Saturday, March 24, 2018


Do you have a bucket list of places you would like to go before you’re too old to go anymore?  Sweden has always been on my list, probably because my maternal grandfather immigrated from there when he was 19.  I knew him well and loved him dearly.  We lived above him and Grandma in a duplex until I was two.  They babysat my siblings and me often as we grew older.  Although Grandpa often said the scenery along the North Shore was “just like home” he never talked about his life before coming to the United States.  I never thought to ask.  He died when I was in junior high. 
All my grandparents, on both sides of the family, are from Sweden, most of them second generation.  At Christmas my husband and I received the DNA testing from Ancestry as a gift from our children.  We were excited about this because we have decided to go to Sweden this summer.  So, we spit in the tube provided and mailed it off.  I did notice there  was a disclaimer on the web site reminding everyone that we need to be prepared to possibly find out connections we didn’t want to know about.  Hummmm.  My results were not surprising, mostly Scandinavian with a touch of Finnish/Russian (what?) and a tiny sprinkle of northern European.  Since then I’ve been filling in my family tree on-line.  As I have been looking at the regions  of Sweden most of the family came from I have begun wondering why they left and how they chose Minnesota for their new home.  Why didn’t I ask my Grandpa all these questions?  Did he know he would never go back to Sweden or see his family members left behind?  During the 1800s there were millions of Swedes who left Sweden for America.  Many of them came to Minnesota to farm.  That is what they knew how to do and land was available.  The Swedes created Swedish communities where they were comfortable.  They could speak their native tongue to others as they learned English.  They could comfortably share their Swedish customs with their neighbors.   
Immigrating might have been easier in the rural communities than in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.  In the city the Swedes looked like most other light skinned  Europeans but when they started saying “Uff dah” or “You betcha”  they might have stood out from the rest.  Or maybe it was the herring and lutefisk that made them unusual.  On a more serious note, life was not easy for these new immigrants who were looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
Not knowing the stories that brought my family members to the Wyanett/Karmel area and to Minneapolis I have turned to Vilhelm Moberg’s book, “The Emigrants,” for some possible answers.  This is the story of the southern Swedes who emigrated to Minnesota in the 1800s.  Although I haven’t finished the book which is the first of a trilogy, it is clear that life was extremely difficult for these people in Sweden and there didn’t seem to be any hope of life getting easier in the future.   Saying good-bye to family and friends and heading off on a long unknown voyage to a strange country was scary.  These people were courageous!  I try to put myself in their situation and I can’t imagine doing what they had the courage to do!
There has been so much talk about immigrants and their families in the news lately.  I am not one to say how you should feel toward them and the predicament they are in.  However, I find myself understanding them more then before.  I feel good about the fact that we have a country others see as a safe and potentially prosperous place for them to live and raise a family.  I understand that this is a courageous thing for them to do.  Their journey becomes a more personal journey for me now that I have looked into my grandparents lives.  Uff dah!  This is complex!  Lord, give us wisdom and help us understand!