Grandma Maja’s Swedish Time Machine

My Grandma Maja, like so many Swedish grandparents might have secretly hoped to one day be remembered by her loved ones.

Imagine her surprise to see her face portrayed on the cover of a book at her local library shelf. In Maja’s book are over 50 pages of favorite and meaningful images that bring Maja back to life for me. My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute is based on the desire to remember and avoid letting go of a loved one.

Returning from a visit to Sweden in 2004, and experiencing the death of Maja’s last surviving child, I decided to research her story.

I found her steamer trunk neglected and abandoned in her daughter Linnea’s attic. It was destined for the trash heep. I rescued the trunk, restored it and began preserving her photo collection and archives.

Next began a 16 year research expedition in pursuit of learning everything I could about the life and times of Maja Kallgren Wittenstrom, 1897-1969.

Maja’s steamer trunk transporting articles to adorn her home in Chicago in 1929.

Come with me back to 1897 Sweden as we walk in Maja’s footsteps. Her fingerprints are all over Sweden. Come with me in this first blog in a series of sharing images and archives discovered about Maja, her ancestors, and family.

I invite you now to view some of the images and archives I have collected. Some came from Maja. Some came from collections from her sister’s living relatives in Sweden. Some came from genealogy expert and friend, Professor Lars Lundstrom in Sweden. Many came from displays made possible by Swedes in Maja’s home town, Sollefteå.

I will not display the entire gallery here. Each of the images produce nostalgia and sentimental emotions for me. It is as if Maja might be sitting next to me and come alive again engaged in storytelling. Oh, how I wish it would be so.

Much of the background interpretation comes from Swedish historian, Lars Lundström. His family came from Sollefteå just as Maja. He is an expert Swedish genealogist. Lars has been my eyes and ears, mentor, teacher, volunteer and friend.

Lars Lundström Swedish historian

Top 3 favorites from my collection are:

From the first time I saw this photo of a post card I fell in love


Transported back in time I could place myself as one of the pictured family members working in the business that Ida and August built from scratch. Maja was so proud and humbled by the wealth her hardworking parents achieved by grit, gumption and framåtanda. The fabled store was located on fashionable Main Street: Storgarten, Sollefteå Sweden.

Bonus Collage of Maja Family Collection


Each of these photos above qualify as a favorite. Not every family has the means in early 1900 to invest in photos. Maja was so proud of her family. She explained in great detail what it was like living in their farmhouse mansion with 9 children. What makes these photos extra special are the invisible tear stains on them. Maja grieved her separation of being an ocean away from her beloved family and her very beloved Sverige. Maja suffered chronic homesickness until the day she died. Her family adventure and Swedish American Dream came to success at a great personal price.

A troublesome time in Swedish history. A fight over power of government, religion and big business oppressing the proud “little man Swede”


The death of Maja’s husband prompted her to return to Sweden with her three young children. For Maja, it was not the same Sweden in which she grew up. Maja’s father had died and business sold. There was unrest in Sweden and the threat of socialism was clearly spoken about in fear of dramatic shift in the Sweden of yesterday. Maja decided to take her three American born children back to Chicago. By now, Maja was a US citizen. Hitler was rising to power. The oceans were no longer safe for travel. Maja left Sweden to face the American Great Depression over the uncertainty of a future Sweden.

This concludes my blog gallery opening. I hope you will read our book and enjoy the gallery there.

I invite you to follow the blog in order not to miss the next installment of Maja’s images and archive treasures.

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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