Opening Doors to the Past and Present

“Growing up, I was the only one around that didn’t have any grandparents.  They were in Sweden and we never  really talked about them.”  So my father said, when I asked him for some information about his grandparents, all from Sweden. “I think you know more about it than I do, since you gave me the passenger lists.”

What a contrast in searching for my elusive Swedish origins from the wealth of information I have with my early New England ancestors with their well recorded histories. My father is the last of six children, as far as I know there are no other living relatives from that generation or before.  Hopefully, I could get some information on his family’s history to help fill in my family tree.

So, we continued our phone conversation and I asked some specific questions.  “Grampa’s father died years before he came here I think,” Dad said. That made sense. His mother’s name, Anna Larssen, was listed as the parent of Fritz Olsson on the passenger list. “What was Grampa’s father’s name,” I asked. “I don’t know, he never talked about that.”

“So what about Gramma? Her father’s name was Carl. What about her mother’s name?” I asked.

“You know more about it than me. I never knew what either of their parents names were.”

Frustrated, I supposed that even when mentioning their parents, and it sounded like they didn’t much, they probably wouldn’t have referred to them by their given names.  OK, moving along.

Dad had given me me a family Bible that belonged to Grampa Olson with the name Karl Olsson in it. A relative? “Dad, did Grampa have a brother named Karl?”

“Karl. Yes, he worked for the railroad in Boston. And he was also a mason. He used to come stay over night with us sometimes on the weekends. He was married once, a long time ago, I think they had a son.”

It sounded kind of murky to me. I knew they didn’t talk much about things, I was gathering that the family had dissolved. Dad didn’t know the wife or child’s names. But now I knew that Grampa’s brother had immigrated, too.

“Gramma’s sister was Edith,” Dad offered.  “Anderson. She lived in Watertown with Uncle Carl.” That was the third “Carl” in this conversation. At least I had the name of her husband now.

Dad was opening up. “They came to visit and spend the night, too.  They had a daughter named Connie. And a daughter, Irma. You heard of  Irma and Ivar. We used to see them a lot. Iva Olson was Irma’s husband.”

“Olson?” I asked.  Another Olson. No relation.

But I remotely recalled hearing some of these names as a child. I never realized Irma was Dad’s cousin. Or that he had cousins for that matter. But I suppose it made sense if my grandparents who immigrated had families of their own that their siblings also would.

“They had a son, Lewis. He lived in Newport, RI and then Florida. The last time I saw him was at Wally’s funeral (his brother),” Dad said.

I asked another question, expecting somewhat of a vague answer, but it was worth a try. “Was Edith older or younger than Gramma? Did they have any other siblings?”

“About the same age, more or less. I think it was just them.” Vague. But not all was lost.

As I jotted my notes down, I was recording a list of names. Relatives. Swedish relatives. My Swedish relatives.  Are any of their children living? Could I possibly find them? Might they have some history to share that they learned from their parents? I do have a few cousins that I can perhaps interview and see if their parents, Dad’s older siblings, ever shared family history with them. I have talked to one of them who shared some little tidbits with me about Gramma’s homelife that she got firsthand. She also has the Olson photo album that I’m hoping to look at with her someday.

Fritz Olson (Grampa) with his police comrads in Wrentham, MA

“Eric (my brother) showed me the picture of Grampa on the police force that you sent tohim,” Dad  continued.

I’d found the photo on the Wrentham Police Force facebook page. “So that was definitely Grampa?” I asked. I was hoping it was, but no names were given.

“No mistaking that. He was on the force about 37 or 38 years.”

And you were a policeman too. “About 15 years. Worked 2 jobs then.”

“Eric emailed me the picture of you before you went into the Navy. It’s awesome. Brandon (my son) looks like you. Your about the same age.”

Before Dad (Ken Olson), Gramma (Carla) & Grampa (Fritz) – before he went into the Navy.

“The one with Gramma and Grampa. Pa’s in his police uniform in that one, too,” he said. What a great picture to have. I’ll ask him more about that time in his life another time. Gramma sure looks worried. But Dad did offer that he recently got together with some fellow veterans from his hometown for a special occasion and on Veteran’s Day  they had a little ceremony on the common in front of the memorial which where his name is inscribed.

I don’t know as I’ve ever had such an interesting and meaningful conversation with my father. It’s not always easy to connect. To discover the bond of shared family history. My interest in Genealogy is opening doors that I never expected. Doors to family connections from the past and in the present.


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