Tracing those who left...
Willy Johansson of Malmo, Sweden is trying to find and identify ancestors that left for America - many of whom he has photographs of.
Roughly two years ago I met a previously unknown to me second cousin here in Sweden. She happened to have a letter that was sent after my granddad’s funeral. That started my quest to find out more about my granddad, who immigrated to Canada in 1927.
After a couple weeks of research in old archives and ancestry Web sites, I had collected so much information that my wife asked me to research her granddad as well. He was one of many Swedes that went to Leadville, Colorado to search for silver and gold during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I discovered that during the time, a lot of relatives immigrated to America. Some of them lived close, others lived quite a distance apart. Two or three generations later, all the identifying evidence of the persons in the photos has disappeared. We know they are family that immigrated but no more.
Regarding the photos from Leadville, we guess that those people are mostly Swedes, probably colleagues to my wife’s granddad. We found the photos in Sweden in November 2009, more than 100 years after they were taken, and have now started to identify the people in them. They seemed to have had a good social life during those years in Leadville. Among others things, we know they joined a lodge, the Court Scandia No. 9 of FOA (Foresters of America). Court Scandia held regular meetings (and social events), sometimes several times a month. It seems to have been a well organized group of respected men.
The rest of our families are thought to have settled in the Chicago area or in the country side, others in Illinois, North Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska.
After 18 months of research we learned so much about some parts of our ancestry that my wife and I took a trip from Sweden and spent a couple of weeks in America. Our trip took us through Leadville, Denver, the Fargo area and a small town in Saskatchewan. During these stops we got to meet a lot of nice people who helped us in our research. We also had the opportunity to visit some family graves, my own grandfather's among them.
The ultimate goal with the research is to build our grandparents' life stories and pass them on to our two sons and coming generations. An important piece in that puzzle is identifying as many of the photos on my Internet page as possible.
Some time ago I received roughly twenty old photos of ancestors in America from an old Swedish relative. All of the faces are more or less unknown; we can't identify the people in the photos.
My vision is to build a story about my ancestors to pass on to our children. The important story of the family that immigrated to America will otherwise be lost to the family that stayed behind. I think we owe it to them to recognize that they accepted the challenge and struggled to build a life as naturalized Americans, in many cases famous or highly respected.
It's my understanding and hope that many people in America with Swedish roots may have a lot of old family photos. My unidentified photos are published at: http://oldphotos.homeip.net/Photos.htm
If you see a photo that matches someone you know or have information about any one in the photos, contact Willy Johansson, whose information is found there.
If readers can identify people in the photographs or have a story of their own from the area or the Leadville lodge, the Court Scandia No. 9 of FOA (Foresters of America), nothing would be more welcome.
It cannot be left unsaid that one particularly good thing came out of the history of our ancestors: My wife’s granddad went home to visit his parents in 1905 and met a girl here in Sweden. He never returned to America, and now I’m married to his granddaughter ...a fantastic woman!
Willy Johansson, Malmö, Sweden
Chicago, second largest Swedish city
Chicago was the second largest "Swedish town" in the world in the late 1890s and the early 1900s. It was the town where nearly one million Swedish immigrants lived. But Swedes immigrated to other parts of America as well. One lesser known group that hasn't been written much about lived in Leadville, Colorado during the silver boom of the late 1890s and early 1900s. Other large groups ended up in rural areas and began farming. You will surely be able to find Swedes in most areas of America, where they were either homesteading or farming a piece of their own land.
The people who left their families back in the old country made a tough decision. Population growth and crop failures made conditions on the Swedish countryside increasingly bleak. By contrast, reports from early Swedish emigrants painted America as an earthly paradise and praised American religious and political freedom and the unimaginable opportunities.