Back to the Motherland: A Docket member finds his roots in Sweden
by David Erickson
Amanda Kristina Lindstrom, my grandmother, emigrated from Sweden to the United States as a teenager and eventually settled in Denver, where she married and raised her family. Amanda was from Vastra Amtervik (sometimes spelled Emtervik), in Varmland. I knew the names of her parents, Olof Andersson-Lindstrom and Kristina Elofsson, and had copies of a couple of old photographs of the home where she lived as a child. After years of discussing this limited family history, my wife Jeanne and I, along with our son Russell and his friend Stephanie Walton, traveled to Scandinavia in June 2003 to see the infamous village. We flew to Germany, then Stockholm and took a classic canal steamer trip across Sweden to Goteborg, in the southwest. Here we rented a car and drove north.
After a drive of several hours, we arrived in Vastra Amtervik and easily located the local church, which is the center of the village. Adjoining the church was a graveyard, with three descending levels. Because we heard there was a gravestone with my grandmother’s name on it, indicating she had gone to America, we searched the graveyard, but we were unable to find it. We then drove around the village searching for her home, but were unable to find it either. Disappointed, we decided to forego our investigations for the evening and retire.
Vastra Amtervik, Varmland (warm land), is on the west side of a lovely long and slender lake, Mellan Fryken, so we drove down as close to the lake as the road allowed. It was there that we noticed a sign for a restaurant and a small shop, and upon inquiry, found it was a resort named Sillegarden. We immediately rented a small, two-bedroom, red frame house adjoining a gigantic field of brightly colored wildflowers that descended to the lake.
We had dinner at the resort and the next morning renewed our search for the elusive home and gravestone. We noticed that cars had been parked at the church, although it was mid-week, and upon inquiry learned that school graduation ceremonies were being held. We walked to the church where we met the amiable pastor, who was standing outside the back door, smoking a cigarette. He spoke reasonably good English, but said he was not from the area and said if we wanted information about the family, we should talk with Lars, the caretaker of the church and the cemetery. Just then, Lars approached.
We told Lars of our search and upon mentioning the name of my great-grandmother, he said that was the name of his great-grandmother, too, and that there were many Elofsons in the village and "We’re all related." Lars then took us to the church office, a small white building behind the church, where he kept computer and paper records of the local families. He examined the records then led us back to the cemetery where he pointed out the elusive gravestone. It was a polished black granite stone; standing about six feet high, and at the bottom designated FAMILJEGRAF (family grave). In front and flat with the ground was another black granite stone and at the bottom was my grandmother’s name, Amanda, along with the names of two of her sisters, Olga and Maria, all of whom emigrated to America in the early 1900s. Under their names was "U.S.A." The gravesite was well cared for, with colorful flowers planted next to the stones.
We missed the stones, because the name at the top was Elof Eriksson, born January 13, 1826, and died April 21, 1912. We had been looking for the name Lindstrom, which only appeared on the flat stone on the ground. In addition, in Scandinavian fashion, Elof Eriksson’s son, listed below him on the stone, was named Lars August Elofsson (Elof’s son). A daughter would have had the name Elofsdotter (Elof’s daughter). We took pictures of the stones and the church, feeling proud of ourselves for having uncovered some of the family mysteries. The following day we were pressed for time, as we had reservations in Oslo, Norway, but decided to drive by the cemetery on our way out of the village. As we passed, Jeanne noticed Lars standing with another man in front of the gravestones, and when he saw us, he motioned for us to stop.
Lars introduced us, then asked if I had the photographs of grandmother’s house. I handed it to him and he handed it to the other man. They conversed in Swedish with some gesturing and pointing, and then Lars said the home was in Hensgard, about seven kilometers away. They drew precise directions for us on a small piece of paper. Their conversation continued and then Lars said that some of Lars Elofsson’s children took the name Elofsson while others took the name Eriksson, and after more conversation in Swedish, he said a relative, Roy Eriksson, was living in Hensgard, 100 meters up the hill from grandmother’s home.
We thanked them profusely, then followed the directions to Hensgard, where we found a cluster of typically Swedish red two-story homes and barns, just north of a small lake and large cultivated fields. Although the directions were precise, we could not locate the house from the photograph. When we saw a family sitting on their back porch, in the morning sun, we stopped, approached through their small gate, and inquired about the Roy Eriksson house. They pointed out a large red two-story home and barn, just up the road.
We drove up, where I knocked on the door and a nice woman answered, still wrapped in her morning robe. I apologized for the intrusion, and asked if this was Roy Eriksson’s home and she said it was. I told her we were Americans trying to locate the home of my grandmother and after showing her the photograph, she immediately pointed out another red two-story home and barn, back down the road— exactly where Lars’ directions indicated. She said it had been extensively remodeled— thus our inability to identify it from the photograph. She also said that Roy had lived in the home at one time.
She said Roy was not at home and would not be home until late that night but she wished he could be there. We showed her the family names copied from the gravestones and she pointed to Lars Elofsson and said that Roy was related to him. She also said that Roy mentioned there was another Roy Erickson in America, and I told her that was my uncle in Denver, now deceased, who had been in the gravestone and monument business. I then sat at a small picnic table and drew a genealogy chart, showing the descendants of Amanda Lindstrom, while in the house she made copies of cemetery records we had obtained.
Upon our return home, we located an Internet site, Ellis Island Records, and optimistically typed in Amanda’s name. After a short wait, six Amanda Lindstroms appeared on the screen, but only one from Emtervik, Sweden. Her arrival date was October 17, 1904, and her ship, the Arabic. We were able to access a copy of the ship’s original manifest and there she was—one month past her seventeenth birthday, with $20 and a paid ticket to Boston, where she was to work as a servant.
The manifest also said she was not an anarchist.