Tre Kvinnor (Three Women)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about three women: Johanna Andersson, Ingar Jönsdotter, and Hanna Persdotter.

A few weeks ago I plunged back into the Swedish records for ten days, focusing on my maternal great-grandmother and her Swedish roots.

IMG_2288IMG_2296All I had to go on was an old book that I inherited from my great-aunt Caroline. It was “Family Book” that may have been given to her mother and father on the occasion of their marriage on Januari de 26 i 1893 in Chicago.

The section titled “Our Ancestry” is, sadly, blank. Names, dates and stories that were forever lost when August Linden and Johanna Andersson both died early.

A few pages later, under the heading of “Our Family”, someone–presumably Johanna–did write some details in a mix of “Svedis and Englis” in pencil. Pages for the Husband, Wife, and three Children were completed.



Name: Johanna Anderson.
Birth: 4 Mej 1872 in the län of Skåne–Bjerstjäladugar, Sveden.Baptism: in Kjärrstorp socken, Sweden, by Pastor X. Converted or Confirmed: 1886. Education: Skol in Sveden. Occupation: husvarak an landres. Married to Agust W. Linden de 26 Januari 1893 in Chicago, Il. Residence 132 E. Superior St.Death: the 12 of October 1908. Died of canser.


My first challenge was to figure out the names of the town and parish (socken). Someone had repaired a tear with tape long ago–right over the name of her parish–now it is discolored and difficult to read. It took awhile but eventually I found a map of hundreds in Skåne, and located a parish labeled  Öster Kjärrstorp. I signed on for another week of ArkivDigital and found the parish, and then the Birth & Christening Records for 1872. It didn’t take long at all to find May 4th and Johanna’s name.

Johanna was indeed born on May 4, 1872. Her mother was “Pigan” (maiden) Ingar Jönsdotter and there was no father listed. In later records, Johanna has the word “oäkta”(illegitimate) written alongside her name.

I spent 10 days obsessing (as before) my way through the records, searching for clues about the lives of these women. By the time Johanna was 3 years old, she was living with foster parents and Ingar eventually went on to marry and have three more children. It does not appear that Johanna ever lived with her mother in her new life. She took on the surname of her foster parents, first as Andersdotter, later as Andersson, and eventually Americanized it to Anderson.

When she was 9, her foster mother died and her foster father remarried a year later. By the time she was 12 or 13, she was living, probably as a maid, away from her foster parents, and by the time she was 20 she was headed towards Amerika.

Johanna’s mother, Ingar, was also born to an unmarried woman named Hanna Persdotter on December 1, 1825. At her baptism nine days later, a young man named Jön Jönsson was one of four witnesses and I’m guessing that he was the father since Ingar was always known as Jönsdotter. Hanna also eventually married (not Jöns Jönsson)  but I think that Ingar grew up in her home, as her stepfather attended both the baptism of her daughter (Johanna) and her wedding.

I was able to follow the families through several moves and many years. Johanna’s foster father (and family) and her mother’s new family both lived in the area for many years, dying as old folks.

By then, of course, Johanna had emigrated to Amerika.

I’m planning to quilt a family tree into the design of my Swedish quilt and like the idea of three lone buds representing these single women who gave birth and most likely lived, at least for awhile, in difficult circumstances. I don’t know their stories, but I wouldn’t be here without them! And so my quilt will somehow honor them. I doubt if they were honored much in life. Perhaps they didn’t even deserve honor–and yet, grace surrounded them.

Johanna, Ingra, and Hanna.

(Story to be continued….)

Here is my finished quilt top and the Swedish flag I made for part of the backing.

FullSizeRender-1 2










(Story to be continued….)

Hej! My name is Kristina…

I hate to admit this but I am addicted to my Swedish genealogy project.

I’ve been happily pursuing my interest in my Swedish family. I signed up for a beginners Swedish Language class at North Park College, thinking that going into the city would also “force” me to spend a little more time out in the field researching. North Park is located in the area where my mother was born (Swedish Covenant Hospital, which is disappointingly modern) and grew up. It’s not too far from the cemeteries where some of my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. It also is not too far from the Swedish-American Museum, Swedish restaurants, Swedish bakeries and The Sweden Shop.

