The Forsa Connection

close up of JohanneBetsey’s connection to Sweden has an interesting story.  In 1902, Betsey’s Great-grandparents Per and Anna Andersson, and their two children immigrated to America and settled in Iron River, Wisconsin.  They had very deep family roots in and around Hudiksvall, about three hours north of Stockholm, situated on the Baltic Coast.  They had three more children while in America.  In 1911 Anna died after assisting others during a local epidemic of some sort. The two youngest Anderson (now spelled with one “s” dropped) children were sent to live with two different families who were relatives to the Andersons in and around Duluth. Betsey’s grandfather, Victor, was sent to stay with his mother’s parents, Simon and Juliana Mörtenson.  The three older children were all of age and living on their own. In 1923, twelve years after his wife died Per arranged to marry a woman, Vilhelmina, 17 years his junior and from Forsa.    

After the wedding in Forsa, Vilhemina refused to emigrate, so Per stayed in Sweden and the two American children were raised by their foster families.  Per and Vilhemina then had two children over the ensuing years.  The oldest of the two children was Arne who was the father of Genea’s Swedish half-cousins.

So for review, Per Anderson was Genea’s grandfather.  She and her brother Jerry only saw him once during his single return trip to America to visit his family in Duluth.  Per, if you remember, is also the grandfather to Elvi (with whom we visited and blogged about in December).  This makes Genea a half first-cousin to Elvi and her two sisters Doris and Berit.

Elvi had put much effort into arranging a reunion of relatives as well as giving us an opportunity to really get to “know” some of the long-dead relatives from the Forsa/Hudiksvall region in the Hälsingland province.  All this despite the fact that she does work full time and, most unfortunately, just buried her mother (Arne’s wife), Stina, the weekend before our arrival.  Oh, yeah, and after the funeral she and her husband, Curt, were very, very sick up until the day before we joined them in Forsa.  Elvi is a force of nature.

THURSDAY

On Thursday the 23rd of April, Jack, Genea and Jerry (or Yack, Yenea and Yerry for those with Swedish as your first language) and our family caravanned over 7 hours from Arvika to Forsa where we met Elvi and Curt at the Forsa Church.  While there Elvi took us on a tour of the cemetery to meet several of the relatives buried there, including her mother’s freshly filled grave.

Anna-Stina Andersson's grave.

Per, Anna, Arne and Stina Andersson's grave site with missing headstone.

Arne and Anna-Stina's Headstone, waiting to be inscribed.

Missing headstone awaiting the inscription of Stina's name.

 

Elvi provided a rich tour of the gravesites of many of her family's relatives.

Elvi provided a rich tour of the gravesites of many of her family's relatives in the Forsa Church Cemetery.

 

We had been invited to eat at Doris’s house that afternoon but we were a little early so we made one stop on the way to visit the farm site where Per’s parents lived for a few years and where Per lived for about one year before he married his first wife, Genea’s grandmother.  Most of the buildings are long-gone except for one hay barn.  The farmsite is located on a gently sloping hillside overlooking a small valley with hay fields and forest.  Several cranes were picking their way across the fields on the far side of the valley while we were there.  Like all of the parts of Hälsingland that we visited, this site is so amazing beautiful with a mix of rolling hay fields, really old farm buildings, forests, rivers and lakes.  I felt as though we were living inside a postcard picture for the whole weekend.

The old farm site where Per lived with his parents for a year before he married Anna.

The old farm site where Per lived with his parents for a year before he married Anna.

 

We had a lovely meal, at Doris and Leif’s house, which was headlined by moose and beef stewed with root veggies and mushrooms.   Guests at that dinner also included Doris’s daughter, Ingela, a lovely young woman with whom we had spent some time at Jack and Genea’s cabin during their visit to MN about 6 or 7 years ago.

