Sweden: Iron Roots

After a week in Copenhagen, Las Chicas head for Sweden.  We venture into a new land (at least to us), with an indecipherable language for us, but where English is spoken freely. We quickly find “Swedes” very friendly and willing to help.

As we arrive off the train from the airport and step onto the sidewalk, while trying to get our bearings, an elder man with his walker asks if we need assistance. As it turns out, he’s not sure which way to go, but moments later sends a comrade our way who directs us to our destination. Welcome to Stockholm!

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We travel here to discover a bit more about Lisa’s family roots. Her grandmother was born a Larson somewhere near Lindesberg, Sweden in 1873. Thanks to her cousin Barbara, we begin the journey with a collection of details and information about Grandma Howells.

Early Wednesday morning, Las Chicas head off to conquer another first, renting a car. We have managed to avoid this in Europe to date but can only explore the Swedish countryside in a car. By 9 am we are on our way, after a very easy process with Europcar.

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Lisa takes the story from here . . .

As we drive along I reflect on the bravery of my grandmother who emigrated from Sweden to the US at the age of 20. Her name appears on the ship manifest in Ellis Island, 1893, arrived from Liverpool and Queenstown.

Given the daily challenges I’ve encountered living in a foreign country in the last year, it’s difficult to imagine what her journey must have been like. I have a newfound respect for my grandmother who passed away when I was still quite young.  We begin the trip headed for a small town in the countryside,

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and find remnants of industry,

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mixed with present day factories and businesses.

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Given we have no names or contacts, only locations, we head to the nearby national park.

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We enjoy a short walk, a little lunch, and a lovely landscape. It’s great to walk on the earth again and to smell the fresh air of the forest and trees, after so much time in the city. We eat tiny wild strawberries.

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Within an hour we are back on the road headed to our next location. Without any specific addresses or people to contact, our trip is one of exploration, seeing the places and remnants of history from my grandmother’s early years. The drive is especially easy passing by beautiful lakes and fields.

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Headed toward Lindesberg, we make a quick stop in Orebro and visit the Orebro Castle. I have seen more castles in these two weeks then in the sum of all my years.

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We are also treated to a few unexpected highlights around the grounds of the castle.

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I’m slightly disappointed that I’m unable to find any additional information or useful resources to research my family history along the trip. But I thoroughly enjoy viewing the Swedish countryside and feel a touch of home in my heart.

On through Lindesberg, the location given when my grandmother emigrated through Ellis Island.  On the way, we catch glimpses of modern day Swedish culture and passtimes.

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We have two more potential stops, but can not find Hakansboda. Some places found and others remain a mystery. So we decide to head to our last location in Angelsberg to visit part of the “Ekomuseum”  that documents the history of iron mining in the area.

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The Ekomuseum spreads over a large area, pictured on the map below. We chose Angelsberg to see the Engelsberg Ironworks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ironworks is composed of 50+ buildings and was a leader in iron production for two centuries largely due to the modern machinery.

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Despite the robust iron economy of the late 1800’s, my great grandfather appears to have lost everything through investment in iron mines. This was the catalyst for the Larson migration to America.

Most of the building at the Englesberg site are closed, as we arrive late in the day. But we take advantage of the abundant daylight and explore the grounds, looking in windows where we can.

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As we wander amidst the buildings and land of the ironworks I am reminded of my early years in New England. I imagine my grandmother might too have also felt some connection there with her rural roots in Sweden. The buildings, the water, the setting seems familiar, although I have never visited here before.

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We stop short, only seeing a dozen of the 50 buildings. We still have a two-hour trip back to Stockholm.

On the way back to the city, we manage to see one more castle, Stromsholm Slott,

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some sheep,

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and a few happy horses.

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Stromsholm marked the end of a great day and perhaps a new beginning of understanding my Swedish roots.

© 2014 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

 

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