But this week I took a small dose of a gateway drug and now, I’m completely addicted.

For about $10 US ($88 SEK) I signed up for just one week of ArkiDigital, an online site for Swedish Genealogy. Oh my.

For a genealogist who started with paper records, actual snail mail letters and the Newberry Library, graduating to microfilm and microfiche, and then on to, this is simply amazing. With the click of my touchpad, I can scroll through pages and pages of original records in color from 1650-1940, some recorded at the time of America’s Revolutionary War. I can zoom in and out, rotate the pages, print them or save the image to my computer.

I spent a few days happily clicking on household records (husförhörslängd och församlingsbok) before venturing down the list to birth and christening record (födelse och dopbok), banns and marriage record (lysnings och vigselbok), and then on to death and burial records (död och begravningsbok), moving in and out records (in-och- utlyttningslängd.) Yesterday I figured out how to use the estate inventory registers (after spending hours trying to efficiently scan through two 1000 page books looking for familiar name–in Swedish.)

Yesterday I got an email from ArkivDigital suggesting that I might want to renew my subscription because it was going to run out at 2:42 CET on February 9th. I entered Stockholm into my World Clock and figured that meant sometime around 7:42 tonight and started clicking even faster, trying to “save” as many records as I could find.

I stayed up too late last night and grabbed my computer when John and I headed to the ER this morning. I clicked away while they poured IV fluids into my somewhat dehydrated husband. I took some time to nap and talk to a real live cousin today, but soon opened up the computer and started clicking away. I was actually hoping to be on line when the notice came up saying that my subscription had ended. It is now 8:04 pm (CST) and that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s like I need the subscription to end so my addiction is cut off.

Oh, I know I will sign up for another week or month(s) but for now, I need a break. I have enough sources that it will take me quite awhile to figure out what I have, what more I want to look for, and what questions I should be asking.

I still have 8 more weeks of Swedish classes, more places to visit, more  leads to follow. Oh, and did I mention that I decided to finish a Swedish quilt at the same time? I’ve even been neglecting that this week.

But I’m strong. Even though the subscription still hasn’t expired, I’m going to shut down the site and stay off of it–for now. Cold turkey.

My name is Kristina and I’m a Arkiv-aholic.







I am feeling incredibly blessed tonight.

Dad steadily improved in the hospital and was discharged yesterday. We were able to settle him into the skilled nursing/rehab facility that is connected with his current independent living complex. We hope that he might be able to become strong enough to transition to the assisted living area, to regain at least a measure of his independence.

What could have been a hard, frustrating day, wasn’t. We were able to facilitate an early and simple discharge and Dad accepted his new residence with grace and gratitude. Last night when he prayed, he was in awe of how God had provided for him so well. I can tell you that is not a typical reaction to a nursing home admission.

Today Larry moved a little bit of his furniture to his new room, making it feel a little bit more like home and Connie and I labeled all his clothes with a couple of really cool little machines provided by the home. I sat with Dad through all his meals and spent most of the day quietly in his room.

He is still weak and unsteady, but moves slowly and carefully. During his last rehab he learned to use a wheelchair to move around and really does quite well, though best with someone there helping/coaching him. He was evaluated by PT and anxious to start working to gain strength.

After dinner he was so tired that he was ready for bed (6 pm.) He went into a deep hard sleep in his recliner, sleeping through Larry and Connie’s visit. When he eventually woke up, he got up and got dressed for bed but then wanted to sit up a bit longer. We started talking about his mother and his step-father. I’d spent time with my grandmother in her very late years and watched her age with much grace and an ardent desire “to go home.” I am seeing the same spirit in my Dad. He also talked about the ways God provided for him in sending Laurence Christie into their lives. We talked about Mom’s Swedish heritage. And we talked about the blessing of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And then I suggested that we pray for our family. After Dad started to pray, I briefly contemplated grabbing my I-Phone and recording it, but I did not. It was so sweet to listen to the heart of this old man who reminded God five or six times that he was ready to come home, but trusted God and thanked him for his care and provision. He thanked him for years (89) of care. “You are good. You are gracious. You are merciful.” I believe he prayed for about 20 minutes, as a man conversing with a good friend. He prayed backwards and forwards, appreciating God’s goodness in the past and looking for future answers as well.

