“The searching of one’s family history does not have a clear end-goal, but rather is an ongoing process of building a larger narrative about one’s self and the past”
Ancestral tourism, the travel to see and explore where the roots are planted for one’s family tree is definitely on the rise. Planning my third pilgrimage to Sollefteå Sweden occupies and tantalized my thoughts.
I might wish that each person who invests time investigating one’s family history might someday set foot on the land of one’s forbears. For me, my family research and travels led to the sharing of a book, a legacy, a travelogue. My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute (Amazon Books. 2020)
The Swedish television reality show Allt för Sverige (literally Everything for Sweden), marketed in the United States as, The Great Swedish Adventure,-is in its eighth season in 2019. The great popularity reflects the excited interest Americans of Swedish descent have in discovering and reconnecting with their Swedish roots, ancestry and cultural origins.
Ancestral tourists often derive highly emotional experiences dependent on factors occurring prior to, and during travels. Coupling research with visiting places of significance connected to one’s past offers memorable, sentimental experiences of a lifetime. Connecting people, places and events made possible by affordable transport opens new horizons for those captivated by genealogy pursuits.
Hearing firsthand stories from Grandma Maja covering all aspects of her former life in Sweden for the first 21 years of my life evoked a deep curiosity. Photos, archives, traditions added to stories were fuel to fire my imagination. Horse drawn sleighs. Candle lit Christmas trees, Tompte, were enchanting visions I hoped upon hope to some day experience on my own.
The Swedish American immigrant experience and all it enkindled a fascination that grips my interest and imagination. Since 2004, I admit to being preoccupied with studying the immigrant life of my grandparents. I have been hungry to learn about grandma Maja’s life growing up in Sollefteå northern Sweden. I have been keenly interested in: her family, house, school, church, family business, ancestors, relatives. I have been interested in her decision to leave Sweden at age 22 and the transatlantic travel to New York Harbor and on to Chicago in 1922. What was immigrant life of being homesick and striking out to build a family in Roaring Twenties America? Finally, I wanted to travel to Sweden and explore my family history. My first ancestral journey I traveled with an American relative.
“The accumulation of family memories and of information gained through genealogy research makes ancestral travels to Sweden a highly personal endeavor, rather than an elusive reconnection to a distant heritage.”
There is something very special, in fact many things special and unique for family history traveling. This photo of my son Erik proudly displaying a dress to bring home to his young daughter speaks to wanting to share what one sees, hears and feels about places connected to one’s family history.
Researchers on Swedish ancestral travel (I call pilgrimages): “The accumulation of family memories and of information gained through genealogy research makes ancestral travels to Sweden a highly personal endeavor, rather than an elusive reconnection to a distant heritage.”
Journeys of research, emotions and belonging: an exploratory analysis of the motivations and experience of ancestral tourists
Memories, Traditions and Stories Come to Life
Ancestral pilgrims share many anecdotes of the emotions they feel while observing the attributes of the Swedish countryside. These observations were influenced by the memories they had had passed down to them or their knowledge gained through genealogy research about their ancestors having been there.
Researchers suggest that the cherished memory of a cultural heritage enlivened is not only related to historical monuments, museums, statues and sites, but also includes material objects of everyday life, stories, music and poems, and even elements of the cultural landscape.
Expressing one’s feelings about amateur genealogy…… “genealogy is the branches or the twigs on a family tree, but it is not leaves. The leaves are stories and personal connections. The kind of stuff that makes trees beautiful. Otherwise, it is just a tree without the leaves. It is interesting, but it is more interesting if you got leaves on your tree. That is what I wanted. I wanted stories. I wanted to know more about the farm. I wanted to see the farm. I wanted to know more about the community.”
Probing Deeper into Identity
Researchers suggest: “that ancestral tourists often seek to deeply explore who their ancestors were in order to form their social identity. To see the house, to see to the farm where ancestor had lived……to somewhat understand past challenges of farm life through the information she received on site and her own visualization….
My ancestry is filled with inspiring stories of entrepreneurs who were imaginative, adventurous, goal oriented, striving to be good problem solvers, and unafraid of adversity challenges. They represent role models of who I am, what drives me, what may be in my DNA. Struggle in our family lineage is welcomed. The drive to take care of family under harsh circumstances is powerful and determined.
I am often traveling to Sweden in my dreams, ……in recalling stories, ……living traditions, …….appreciating heirloom artifacts, all together,- helping me truly cherish my family tree.