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A return to the real roots, at last, in Östergötland November 20, 2006

Posted by thebigswede in Uncategorized.

In a way, this is the hardest (and certainly the longest) blog update I have attempted. Please bear with me. This is a story of a young man who has imagined and dreamt about the land from which his ansestors came from, and found it. In a far-away land, in the rural backcountry of Sweden, the roots were exposed. And why, after all, do people seek after the places their family came from, or the history surrounding their lives? Perhaps it is to stand in that very place and imagine a forefather plowing his field. Perhaps it is to walk the same trails they took as children to the lake for a swim in the summer. Or perhaps it is to sit in the same room as they, whose blood now courses through your veins, and enjoy the setting sun from the very same window they also did many centuries ago. For me it was many things. I was emotional, I was proud and for the first time in my life I felt something. Call it perspective if you want, a sense of belonging and identity all wrapped into one. Since I don’t know how old, I’ve been interested in my father’s roots in Sweden. I am the only son in my family, you see, to carry on the Larson name to the next generation. It is for many of these reasons that I chose to learn the Swedish language at university and a large reason I chose to come to Sweden for a year to study abroad. Now that you have some backround, I will give you some details of my trip. First however, the picture above is of Axel Otto Jonsson (man with the pipe), Edvard Dahlgren, and Arne Dahlgren (the child). Axel Otto was a brother to Anna Charlotta Jonsson, my great, great, great grandmother. It was Anna Charlotta who immigrated to Stanton, Iowa, USA in 1868. Arne was my tour guide at the Jonsbo farm, one of the places my family came from, and below is a picture of us standing in front of the same barn door as above, over 80 years later.

I left from Uppsala by train Saturday morning for Linköping, approximatly 3 hours southwest. Östergötland is the county where most of my relatives come from, and Linköping can be considered its capital, the fifth largest city in Sweden. Ingemar Jonsson, a decendent from Ture Jonsson (a different brother of Anna Charlotta) met me at the station and was my guide over the weekend. I want to thank him and his son Örjan very much for their time and generous hospitality. Örjan is an executive at IKEA and very close to Ingvar Kamprad, the owner and founder of IKEA and fourth richest man in the world. I had the privilege of staying the night with Örjan and his family and he cooked us a feast of various Swedish regional specialties (including herring of course!). Here is a picture of me and Ingemar going over some family tree diagrams and old pictures in his home. For some reason it looks like I’m squeezing his neck really hard, but comon, I wouldn’t do that! I’m a gentle Swede!

Together Ingemar, Ingemar’s daughter Gunilla, her daughter Elin and I explored the city of Linköping on Saturday. Here is a picture of them below, at Linköping cathedral, a very impressive structure to be sure.

On Sunday we started out early and picked up Arne Dahlgren and his wife Margit in Åtvidaberg, a very pleasent and beautiful small community with an abundence of opportunities to fish and hunt. Arne is an experienced outdoorsman and famous in Sweden for his breeding of dogs, particularly dachshunds. You should have seen his trophy collection! In any case, we four set off for Kisa, Jonsbo Farm, and Horn. In Kisa we stopped and visited a museum on the many who left Östergötland and immigrated to America. Then it was on to Jonsbo farm, the place where many of my relatives lived and died over the centuries.

Really a majestic setting, I could show you dozens of more pictures but my space is limited. The farm is still in the family, and here is a picture of us all together in the upper dining room of the main farm house.

We ate smörgås-torte together which was delicious. All of them except for Ingemar could NOT speak English. This really put my Swedish skills to the test, and although I could not understand every part of the conversation I think they were very impressed with my comprehension and speaking skills. Exploring around the farm was definatly the highlight of the trip, and something that will remain a treasured memory. From this point we went to Horn, our last stop on my trip. This is another important city in my families history, and many have lived in Horn which is very close to Jonsbo farm. At the church in Horn is buried Cajsa Lisa Persdotter and her husband Jonas Jonsson, the parents of Anna Charlotta. Here is the picture of me at their grave.

It was truely special to see that church where several of my family were baptised and buried. I want to again thank all of those who made this trip possible for me, you have made me one very happy Swede. To those back home, I can’t wait to show you all the rest of the pictures I took. To everyone else, thanks for reading, I appriciate your comments and emails.



1. David Aaron Engle - November 23, 2006

Mike this is awesome, sounds like a powerful experience. I’m glad you had the chance to make the trip.

2. Uncle Steve (Stephen Larson) in Chicago - November 23, 2006

Mike, you’ve got a great blog going! What a treat to read of your experiences and discoveries in the ancestral homeland. Your Grandpa Larson and I made a similar trip to Horn and the family sites back in 1992. It’s quite an experience. I remember sitting in that upstairs room at the Jonsbo farm — the family sang “Children of the Heavenly Father” in Swedish and it moved Grandpa to tears.

Aunt Becki and took the same cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki a few years ago. I hope you got to visit “The Rock Church” in Helsinki — one of the most beautiful churches I’ve been in.

Enjoy your Nobel Dinner next month. Aunt Becki was at the Nobel Peace Prize dinner in Oslo in 1997 when she was on the delegation of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to receive the peace prize. It’s quite the event. You are one very lucky Big Swede! Keep those photos and reports coming!

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