I remember driving around Scotland wanting to drink in the peace of the rolling green hills and pastoral scenes. (I had two small children at home at the time and wanted to store it up for the future.) I feel a little bit like that now, wanting to savor these moments with my father. I know that this is just a temporary stay of the inevitable, but it has been so sweet to sit by his bedside, to help him make this “overwhelming” transition, but especially to pray with him and listen to him pray.

I am truly blessed.

So Many Projects…so little time.

I’m 41,000 words into the month of November, back to work three days a week, and frustrated that there aren’t enough hours in a day. Sleep feels like a necessary evil and an evasive pursuit.

My first question is: “Why do I do this to myself?” and then I wonder how I can pack more into my day?

My current project has been to process genealogy details for my Swedish family (and writing about it for my 50,000 word project.) A few days after I last wrote I decided to sign up for worldwide. I started entering our family tree and followed the “hints” as they popped up. One thing led another and pretty soon I opened emails containing pages of details about some of our Swedish ancestors. (The source person ended up being a 6th cousin one way and a fourth cousin, once removed another way.) I printed 64 pages of “notes” from just one of the emails.

Along the way, I decided to transfer some of the details onto color coded 3×5 cards that could be organized and manipulated to make sense of the relationships etc. Ah, tedious choice. But, unfortunately, one that I also find fun and addictive. I can’t wait to get home from work to do more and I’ve stayed up late too many nights to squeeze in a few more details. (Late night computer use isn’t conducive to sleep ;-(

And then, there are all those other projects that are on hold while I indulge in this one: I want to get James & Anne’s gifts in the mail by the end of November. I have a bit of Christmas sewing to complete. My journal and house-organizing projects are on the back burner. The Daniel Plan is hanging around in the background. Fabric for various quilt projects stares at me whenever I venture into the sewing room (which is not often.)

unnamedI did manage to make a tunic for Kellen’s party. He was knighted “Sir Kellen” in honor of his 4th birthday with the not-so-secret agenda of encouraging him to move into the 4-year old stage with a new level of obedience and cooperation with his Liege Lord(s). Laura planned a party that was both relaxed and full of fun details and decorations. There was a dragon pinata to slay, miniature catapults throwing mini marshmallows into the cups for hot chocolate and plenty of swords and shields. I love the details–at parties, in a story, and in life.


Adding a couple generations to the top of my family tree doesn’t do the trick. Deciphering the details of names, dates, and locations tells me stories that help history to come alive.

For example, Peter Svensson and Caterina Persdotter lost four children to smallpox within the span of one week, three of whom died on the same day, February 15, 1800 and one on February 23 (ages 8, 5, 3 and 1.) How do you live through grief like that? That would have wiped out my whole family. Fortunately they had other children who survived, or I might not have been born.

I love Swedish surnames, the [insert father’s first name]-sdotters and -sons. It is both confusing and perfectly logical. Husbands and wives did not share the same surname as she would be somebodys-dotter and he would be somebody elses-son. Siblings had similar but not identical names, Johansson or Johansdotter.  As the generations grew, they added more middle names and eventually the whole family would use the -sson appellation. Often when they came to America, they chose a whole new family name crafted from some part of their heritage. The man who lost his family estate Veka, (or Weka) became Wekander. My grandfather’s family, from Berga parish became the Freebergs. (My great-grandfather Carl said there were too many Ericssons in the phone book–only I’m not sure they had phone books in 1890. City directories, maybe.)

I am enjoying all this but I can’t sustain it, especially through the month of December. And I know myself well enough that once I set it aside, it might languish for several months while I focus on something else.

So many projects…so little time.

Family Stories

My vacation is over. I go back to work today.

I saw my doctor on Tuesday and was given the go-ahead to resume normal activities, except for lifting anything over 5 lbs for the next four weeks and remaining “cautious.” In light of that, I will work as a triage nurse for the next two weeks, sitting at a computer and answering the phone. It is not my favorite job at work, but it seems the most reasonable for the circumstances. I much prefer interacting face to face with patients.

