Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sweden on Day 8

On Day 8, we set out for Sweden to trace the path of my ggg-grandparents on my paternal grandfather's line.  My ggg-grandmother, Oleane Jakobsdatter (sometimes known as Akoline), emigrated from Sweden to Norway with her mother in 1863.  For more on Oleane, click here (it is a 4-part biography series).  My ggg-grandfather, Samuel Andreasen, emigrated to Norway in 1869.  My last posting tells a little bit about him and his death at sea in 1875.

Thanks to a genealogist friend in Sweden, Yvonne Henricksen of the blog Swedish Thoughts, I was put in contact with an historian in the area of Sweden where these ancestors were from.  Margareta Aleviken would help me find some of the farms related to my ancestors and perhaps a cottage, if it still existed.  We made an appointment to meet at 11:00 AM in the parking lot of the church in Grebbestad, Sweden.  My father still was not feeling up to a drive, especially to Sweden, which rendered the day a little disappointing; but I was still very excited to set off that morning with my mother, son, and father's friend.  When we hit the border of Sweden, leaving Norway behind, I felt so happy to have made the journey in Oleane and Samuel's footsteps.  Many things crossed my mind as I watched the sometimes hilly terrain become steep or filled by a lake.  After two hours driving, I realized that in the 1860s it could not have been an easy task to emigrate to Norway without a car.  Did they walk the entire treacherous way?  Did they take a boat?  I know money must have been an issue, so I am guessing a great deal of walking occurred for many leaving this part of Sweden for better opportunities in the Fredrikstad area of Norway.

We arrived at the Grebbestad Church, which was open, and took a look inside.  I knew this was not the church that had baptized my ggg-grandparents, but it was still interesting to see.  I also met the relative I had mentioned on my post about Kongsberg.  My ggg-grandmother Oleane is his g-grandmother.  He came with his wife and their dog and were very excited to share in my journey into our Swedish past.  It wasn't too long before Margareta showed up with her sister-in-law; her name was also Margareta.  After greetings and introductions, we followed our family history tour-guides to the first site, and what a treat this was!

The cottage where my ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreasson was
born in 1841
My gggg-grandfather Andreas Pettersson was a soldier for the Royal Swedish Army.  In Sweden, the military was a lifelong career, and each soldier required a unique name.  In return for service, a soldier was given a croft that included a cottage and some land, and the soldier carried the name of the croft as his surname.  My gggg-grandfather's soldier name was Andreas Rörberg.  All his children also carried the Rörberg surname while he served.  My ggg-grandfather, therefore, was Samuel Andreasson Rörberg at his birth in 1841.  And the cottage of his birth still existed in Rörvik!  This was so exciting to find out from the two Margareta angels of genealogy.  After my gggg-grandfather retired from the military in 1860 after 31 years of service, he lost the Rörberg name, and a new soldier moved into the croft cottage assuming the name.  Margareta had found the descendants of the new Rörberg soldier who moved there, and the family still had pictures of the old cottage from the 1860s or 1870s!  And when Margareta brought me to see it, I could see it was the same cottage, except it was now painted white and there were new windows.  Margareta told me that the new owners had decided to soon paint it red once again. 

Westra Ertseröd, my ggg-grandfather's last residence before
emigrating to Norway
Margareta planned for us to follow a logical course of farms in the order of appearance on the map we would follow.  The next stop was Westra Ertseröd, which is where my ggg-grandfather Samuel emigrated from to go to Norway in 1869.  I had also recently found out, thanks to Yvonne Henricksen, that his widowed mother had also emigrated from there to Norway a year later.  The structures on the land were surely not the same, but the farm was all I really wanted to see.  From there we saw Nästegård, which was the birthplace of Samuel's father, Andreas Pettersson, and then we moved on to Vyk.  Vyk Farm is where my ggg-grandmother Oleane's mother, Helena Magnusdotter, was born in 1819.  This ended up being an interesting site even without a cottage.  We found stones on the ground that were likely a foundation of the cottage, and it was located near the horse "garden."  In fact, at Helena's birth, the home is called "the garden."  After spending a good deal of time exploring the area, we moved on to Hala where Helena lived as a young girl.  There was a structure that looked very old, but the owner came out and told us it was not as old as it looked.  All in all, it was nice to see the location of my gggg-grandmother's childhood home. 

