Genealogy Gift Ideas

Photo by Lori Samuelson

I received the most unusual genealogy Mother’s Day gifts from one of my kids that I just have to share. The first is the game you see above – Guess Who? We had the game when my kids were young but my adult child bought a new game and switched out the faces to include the faces of ancestors. I’ve taken the cards that were made to replace the ones that come in the box and placed it on the box top so you can see the variety of family photos included.

This is an awesome idea if you are having a family reunion or want to get a head start now for a holiday gift in December. What a wonderful way to get the younger generation involved in identifying their ancestors!

The second gift I received was also unique. One of the parts of genealogy I love is uncovering mysteries. Who were these people? Why did they do what they did? How did the meet? Where are they buried? Well, the second gift is using old time snail mail to send a letter written in cursive to my home every two weeks for a year. The company, TheFlowerLetters, has several themes. The one I’m receiving is the Adelaide Magnolia Collection which takes place in England in 1817. Since I’ll be trekking to Great Britain later this summer it’s a perfect way to get me in the mood. For the genealogist in your life, the letters feature mystery, history, adventure, and romance – what more could a genealogist want?!

The National Genealogical Society conference continues today. Thank you, dear readers, for all of you who attended my presentation with six other genealogists last evening. If you missed Rapid Roots or would like to review it since it was rapid and had lots of helpful tips, please do so. Don’t forget to complete a review through Whova. You can still leave questions on Whova for the next three months or you can email me anytime at genealogyatheart@gmail.com.

A Little Spooky in Sweden

Bo Beckman and Jim Samuelson in Sjöhester, Sweden

Try as I might to have a simple vacation the universe seems to plan weird and wonderful for me!

I’ve blogged before about the odd happenings when I go boots on the ground and my recent Swedish heritage trip to explore my husband’s roots was no different.

Our tour guides, Kris and Mangus, had stopped at one of my husband’s ancestral churches in Sjöhester which was supposed to be open but unfortunately was not. Husband and I were fine with the missed stop as we are used to being flexible when traveling. The guides, however, were disappointed.

Since there was no contact info for the church we went onward to the next stop. As Mangus drove up to the property, Kris excitedly remarked that there was a car in the driveway.

Now for my U.S. readers, I know this is shocking to you but in Sweden no one shoots you when you knock on their door or turn around in their driveway. Instead, they invite you inside. Yes, I realize they are letting perfect strangers into their homes but they are fine with that. We can all learn a lesson here!

We could see two large dogs, a lab and German shepherd, through the window but there was a lag between the knock and someone coming to the door so we didn’t expect the door to open. Open it did and Bo, seen above, appeared. Kris explained why we were at his property, explaining that Jim’s ancestors, Amund Jonsson (1655-1741) and Anna Nilsdotter (1672-1743) lived and raised their family there. This was two generations back from where I had ended my research so I knew nothing about this couple and their children.

Unbelievably, Bo knew all about them. For forty years he rented the cottage as a summer residence. Interested to know about former residents he had painstakingly researched them. He had even written a biography that was on his website.

He kindly invited us in and we sat around his kitchen table as Kris translated the family story. But of course, that’s not all…

Bo asked if we had visited the family church. Kris mentioned that it had been locked. Bo just happened to have the key. We agreed to meet him at the church the following day at 3 for a tour.

That’s not all – Bo mentioned he was glad we came when we did as he had just returned two days before for the summer. Originally, we had scheduled our trip for two weeks earlier but had to change due to my lecture schedule. If we hadn’t, we would have missed him, the opportunity to see the inside of the home, and probably the church, too.

Bo wasn’t the only individual to allow us to photograph their homes. Earlier that day in Sonarp, the birthplace of Maja Olofsdotter (1736-1826) the family invited us in the see their lovely home. The current owner remarked that the dining room always feels happy and I agreed. It was a beautiful bucolic setting; the family has farmed the land for five generations since they first rented in 1900. Sadly, the farmer’s father had been buried just two days prior to our visit with services held in the church where Maja had been baptized and likely married. The couple shared an old photo of what the farm had looked like back in the day – not much different from the present.