I completed a few sewing and knitting projects (small ones) and read and rested as much as I was able. I admit to breaking curfew last Saturday to go to the All Blacks vs USA Rugby game at Soldier Field, but really, except for climbing those stairs to our seats up top, all I did was sit and watch New Zealand smash the US team 🙂

The NaNo — 

There is a yearly competition every November called NaNoWriMo (perhaps you’ve heard of it). If you manage to type over 50,000 words in one month (no matter what month though) without breaking your streak you will be awarded this fine badge of honor.

I also got a head start on my November writing. For the past three years, I’ve participated in the NaNo challenge to complete 50,000 words, the size of an average novel. (November is National Novel Writers Month.) I combine writing with genealogy each November, working on fictionalized family stories.

In the past, I’ve mostly focused on my Dad’s side of the family, but after researching my Mom’s Swedish-American side last spring, I wanted to work with that for at least part of the month.

In both cases, I’ve found that the 1910 census was a good starting point for my stories. I’ve learned more about the census, the enumerators, and the process. In each case, I found a name for the actual enumerator, found them in the census records and imagined a back story.

Willis C. Stone knocked on the door of a boarding house in Chicago on April 24, 1910 and found, among others, two young Scottish immigrants who were studying business. The older was quiet and shy; the younger, outgoing and friendly. Little did he know that both men would become part of our family story. A few years later the younger man, Robert Marshall, married my grandmother. He did well in business and by 1925 had acquired a summer home and a Monroe touring car with a winter top. His wife and three children–with one more on the way–were spending their first summer there and he was commuting back and forth to work. On a Tuesday evening, driving south on Hwy 41 near Hammond, he came to an intersection of the highway and the Pennsylvania Line train tracks. A car was stopped at the intersection but Bob swung around the car and crossed the tracks, right in the path of an oncoming passenger train. My dad was born four months later.

Thirteen years later, my grandmother went to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and married Laurence Christie, the older of the two young men listed in that 1910 Census. Robert and Laurence had remained family friends for all those years, even assisting one another in a business venture. Laurence, who had never married, stayed in contact with his friend’s family and later, convinced Janet to marry him. He died seven years later and I’d never paid much attention to him until a couple years ago when I learned a lot of interesting things about him and his family in the Shetland Islands. (Including the fascinating story of an older brother with bipolar disorder and unique artistic talents. During the last year, several memorials have been dedicated to his memory in Scotland and in the Shetland Islands.)

Back to 1910: About a week later, Ida Hanson visited two homes on 47th Street on the north side of Chicago. In one, Millard and Carrie Hansen lived with their three grown children, Nellie, Lillie and Ralph. Next door, Carl and Alma Freeberg lived with Albert, Axel, Arthur and Andrew (Alma’s father.) A young girl, Ellen Linden (13) is also listed as a lodger. Orphaned two years previously, she and her sisters had gone to live with different families in the area. I am entertaining the possibility (suggested by an old friend of the family) that Ellen first lived with the Hansens, who later encouraged Alma to take her in. In fact, twenty years earlier, in the 1880 Census, I found Alma Peterson living with the Hansens as a boarder. I am inclined to believe that it was Carrie Hansen who urged Carl Freeberg to hire Alma as his housekeeper after his young wife and daughter died, which eventually led to one of his son’s suggesting that Carl marry Alma. Perhaps the Hansens played a similar role in prompting the Freebergs to share their home with Ellen. In 1919, Ellen married one of the Freeberg boys, my grandfather Art, becoming my grandmother in the process. The Hansens remained close to my grandparents. In fact, I am pretty sure that the Haviland China that I inherited from my grandmother first belonged to “Aunt Lillie.”

I still want to walk around the neighborhood and continue my research to see what more I can learn. I love the meat-on-the-bones stories that come from probing deeper. (Even if they can’t be entirely proven as true.)

So, while I continue the next phase of my recovery, I will be continuing my research and writing a LOT of words. Between work and home, that’s a lot of computer time.

But I’m having fun–and resting.


