It started with a photograph of a little boy, and ended in a little town in Sweden, nearly 2,000 miles away, some hundred years later.
My grandfather’s dad’s parents had migrated over to the United States back in the late 1800’s. For some reason or another, all contact between the newly Swedish-American family and the homeland was lost. As soon as my Great-Grandfather’s parent’s hit US soil they had trouble keeping up with family. Losing touch with distant Swedish relatives, sadly, caused a massive gap in family history. We knew we were from Sweden, but to put a finger on much more than that would be a stretch. There was one thing though, that would prove key to unlocking our family past…
An old photograph that was taken, sepia tone and worn, of my grandfather and his family posing in front of a camera. My grandfather couldn’t have been more than ten years old in the photo. This photo was mailed back to Sweden to distant relatives. It was likely one of the only things that was ever mailed from my family here in the states, to the distant relatives back in Sweden. It was mailed sometime during the late 30’s or 40’s. But before it was mailed, a duplicate copy was given to my grandfather, which he kept.
Using online family-tree services, my grandfather was able to determine what part of Sweden we originated from. My grandparents bought tickets for Sweden and packed their bags. Long story short, after asking some locals in a small Swedish town, my grandparents ended up speaking with one of the older families, whom they suspected they were related to but weren’t sure. After talking for a little while, throwing names around and struggling with English, Swedish barriers, my grandfather was handed an old photo, slightly worn, that looked remarkably familiar. It turned out that it was the same photo that had been mailed nearly 70 years ago, identical to the copy that my grandfather owned. We had connected the dots. My grandparents, embracing their new (and old I suppose) appreciation and love for their lost heritage moved to a tiny Swedish town in Kansas. It was here in Lindsborg, KS that my grandparents opened a humble antique store downtown, packed with homemade crafts, antiques, and old coins. They named it Aunt Agda’s Attic.
So, riding on a biennial festival in Lindsborg, my grandparents organised a grand family reunion, in which we would march as a family in the parade down Main Street. Thus I found myself, adorned in a bright blue t-shirt, marching with extended family in a small Swedish town in the middle of nowhere KS.
Additional Photos: http://ryanjohnson.jalbum.net/Living%20the%20Heritage./
A town which seems to be frozen in time, it had a nice calm feeling that seemed to sit in its streets. Bright Dala horses hung from doors, and sat in store windows. Kids ran up and down the streets, dressed in traditional Swedish garb, trying to keep warm. It was a blast seeing family, and meeting some of my grandparent’s friends. Sadly my sister and mom couldn’t make it. Apparently H1N1 is contagious, and my sister had to be quarantined, much to her dismay. Anyways, if you ever find yourself in Wichita, please make the drive and hour and a half north to Lindsborg. You may be surprised at the timelessness of what is understandably called “Little Sweden, USA.”