The Johannesson family of Närvehult also shared a photo of their home from 1921. Birger Ingesson (1715-1795) and Maria Borjesdotter (1722-1776) raised their family there. Birger and his son, Inge (1763-1843), were both once members of Parliament representing the region on behalf of farmers.

Current owner Stephanie of Hamburg, Germany, kindly let us photograph her spacious yard. In Kjölamälen, Inge Börjesson (1763-1843) and his wife, Margareta Eriksdotter (1765-1839), lived there with their children. It remained in the family for three generations and was the birth location of my husband’s great grandfather Anders L. G. Johannesson Johnson (1839-1906) who emigrated to the U.S.

In Hammershult, current owners stopped their yard work to allow us into the grain mill that Gudmund Svensson (1767-1814) and his wife Judith (1779-?) once operated. Their daughter, Sophia (1807-?) was born in the home on the property. We had no idea that there was a miller in the family!

Was is plain luck that all of these folks just happened to be home when we showed up unannounced or not? You decide!

I’m thinking we should add another reason to last week’s blog about why you must take a heritage tour – you meet the nicest people who are living their lives in the same place that your ancestor’s did. Celebrating birthdays, graduations, and new offsprings; mourning job losses, injuries, and deaths. It is an amazing experience to visit where your forefather’s experienced the cycle of life and if they hadn’t – you wouldn’t be here hunting their stories! Do plan a heritage trip to explore your ancestry.

Next Friday, 7:15 PM Eastern time, I, along with 6 other genealogists, will be presenting at the online only National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference. I am part of Rapid Roots: 7 Share Their Secrets in 7 Minutes. Please attend as I’ll be live for the Q&A – let’s chat!

Why You Need to Plan a Heritage Trip

Mangus and Kris

Hubby and I are back from a world wind tour of Sweden, his ancestral homeland. The best way I can describe it was MAGICAL! Here’s why I think you need to plan a trip to your ancestral home:

Get to Know Your Ancestors – they are more than just names, dates, and places on a pedigree chart. In order to understand their lives you must follow in their footsteps. Considering their educational experiences, jobs, religion, home type, and climate will enhance your understanding of your family today. Have you stopped to think why your family eats a specific holiday meal? Visiting may unlock the mystery of your family’s customs.

Gain Historical Perspective – We didn’t learn the history of the countries our forefather’s left in school so we are lacking in understanding what made them tick. I had no idea that the Vikings roamed as far as Egypt and traded with the Greeks! Geez, my people were in Greece during that time period. I never considered that my people and my husband’s people could have possibly met 2000 years ago!

Unexpected Discoveries – It was news to me that in medieval times, brides in Sweden wore jeweled crowns maintained by the church. The custom has largely gone out of practice but in many churches, the crown remains. A kind church member allowed me to wear a crown that was likely worn by one of my husband’s several times great grandmothers. It is a tremendously memorable experience to bond with those from the past.

Connect With Others – I was able to meet up with an APG colleague I’ve only previously met virtually. We also met many homeowners and renters who were living in houses once inhabited by my husband’s family. So many wonderful ministers and parishioners took the time to provide us with the history of churches where family members had once attended. We greatly appreciated that they took the time to share their knowledge with us.

It Won’t Last Forever – It is amazing that structures have survived for centuries but that doesn’t mean they will always be there. Don’t let climate change steal your past from you! Taking photos will preserve the family story.

Make the Most of Your Trip – Although I am a professional genealogist I am not an expert in everything. Reaching out to other genealogists for help is vital. For our trip, we contracted with MinnesotaSwede.com. Kris and Mangus verified my research, extended it, and planned the day to day itinerary. They booked the hotels, arranged stops for food, picked us up and dropped us off at the airport, and drove us to 14 ancestral churches and over 20 ancestral sites in Östergötland and Småland. They also provided us historical background by visiting sites in Sigtuna and Stockholm, Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark. They are genealogy guides extraordinaire!

For my long time readers, you know wherever I roam the strange and unusual occurs. Sweden was no exception so next week I’ll be writing about those experiences.