I’ve been thinking a lot about birthdays this past week.

unnamed-1Last Friday, February 28th, was Laura’s 30th birthday. She was hoping that it might be a BIRTH day as well, but it ended up being a day of celebration with her son (during the day) and husband (dinner.) I spent time thinking about my 30-year old self that had delivered Laura that year and the feisty and fun little girl that she had been. A letter found amongst my Mom’s things, had reminded me of how much I’d enjoyed Laura at 11 months. I’d also brought home this framed picture of Laura that had been on my Mom’s dresser for many years.

The next day, March 1st, was my Mom’s birthday, another hoped-for birthdate for this new baby. I received an email reminder from of her birthday and a suggestion that I might want to send her a message. So I did: I enjoyed imagining her first heavenly birthday and also caught her up on the news here. It was a day of mixed emotions, many tears, and a lot of frenzied activity in Detroit as they finished the final touches of preparing to put the house on the market next week. They picked up the key to Dad’s new apartment and moved some of his excess furniture and many boxes to the new place. He will wait to move after the condo is sold, but the process has begun. The day passed without the hoped-for birth of great-grandchild number nine.

unnamedAnd finally, early this morning, March 4th, Oaks Samuel Birkey was born! Laura and Taylor labored most of the yesterday while we entertained Kellen and waited for our grandson’s arrival. I stayed up late (knitting) and then didn’t sleep well with my I-Phone at the bedside, sending and receiving reports of his progress. Not only were we waiting to hear news from Taylor, but we were keeping in touch with Anne while she waited on the other side of the world for the news. We were invited to meet our grandson around 5 a.m., and of course, we dressed quickly and made our way to the hospital (where Laura was born) to see him.  It was fun watching Kellen meet his new brother, his “baby that was borrrrn.” He told him that he shouldn’t be afraid of him, because he wasn’t going to hurt him. (He said the same thing to our dog Luna yesterday.) This is Laura holding up one of Kellen’s birth pictures next to the new baby to see how much they look alike.

Three emotion-filled birthdays. Four generations, with me–the second generation, now the “old” one in the lineup, sandwiched in the middle. Celebrating my adult daughter; missing my mother, and welcoming a sweet new baby in our midst. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.




I finished writing over 50,000 words this month to earn my second NaNo badge on 750 Words, a site I have used for daily writing since June 2012 (and love.) November is National Novel Writers’ Month and so the last two years I’ve taken on the challenge of writing 50K words and attempting to work on a fictionalized story about my Gramma Christie’s life.

Last year I wrote a Prologue and a few sketches. I also did a lot of research on her second husband, Laurence Christie. When I started we knew very little about him except that he had come from the Shetland Islands, shared the same boarding house with my grandmother’s first husband, worked in the commercial real estate sector (pre- and post-depression), married my grandmother in his 50s, and died seven years later of a bleeding gastric ulcer.

I found his family in Cunningsburgh, Shetland, learning that his older brother suffered from bipolar disorder but was a talented musician, writer, and stone carver. Laurence emigrated to Chicago in 1907, where he worked hard enabling him to send money home to help his family and also likely helped a sister-in-law and nephew come to the States. He met Bob Marshall by 1910, when they shared the same boarding house (and were entered on the US Census on consecutive lines.) Robert Marshall died tragically in 1925, hit by a train as he was commuting to the family’s new summer home in Cedar Lake, Indiana. My grandmother was expecting my father at the time. Thirteen years later, Laurence married my grandmother.

I have enjoyed being in contact with Pat Christie, a native Shetlander and family historian. Her husband is the grandson of the son that stayed on the croft and took care of his and Laurence’s aging parents. She has sent me pictures and letters and answered a lot of my questions. We’ve shared our genealogical discoveries and information.

This November I tried hard to understand the times and context of their lives and wrote a lot of what I call sketches. I would take an event that I knew had occurred and write about it from that person’s imaginary perspective, adding details to the story that I thought were reasonable: what it must have been like for fourteen year old Laurence the night his older brother was taken away to an asylum; my grandmother’s thoughts when two men knocked on the door of her summer cottage to tell her that Robert had been killed by a train; Laurence’s thoughts on his long wait to marry; and so on.

I’ve been pretty focused on stories. I’ve journaled for years but when you stop writing the facts or even feelings about what happened, when you start telling stories, something different happens. I’ve found it really fun.

