Thanks to the help of my host family and online church book records, I was able to find out quite a bit about my great-grandfather’s family. It turns out that Erik in fact had 5 sisters, and they all stayed in Sweden. We were able to locate records up to 1950, as well as find descendants that are alive today. We’re still working on making contact with people, but I figured I could start telling this story from Erik’s perspective.
Erik Johan Andersson
Erik was born in Vara, a town in western Sweden, in 1888, exactly 110 years and 1 day before I was born in Minnesota. His parent’s names were Anders Eriksson and Charlotta Johansdotter. He had 2 older sisters, Hanna Maria and Hilda Emilia, and 3 younger sisters, Esther Elisabet, Agda Cecilia, and Elsa Tabea. (I’ll write about each of them later)
We don’t have too much information on what Erik’s life was like before he left for America (or which of his 5 sisters gave him the money to leave), but we did discover that he left in 1908 when he was 20 years old. This aspect of the story is what resonated the most with me. Although I feel a certain kind of solidarity with Erik, I also can’t even bring myself to imagine how different our situations are. We were the same age when we traveled across the Atlantic–he to what would become my home and I to what was his. We both left alone, unsure of what exactly we would find when we got there. But I, in 2019, knew I would be here for 4 months to study, and then I would return home (on an airplane). All my friends and family back home are only a text away, and the number of emails I get every day from my college almost make it feel like I’m not even gone.
I can hardly even think about how different it would have been to take a boat to a country that I would be spending the rest of my life in, looking for land to farm, and never seeing anyone from home ever again. Then again, I don’t actually know what he was like. Maybe he did genuinely want to go, whether for the adventure or for the opportunity. Maybe leaving his family was an easy decision, or maybe he was fleeing something else.
Regardless, I feel like I’m supposed to be here, to learn about him, and to try and understand his life and his family–my family. I’ve already learned so much (like, for example, his draft forms stated he was only 5’3, so maybe I’m not as short as I thought I was) and I’m so excited to see what else I’m able to discover. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to spend a weekend in Göteborg for a reunion.