Data comes in various forms and shapes, in my personal life I have been very interested in Genome data and creating my family tree. When I was born the family tree was handed down word of mouth, you only had 3 to 4 generations in your family tree.
With the digitalization of birth registers, parish books, church books, newspapers and DNA testing and with services like MyHeritage we now can get a more detailed family tree. Even obituary records can now be found online. For instance, if you take a look at an official site like Genealogy Bank, you can browse obituaries from various locations in the USA.
In my family, we did not have a tree as such, on my paternal side, my grandfather was telling me stories and showed me a few pictures of his father and mother. On my mom’s side of the family, I did not know much, my maternal grandparents died before I got to meet them, I did do spend a lot of time with my mom’s brothers and sisters.
My mom’s cousins that were closer to me in age than my mom, were into tracking family the old fashion way visiting relatives, getting a lead to go to a church to validate, viewing pictures etc. They had put together a family tree on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family, I did not know that much about my maternal grandfather’s side.
I took two DNA test from two independent companies, the results of course was the same. The findings were quite interesting as to heritage I am 46 % Finish which was new to me, my mom’s family has lived for hundreds of years in Sweden Torne Valley or Meänmaa (Meänkieli for ‘”Our Land”‘). More about that later, The rest of my DNA was divided between Scandinavian and West & North Europe.
Over the year my paternal grandfather was telling me stories about his side of the family, how my great-great-grandfather and his whole family except one son stayed in Sweden while the rest emigrated to the United States. My grandfather’s biggest dream in life was to go to America and to meet some family there, as the United States was called America when my Grandfather was young.
He fulfilled part of his dream when I lived in Toronto Canada, he came over from Sweden for a visit, for him, Toronto was not America, so I took him on a drive to the city of Niagara Falls in New York State. When we crossed the border he was so happy, we went into the customs building and he got a stamp on his passport to show that he had visited the United States. I did not meet any relatives, he had got in contact with one person in the United States just before my paternal grandfather passed away.
Picking up the thread
I felt like I needed to pick up where my grandfather left off, I did two DNA tests separate from two different companies and I linked my Genome data with my MyHeritage account that I open up. I started out to map out my immediate family, and things started to happen – I found distant relatives that were creating their own family trees on MyHeritage and connected with them to share our family trees.
While my grandfather was alive he was telling me the story of his family, my grandfather’s name was Per Gustav, he a travelling salesman, he sold what we called today building materials like screws, nail. He could not read or write that well as he only had basic schooling, he had worked out a system so people could not cheat him in business transactions.
Per Gustav father Per Adolf Zetterlund emigrerade to Amerika 1882-05-27 together with his wife Klara Sofia och two of his children Anna Josefina and August Edvard.
Per Gustav lived in a small village in Narke, Svealand Sweden, he lived in a big house and had a live-in maid Maria Charlotta that was a bit older than Per Gustav and who had a young daughter Anna Henrika 14 years younger than Per Gustav. The years went by, Per Gustav had a fling with Maria Charlotta and she got pregnant and gave birth to a son Konrad. A few years later Per Gustav married Maria Charlotta’s daughter Anna Henrika and had more children. Konrad the son of Maria Charlotta is my grandfather’s father.
Life went on Konrad grew up, became an owner of a farm and married Signe Matilda, they had three children Torsten, John, and Allan. Konrad took his life in 1914, and Signe was left with 3 young children she had to find a job she took on a job as a maid on the farm that she and Konrad had owned. The story is that Konrad was a gambler and he had lost the farm in a card game and then committed suicide shortly thereafter.
Torsten my grandfather got sick in Polio, so Signe could not manage the three children so Alan the youngest was given away to a family friend family Lindal, the foster dad passed away a few years later and Alan was then adopted by the family Oscar Ohlson and wife Agda.
1880 to 1920 was the most dramatic period of my paternal family, from changing the name from Anderson to Zetterlund, family members emigrating to the United States to Konrad’s suicide leaving Signe to take drastic decisions about her boys. I remember Signe I meet her as a little boy in the 1960s. The other interesting part is that we can track our direct forefathers’ 9 generations back in time. That is in the 1700 century.
On my mother’s side, we can go back directly to 13 generations, which I find very interesting as she was born and grow up in a small village in the northern part of Sweden. The area is called Tornedalen or Meänmaa (Meänkieli for ‘”Our Land”‘) in the local language or Torne Valley in English. They have their own language Meänkieli which is closer to Finnish than to Swedish.
Tornedalen is the area along the river Torne River with families living on both sides of the river, tills 1809 it belonged to Sweden after 1809 the river became the border between Sweden and Finland. Not the whole length of the river, where my mom grew up both sides of the river belong to Sweden today.
In a central point of the village is a commemoration stone for my direct forefather 10 generations Lars Larsson Lasu 1608 – 1686, let’s pick up the story from his viewpoint. Lars moved to Junosuando and build a homestead named Lasu at the beginning of the 1630s. He discovered in the early 1640s the iron ore in a location that today is the village of Masugnsbyn in the early 1640s. Within a few years, several mills were in operation along the Torneo river in Tornedalen.
In 1642 Lars Larsson Lasu was hunting and shot at a squirrel with his crossbow. The iron-clad arrow veered off and was pulled by magnetism against a rock. When Lars picked up the arrow, he found it to be a strange heavy stone, he took home and showed to other people in Tornio. The stones turned out to contain iron ore, and Lars was given tax exemption as a reward for the rest of his life.
Today Iron Ore mines in Tornedalen from Kiruna, Malnberget, Svappavara to Kaunisvaara give man employment opportunities to people who are living in villages along the Torne River. Fishing, farming and the forest gave livelihood to many more people in the past, today there are not many farms left. Many who lives in the villages today have seen their there-fathers or grandfathers breaking their back to clear land to farm.
On a visit last year to Junosuando, a friend of mine said that he could not let the fields grow wild and that he has to go out and cut the grass, he said I get so much hay and me willing to give it away there is no one close by that keep cows anymore.
Fun Facts to me
I discovered that booth on my mom’s side and my father’s side the family name had been changed. On my father’s side it was changed by my great great great grandfather we were Andersson before changing it to Zetterlund.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather changed his family name from Krukka to Rensgard, and I have heard through my family that this was due to the fact of having a more Swedish sounding name than a Finish sounding name, as there was at the time he changed the name the Swedish society was looking down on people with a Finish name. And to integrate more into Swedish society even if they were Swedish born they still the inclusion was to try to change the name.
Looking through my family tree, in the early day’s daughters took their name from the father’s given name if someone had been given the name Anders, the daughters the last name would be Andersdaugther or in Scandinavian andersdotter.
I also discovered that the last name sometimes was taken from the name of the homestead, going back in time can be difficult to navigate through the data to complete your family tree.
You may want to check out my article when I cycled from Kirkenes in Norway through Finish Lappland to Junosuando. I have a few pictures from Tornedalen from that article.
There is still a lot of work finding out and completing my family tree, my paternal grandmother’s father has been a dead end since the beginning, I have not been able to find any data on my paternal great grandfather’s parents or siblings. There is still lots of work to find more information about him and where he came from.
I hope you enjoyed the story in this article, for me it feels so much better now that I know my family history better, and by collaborating with distance families on MyHeritage I get to know my family history much better. I noticed that like myself people get interested in the family when they get older at the time of retirement, I think this should be interesting for all ages.
If you have any questions you want to ask, use the comment box below.