave (who was driving) eventually parked the car and we proceeded on foot.

After walking along this path for some time, we finally determined that we weren't going to find what we were looking for. Along the way, we did see some evidence of previous human habitation, such a pair of stones that looked like they had once marked the entrance to somebody's property, and an old rock wall.

It was a relief to get back in the car. In addition to being quite warm, there were an astounding number of really buzzy insects that I was constantly swatting away from my face and head.

After returning to the paved road, we followed it a ways and then turned off again onto another dirt track. Driving along, we encountered another car going the opposite direction. Fortunately, we met at one of the very few spots wide enough for each to pull over.

Everyone got out. The other car's occupants were an elderly couple who spoke virtually no English. Somehow, with our limited grasp of Swedish, we managed to communicate well enough to establish that we were headed in the right direction. To the best of our determination, the lady we were talking with belonged to a family who now owned the house at Kålltorp that we were looking for. Her family had bought it several decades earlier from another family who had bought it from our great-grandmother's family.

In keeping with Sweden's liberal attitude regarding public access rights, she had no problem with us driving on to find it.

Next, we went looking for a place called Östrahult, where our great-great-grandmother had lived. This search also took us down some side roads, but proved to be less difficult to find than the house at Kålltorp.

The sign is hard to read, but it spells out Östrahult in script-y capital letters.

Driving on, we saw an old outbuilding . . .

. . . a better maintained barn. . .

. . . and a house.

In the yard, there were two men working. We approached them, and explained why we were there and what we were looking for. The two were father and son, and this house and property had been in their family for since the 1600s or so. And they are descendants of the brother of our great-great-grandmother. (Joakim is my fourth cousin once removed.)

Palma showed them the photocopied sheet of the ancestor chart I had sent her, and as soon as they saw the name "Johanna Sofia Petersdotter," the younger fellow, Joakim, went inside and retrieved some pages from his genealogy that listed the same name.

He said that they knew that at least one or two of Johanna's children had emigrated to the US, but they had lost track of that line of the family. We talked a bit, and exchanged email addresses.

Since returning, I have emailed Joakim what information I have about Johanna's daughter (Emma Sophia, my great-grandmother) and Emma's children. In return, he sent me the .ged file of his family tree. I was able to find a demo version of a program called Mac Family Tree which would open it. I was so enthralled with all the information it contained and all the ways to view it that I went ahead and purchased the full version, and have begun to add to the database information from my mom's genealogical research.

After leaving Östrahult, we visited churches at Mörlunda and Tveta, other places associated with ancestors, but the big discoveries of the day were behind us.

At the cemetery around the Mörlunda church, there were gravestones for some Sjöstrands, who could be distant relatives, but I don't know for sure.

The church at Tveta had a unique belfrey.

We saw a sign for Tigerstad, where great-grandfather Jonas Peter Peterson was born.

By this time, we were about done in, and decided it was time to head back to the comfort of the hotel in Växjö.

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