THE SEARCH FOR CLUES
As a child growing up, I was always told I looked like my grandmother, often acted like her too. The way the comments were made didn't encourage me to ask questions. Besides, both of the grandmothers I knew were old-- it couldn't be one of them the conversation was about.
Many years later, when I began inheriting old family pictures, I discovered my grandmother had been a very pretty young woman. The only connecting resemblance I could find was dark hair and eyes. In addition to being pretty, she had come to a new country alone when she was only eighteen, much more adventurous than I had ever been. I wanted to know more, about her, about her family and about her home in Sweden.
It was difficult to find any information--a census record in nineteen hundred when she was a young wife and mother was about it. Everything I could find about Swedish history was written in Swedish-- no help for me.
I put the quest aside for another decade. This year, an Internet contact from a cousin I've never met gave me a few more tidbits of information, a marriage certificate and a parish census from Sweden. A few weeks later a third cousin and then a fourth joined our Internet site and added more information. The fourth to join the group lives in Sweden and is quite fluent in English.
I'm learning more about my grandmother and extended family all the time and many of the puzzle pieces are falling into place. What I have never had was the motivation to cause a young, pretty woman to go off on her own, leaving her family, home, culture and even her language behind.
A different kind of contact led me to a series of books--fiction based on fact, The Emigrant Novels by Vilhelm Moberg and translated by Gustaf Lannestock. The four books of the series follow a group of fictitious as they face the problems of their homeland, make the decision to leave, the journey and eventually build new lives for themselves. All the books are a good read and
interesting but it is the introduction of Book 1 and the portrayal of Swedish life in the 1850s that gave me the answers to my questions of why?
The introduction also increased my awareness of the difficulties a young, female emigrant would face in her new home. My respect has grown by leaps and bounds. My grandmother was very
If I am ever able to gather enough information to write her story, it will be far different that the vague picture I had envisioned from what little I knew about life in Sweden or even of the journey to North America.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
I have just finished reading Buffaloed by Fairlee Winfield. A fun read with a fascinating look at the west just as it was changing and beginning to modernize itself. With artist Charles Russell and a plucky and determined Norwegian immigrant at the center of the story, it moves quickly and often makes you smile.