I point to the spot where the cottage and birthplace of my
ggg-grandmother, Oleane Jakobsdotter, once stood
The next stop was Rungstung Farm, and more specifically Hällevadet, where Oleane was born in 1850.  As you may have read on a previous biography post on Oleane, the circumstances of her birth were a bit mysterious.  The baptismal record says that her mother, Helena, was engaged to Johan Jakob Ruth (a soldier; Ruth was his soldier name) but that Oleane was fathered by another man.  Helena and Johan did have two other biological children together before Oleane.  Margareta had looked into some more Swedish records, and she was able to clear up the mystery a little.  She said that Helena and Johan had declared their intention to marry three times in church, as was the custom of the day, but they had never completed the final act of marriage.  She explained to me, though, that three declarations in the eyes of many was nearly the same as being married.  However, Johan Jakob Ruth is shown to have gone off to war around 1848 or 1849.  The record does not say what war, but I believe it was the First Schleswig War.  The First Schleswig War or Three Years' War was a military conflict in southern Denmark and northern Germany regarding control of the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The war, which lasted from 1848–1851, also involved troops from Prussia and Sweden.  The time period fits perfectly.  So my guess is that while Johan was away, Helena had an affair with Oleane's biological father, and Johan Jakob Ruth came home to a surprise addition to the family.  It seems, though, that he accepted Oleane.  They lived together for a few years, and Oleane used his name as her father for the rest of her life.  Of course, she may not have known the circumastances of her own birth.  But eventually Johan and Helena did leave each other and Johan married another woman.  When he left the military, another soldier took over the croft and cottage and was named Ruth.  This man's grandson still lived on the same plot of land and was able to tell the historian exactly where the cottage once was; it was great to see it, even if there was nothing to see! 

As for my ggg-grandmother, Oleane, once Johan and Helena separated, she moved to Håkebytorp while her mother seems to have wandered between places, such as the church's priest quarters and a farm called Lycke.  She is also listed on the "vagrant" pages, perhaps because she was not settled in any particular place.  Then, in 1863, she and her thirteen year old daughter, Oleane, left Sweden for Norway.  I should add that before leaving Sweden myself, we saw Håkebytorp -- Oleane's last residence in Sweden. 

The church where my ggg-grandparents, Oleane and Samuel,
were baptized.  Samuel was also confirmed here.
Once we said a million "thank yous" and a final goodbye to the fabulous historians who helped us trace my Swedish roots, we set off for the Tanum Church in Tanumshede to see where my ggg-grandparents had been baptized and then headed for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bronze age rock carvings.  The carvings were left there 3000 years ago, and I couldn't help wonder if one of my ancestors from the area was responsible.  We hiked a bit in the hills and found the ancient burial mounds, too.  What a sight!  When we had had enough, we returned to the car and drove back toward Norway.  On the way, we stopped in Strömstad, a lovely town on the sea, and likely the place my ggg-grandfather Samuel Andreasson signed up to become a seaman in 1859.  Strangely, when we crossed the border from Sweden to Norway, an hour later, I felt that "I'm back home" feeling.  I guess my roots in Sweden are still too new to me and not quite as strong as my Norwegian roots; Norway is, after all, a place I have known my whole life and where the greater part of my ancestral tree branches are from.  But I am very proud to also be Swedish!

A small section of the amazing bronze-age Tanumshede rock carvings

Beautiful Strömstad by the sea...


  1. It's so fascinating to read about your trip. You write so inspiring and everything is very interesting. It was also fantastic that the two Margareta was so knowledgeable and was able to show you so very interesting! It is a "gold mine" to meet with such people!
    I'm sorry to hear that your father does not feel really good, but I hope you can continue to enjoy your trip.
    I hope I can make a similar trip to the U.S. someday... when I find any trace of my grandmothers brother Johan August or/and of Patricia Derbeck ... perhaps.. ...!

  2. Hey, do you have more pictures of those rock carvings? I'd love to see them.