Elvi had arranged accommodations for all of us at her sisters’ houses; we at Doris and Leif’s house and Betsey’s parents and uncle, Jerry, at Berit’s house.  Doris and Leif seem to know about as much English as I know Swedish.  Despite this difficulty we talked late into the night that first night (Betsey had gone to bed early with an awful headache).  I wish I could see a transcript of that conversation as it bounced almost seamlessly back and forth between the two languages, rarely hitting a dead end that we could not linguistically navigate.

The sisters with their husbands: Leif and Doris, Berit and Erland, Elvi and Curt.

The sisters with their husbands: Leif and Doris, Berit and Erland, Elvi and Curt.

 

Doris and Leif live in a house that was built 200 years ago and was used for a very long time as the barracks for a small military outpost.  Actually only about a third was barracks with the remainder being an attached barn and was so often the case in those days.  The barn has since been converted into more house.  Again the view from the house was a pastoral setting of fields, forests and hills.  The far horizon is dominated by a steep ridge, some distance away, that is part of the edge of a 20 km diameter meteor impact crater from some billions of years ago.

Doris and Leif's and house.  Old army barracks on the right and attached barn on the left.

Doris and Leif's and house. Old army barracks on the right and attached barn on the left.

 

Ingela spent a lot of quality time with Yarrow and Lily.

Ingela spent a lot of quality time with Yarrow and Lily.

Doris and Leif have two daughters, Ingela and Carina.  Carina is off at school and could not get away but we spent most of Friday with Ingela.  Both of the girls and Doris had traveled to MN a few years back and we were able spend several days swimming and fishing with them at Jack and Genea’s cabin.

 

Berit and her husband, Erland, also live in and old barn/house combo (where Jack, Genea and Jerry stayed) near Forsa.  No children, but an amazing (truly amazing) collection of art and other interesting items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY

On Friday morning we headed into Hudiksvall to check out the second hand shops and to have lunch.  In the afternoon we had an appointment with the curator of the Hälsingland Museum.  The museum is in possession of several very important artifacts: important for Betsey’s family as well is for Sweden, and we were getting a backstage look at all of them.

The curator, Lars, welcomed us into his office where, standing face to face on opposite walls, are the 2 meter tall portraits of Johanne Blanck and his wife Barbro.  Johanne was an officer in the 30-Years War (1618-48) in Germany.  He was in charge of many men in the successful attempt to stem the power of the Catholic Empire throughout Europe. 

Johanne Blanck

Johanne Blanck

Barbro Blanck

Barbro Blanck

 

In acknowledgement of his service, in 1650 Queen Christine awarded him a title of aristocracy, which gave him much land and prestige.  Lars pulled the document out of the archives for our perusal.

With this official citation, Johanne and Barbro became landed aristocrats.

With this official citation, Johanne and Barbro became landed aristocrats.

 

Queen Christine, her majestic self, signed this document in 1650.

Queen Christine, her majestic self, signed this vellum document in 1650.

 

Johannes and Barbro Blanck are direct ancestors to Genea, Betsey, Yarrow and Lily.  To our daughters they are their great-grandparents, 10 generations back.  (Let’s see, I think that makes them Yarrow and Lily’s Great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, yes?)

Next we followed Lars to the basement vaults (the building was originally a bank in the 1800’s and the basement has the feeling of a freshly painted Gringott’s).  In the first of two rooms we visited is housed the museum’s collections of military artifacts and old traps (ranging is size from mouse to bear).  There were shelves filled with metal helmets, muskets, swords, lances etc.  From one glass case Lars pulled the military rank insignia plate thingy (can’t remember what it is called) which was worn by Johannes Blanck.  It is of copper construction and plated with gold on the front side.  Instead of wearing epaulets on their shoulders, the officers at this time wore these large meatl plates around their necks.  Johannes insignia plate is the best-preserved specimen, anywhere.  The others any of the others in existence were salvaged from shipwrecks and are in poor condition.

Johanne's rank insignia plate.

Johanne's rank insignia plate.

Johanne's

Johanne's everyday sword.

Johanne's fancy sword (also seen in the painting).

Johanne's fancy sword (also seen in the painting).