Recently I read a memoir (Global Mom Melissa Dalton-Bradford.) After sharing her story, she wrote:

“The story we’re writing with our brief lives can never be told in its entirety, neither its length nor its fragility nor its density. By that I mean that we’re all born into the middle of a perpetual narrative, and our simple strand of personal story does not begin when our life does. In view of that, whenever we leave this place–be it at eighteen or eighty–we are always, inevitably leaving in the middle of the story. That singular tale is woven in multiples of others, so our leaving will be in the middle of others’ tales. Our stories go on. We go on. We are always in the middle of the Great, Infinite Story” (pg 292.)

Working on my grandmother’s story while battling cancer and dealing with my parents’ declining health, has made me very aware of the interconnectedness of our stories. At the same time, my son and daughters are in the midst of their stories of disability; miscarriage and new life; travel, romance and wedding plans. There was no great parentheses around any portion of this last year, no time when our stories didn’t affect others’ stories.*

I best remember by grandmother in her early 90s, bed-bound and unable to see well enough to read anymore, telling me that God was good to keep her hearing intact. Earlier in her life, she chided two of my cousins for their assessment of the “tragedy” of her earlier life saying “There are no tragedies in life.” My grandmother wasn’t in denial: she simply believed that God was sovereign and that He was good. Today my Dad prays “God, You are good, You are kind. Thank you.” And then he tells me that “God is in control,” even when he struggles to believe it.

I am in the middle of so many stories and I’ll bet you are too. Let’s share our stories and keep reminding one another that God is good, that it is–in the end–God’s great infinite story that we all get to share.


* I googled affect vs effect, but I’m still not sure if I used the right one. What do you think? I also know that I don’t technically spell “Gramma” correctly, but it’s the way I’ve always spelled it and I have emotional connections to my spelling, so I will continue. Just saying.

Released to climb walls!

I just came home from an appointment where my last drain and all my steri-strips were removed. I was also “released” from the super-sized, super-uncomfortable surgical bras that I’ve had to wear 24/7 for the last 13 days. We bought two “Genie Bras” (as advertised on TV) on the way home and that feels so much better. Sorry guys, I know that’s TMI, but I bet my women friends understand.

I was also released to start minor range of motion exercises which involve–literally–letting my fingers climb up the wall 4 x a day, both facing the wall and from a 90 degree angle, with a little extra push of maybe an inch beyond what’s comfortable. I thought I was already climbing walls. (Yesterday I spent most of the day in the living room to gain a change of scenery.) I’m looking forward to a few car rides and starting to walk as soon as spring decides to descend on the Midwest.

I was not, however, released to do any housework (aw, shucks.)

This week my project is to start working on my Christie geneology files. Last November I really got into researching my step-grandfather, Laurence Christie. I “met” some of his family in the Shetland Islands through Facebook and enjoyed reading a book about one of his brothers. Christmas came and I had to put my files and research aside. So now I’ve got some time on my hands, my computer,, and tons of paper to sort through. I’ve also got my two finished Christie quilts to keep me warm while I work. And most of my brain fog has dissipated so I might actually be able to invest some quality time and effort into this endeavor. My dream is to write a book about my Gramma Christie’s life and faith. Her second husband, Laurence, seemed a minor and less interesting character in our family lore, but I’ve learned some surprising facts about him and his family that really add layers to the story. Another dream is to visit the Shetland Islands some day. I may be adding a new category to my blog (understanding well that not everybody enjoys listening to geneology stories.)


This is a picture taken by Steven Christie of a “sundog” phenomenon in March 2013.




Cunningsburg2From the Cunnningsburgh History Group on Facebook. (Click on the picture to make it larger. Also if you go to my FB page and find this picture it links you to many more beautiful pictures of the area.)


For my Petersburg friends: the Shetland Islands are actually closer to Scandinavia than mainland Scotland, so consider themselves Norse descendants and celebrate something similar to your “Little Norway Festival”, though it looks a bit more lively. It’s called Up Helly Aa and involves a lot of Viking costumes but also a fire torch parade and a galley burning every year. Kind of combines my Scottish roots with our Petersburg experience 🙂