Weaving Together Our Swedish Family History, Culture, & Traditions

This blog is the first in a series dealing with the topic of preserving family history . We shall be considering various options. We intend to actively celebrate our unique family culture and traditions by sharing them and preserve them for the future.

Here in this BLOG is a proposed meeting place for those with a common interest of gathering and assembling family history projects. My role will be to be facilitator as we together focus on methods sharing. I will be sharing ideas from family history experts that might be just what you might need to keep the fire burning to make progress on your project. Here we also can post ideas from you.

Resources From Arlington Heights Memorial Library Genealogy Collection

There is no one size fits all method to what sometimes becomes, on again-off again life history gathering and recording effort. Inconsistent efforts in our sometimes busy, or distractible lives challenges us to be more dedicated and diligent. Beating ourselves up coming to terms with our procrastination might not be the pathway toward progress. I intend via my blog, or Facebook posts to prompt awareness and work at nudging or reminding.

My hope is to review available resources on the topic and share ideas to help us keep moving onwards. I hope also to reinforce and stress the value of our efforts. I will supplement my own 16 years of experience writing the book: My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute with other contemporary resources.

Contributions from group members will be encouraged and shared.

One classic pattern might look like this: (This is a pattern I used: Note: My wife started this process for both sides of our family before I got busy doing expanded research and writing)

Classic Pattern for Assembly of a Family History Project

1. Write down what you can remember from growing up in terms of stories told.

2. Collect photos and especially label the reverse side with names, dates, describe the event pictured. Connect with help from living relatives.

3. Arrange the photos as you write a narrative story playing the role of storyteller.

4. As a continuing story to add upon, reflect and write how the family history, experiences, upbringing has impacted and influenced your career, choice of spouse, home, travel, decisions about family.

5. Describe and weave elderly relatives comments and reflections. Describe what they remember as; significant, life changing, humorous, favorites, stories of dealing with adversity, problem solving, happiest times, saddest times.

6. Add new branches of the family tree history as time and interest become a priority.

7. Invite children to help sketch the ongoing current family history narrative via adding snapshots as time goes on.

8. Highlight prominent reasons to be remembered. Describe occasions such as graduations, trips, marriages, awards, recognition, family reunions.

9. Create copies of the unique ongoing family history stories and display them in three ring notebooks that represent family history narrative and photo history collections to date. Note: of course, it is a work in progress and can be edited, expanded, corrected, embellished.

10. Bring out the family history to browse and celebrate at holidays, family gatherings, baptisms, family reunions.

11. Publish your family history using various means available.

Collecting and Combing Photos to Create a Timeline

Speaking personally, in 2004, the death of the last of Grandma Maja’s little family prompted me to take action and begin to capture and preserve and humbly immortalize them. I am happy to have published her story via KDP -Amazon Books. By the way, I had many supportive helping hands on the project.

Maja and her pride and joy children surviving family scarred by the Great Depression.

It is now August, 2020, I am delighted to offer a show and tell experience revealing the journey I took to produce the book, My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute. By no means is the pattern I have followed thought to be exemplary in any way. It is simply one way to present a family history and celebrate Swedish family traditions.

The Maja book represents a compilation of facts, photos, stories, analysis and this and that. This is my version of assembling family history project making. It is a work in progress.

Filmmakers say that much more of their art and craft ended up discarded on the editing room floor than is presented in the final version to be seen by the public.

In my case, I had three end goals in mind for my project: 1) Compile and preserve Grandma Maja family history archives to rest together, photos, and more. 2) Tell her story in words and pictures for my family, present and future. 3) Share Maja’s life history with Swedes and others interested in various themes such as: life of an immigrant, dealing with the Great Depression, and widowhood.

Below is a table of contents for the Maja book. The focus of the book is on Maja but expands to touch on her relatives, her children, Swedish and American history and more. The photo history represents my storytelling views.

Chapters of the Maja Källgren Wittenstrom Family History Project 2020 Amazon Books

I was driven to work so hard and so long on the project by a very strong and spirited motivation. I was proud of Grandma Maja’s accomplishments. I was angry that her fascinating and inspiring story of brave ups and downs was largely forgotten and essentially buried with her. I came to realize that if a family history project in any form going forward was up to me. I realized that a treasure was about to be lost unless I stepped up.

I started the project when I was 56 years old and newly retired. Retirement is a likely time for a person to have extra time to invest in hobby or interests. Fact is, I decided to make a push.

I took the time to make a 3 week ancestral pilgrimage to Sweden. I visited relatives gathering oral histories, photos and archives. I walked in Maja’s home town, visited her homestead, and the graveyard and church in Sollefteå. It was emotional, fulfilling, and inspirational.

Ancestral Pilgrimage 2004

Ken Seifert VP of the Northwest Suburban Chicago Genealogy Society writes: The My Maja book—“It is an amazing example of documenting our ancestor’s story and keeping their memory alive for future generations – something that we have discussed at many meetings. This is a great example to help you jump start YOUR family story. Start with one person and tell their story. It’s also a great example to show how to showcase your heirlooms, photos, documents and genealogy treasures.”

The My Maja book includes some family tree material. I have gathered more than 50 pages of genealogy details that is contained in a three ring notebook. Much of the detail has been provided by an expert volunteer Swedish historian and genealogist: Lars Lundström from Stockholm. He adopted me. He has the skills I lack in researching the various web sites and research services. Lars kept my project going as I turned to him over and over for assistance.

Prof Lars Lundström from Stockholm.
Grandma Maja Provided this Amazing Family Tree. Family, Culture, Tradition were important to Grandma Maja

Grandma Maja left behind much more than breadcrumbs for me to follow her lead to uncovering and telling her amazing life story. It is as if she very much wanted to be remembered.

My hope with this blog preview and reviewing the My Maja book I might have sparked some motivation to start, or continue working on your very own unique family history project.

Please pass the word to come and visit. Please follow the blog so you will know when the next installment comes out.

Please leave me comments, or send me an email so I can be sure to include your voice in this venture.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

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