 

 

We then were shown two of Johanne’s swords.  The fancier of the two swords is believed to be that which was rendered in his portrait.  Johanne’s military artifacts were so well preserved as they were included with his funerary materials or were on display in the church in which he was buried.  He and his wife had a crypt under the floor of a church which was rebuilt in the 1800’s and these items were set aside and saved.

Other cool stuff in the weapon room.

Other cool stuff in the weapon room.Racks and racks of helmets (...only a flesh wound..).

 

Onward to the second vault in which are preserved hundreds of wood and stone artifacts from old Hälsingland churches, the oldest of which date to the 1200’s.  In this collection they have the (damaged) crest of Johanne Blanck, carved in wood and painted.  This would, likely have hung in the church in conjunction with one of his swords.  His direct and officially acknowledged involvement in the fight against the Catholic Empire of the day probably made him a significant figure for his local Lutheran Church to “capitalize” on (to boast about?).

 

coat of arms

This coat of arms from Johanne's church is now in two large pieces with many smaller bits, like the flags, in the Festis beverage box below.

This is the coat of arms from the queen's document.

This is the coat of arms from the queen's document.

This the coat of arms detail from the portrait of Johanne.

...and this is a detail from the portrait of Johanne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is some context, a little history and an ironic story about the royals of the day:  Queen Christine’s father was Gustavus Adolphus (he was the architect and the “brains” behind the doomed ship, Vasa, which sank in twenty minutes after a mild gust of wind.  The Vasa is currently housed in it’s own museum in Stockholm.)  Gustavus Adolphus was the king in power during Sweden’s initial involvement in the 30-Years War.  This war has a fascinating and complicated history, involving nearly all of the European states and wreaking havoc and destruction over large swaths of the continent.  It was a truly horrible time.

The “Swedish Intervention” began in 1630, under the leadership of King Gustavus Adolphus.  It is not clear why the Swedes joined the fray at this time but it was a turning point for the Protestants in the war.  The Swedish king was, himself, killed in battle in 1632. 

It was in 1650 that Christine bestowed honor and wealth to the veteran, Johannes Blanck.  She was the queen in until 1654 when she, ironically, converted to Catholicism, abdicated the throne and left Sweden.  She did WHAT?

One more interesting tidbit about this visit included a new revelation about the museum curator, Lars.  Elvi, a passionate genealogist, had had suspicions about Lars’ ancestry for some time, so later that evening she typed his name into her database and found out that both he and Betsey are nine generations removed from a common ancestor: one Johanne Blanck.  Despite the fact that their portraits are hanging in his office, Lars had no idea that the Blancks were his to claim, as well.

On exhibit in the museum (up to this point we had not entered the public spaces of the museum) are many examples of the painting styles of the Hälsingland region, of which Elvi is a bit of an expert.

painted room 1painted room 2

Betsey is considering this ceiling painting for her next tattoo.

Betsey is considering this ceiling painting for her next tattoo.

 

Continuing one of the most history-saturated days in memory (I realized about this time that I was actually a bit tired of cool, old stuff) we took a half hour drive east out to the old fishing of Kuggörarnas which located on a peninsula way out into the Baltic Sea.  The village itself has no roads and the parking lot is lined with the residents’ wheelbarrows that they use to get supplies in and out of the village.  The Kuggörarnas Chapel is not the first church in the village but this one was built in 1778.  Note the low-tech security system, evident in the photo below, on the front door.

fishing village 1fishing village 2

Front door of the Kuggörarnas Chapel.Fishing chapel in

Lily and Ingela brave a tall rock over the icy waters of the Baltic Sea.

Lily and Ingela brave a tall rock over the icy waters of the Baltic Sea.

 

Jerry and Genea basking in the sun in Kuggörarnas.

Jerry and Genea basking in the sun in Kuggörarnas.

 

 

 

Jerry and Gena pose for a recreation of a photo of them taken almost 60 years ago, to the day.  Jerry's power-of-recollection is amazing.

Jerry and Genea pose for a re-creation of a photo of them taken almost 60 years ago, to the day. Jerry's power-of-recollection is amazing.

We got Swedish pizza back in Forsa and had supper in Elvi’s mother’s (recently deceased) apartment.  While there, Lily challenged her 73 year-old great uncle to a foot race.  Jerry is an avid track and field competitor and is the fastest runner over the age of 70 in the state of Wisconsin.  He also holds the Wisconsin record for shot-put in the over 70 category.  Yarrow joined them and Jerry won handily.  Lily was a bit put out that this old man could beat the fastest runner in the Gateskolan 3rd grade.

 

And the winner is...the old guy.

And the winner is...the old guy.

 

Unbelievably, we had one more stop for the day.  We all went to Berit’s (the third half-cousin) and Erland’s house for fika.  They live in another of Hälsingland’s house/barn combinations.  It’s good that they have a lot of extra space as Erland’s collection of 19th and 20th century paintings take up a lot of wall space.  The collection is astounding and Erland gave Betsey and I the full tour.  In addition, we also saw his Sami (Lappland) knife collection.  They were wonderful hosts (as Swedes tend to be) and Berit even set Lily up with fancy glasswear and a large, throne-like chair as befits the princess that Berit claimed was Lily.

 

The Sami knife collection, extrordinare.

The Sami knife collection, extrordinare.

FINALLY to bed.  That was only one day…

 

SATURDAY

This was the day to visit old Hälsingland farmsites.  The first of which was relevant to Betsey’s family as Per’s parents owned and farmed the site for a few years.  Called Forsa Forngård Främö, t is now protected and maintained by a foundation.  We had a nice lunch there with a total of 30 of Betsey’s relatives in attendance.  A guided tour of the site followed.

 

The farm that Per's family owned for a few years.reunion lunchgroup shot

The farm that Per's family owned for a few years.Thirty of Betsey's relatives gathered for a lunch in Forsa.

"The good news is that the toilets are indoors.  The bad news is that it will still be pretty breezy in the winter."  The cows lived below the holes.

"The good news is that the toilets are indoors. The bad news is that it will still be pretty breezy in the winter." The cows lived below the holes.

 

The second farm visited had no direct connection to the family, but was simply astounding, nonetheless.  It is the best-preserved example of the four-building, square farm-site typical of the provence.  The diagnostic feature of this style is an open, central square of earth is bounded by four large buildings creating a sheltered inner space.  Many of these farms have been altered by removing one, or more, building to allow for better ventilation of the square (think livestock and all that they produce).  There is a fascinating and complicated history to this farm site, but the explanation was given in Swedish and I was overloaded with historical info by this time, so I will not attempt to relay the history.  There is a restaurant associated with the farm and we had a very nice, elegant Swedish meal, together.

Doris had arranged a visit with her cousin (on the other side), John who is a beekeeper and supplier of the dietary pollen that we had enjoyed with our oatmeal in the morning.  He is a fascinating and fun man who gave us a tour of some of his hives and of his processing facility.  We also did some shopping in his little “honong butik”.

Although John uses many modern hives, he has a soft spot for this very old style of hive in which he keeps several colonies of bees.

Although John uses many modern hives, he has a soft spot for this very old style of hive in which he keeps several colonies of bees.

 

 

We said goodbye to Yack, Yenea and Jerry as they were flying out of Stockholm the next morning.minnesota group

Enough already!  We all had a quiet evening with our hosts.  Our evening consisted of watching the movie “Titanic” (thoughtfully supplied by Ingela’s fiancé, Andreas) while Doris supplied us with a seemingly ending supply of microwave popcorn and cut fruit.  Yarrow and Betsey cried (not because of the snacks).

SUNDAY

An early start on the day was necessary as we had a 7½ hour drive home across the surprisingly broad country of Sweden.  It had been a busy couple of weeks but we are so pleased that Betsey’s folks and uncle were able to make the trip.  A good time was had by all…

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One Response to “The Forsa Connection”

  1. Blind Squirrel FCD Says:

    Yarrow and Betsey cried over Titanic?
    Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!

    Although it was a waste of a good ship.

    BS

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