Does everyone have a family folk-story they are fascinated by, or is it just me? And if they do, how do they shake the truth out of the branches of the family tree? I’ve been shaking my family’s branches for years, and I still can’t find the real story.
The common folk-lore tells of a (very) young man who stowed away on a ship from Sweden and travelled the world. But when he landed in Australia, many years later, he met the love of his life and settled down.
When his feet touched Australian soil he was intent on making his fortune by finding gold, and returning to Sweden to take care of his widowed mother and younger brother and sister.
A fortune to be made?
The Gold Rush of our early days may have made some millionaires, but this young man from Sweden wasn’t one of them.
Instead, he drifted from the goldfields of Western Australia to Wellington in New South Wales, where he made the decision to become an Australian Citizen. And instead of digging for gold, he became a Railway employee. No more sailing ships and distant ports – the young man chose a more settled lifestyle.
And somewhere amid thoughts of settling down, he met an Australian girl.
And a new Family Tree was created
That young Swede was my Grandfather, and the young girl was my grandmother.
The difference in age meant nothing to them. She was nineteen – he was thirty-five. Over the many years they were together, my grandmother gave birth to ten children, including my father.
I remember Grandfather…
I remember him as an old man, sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch of their home on Valencia Street.
What I don’t remember, but I wish I did, was hearing him speak. He didn’t say much – but I wish I could remember his accent.
If only I could go back in time…. I have so many questions – and I would love hearing his accent.
I would ask:
- Why did he leave Sweden?
- How old was he when he left?
- Did he really stow away on a sailing ship to leave his homeland?
- What countries did he visit before coming to Australia?
- Did he have children somewhere else – before starting his Australian family?
- Did he stay in touch with his mother and siblings?
- Who were his grandparents, uncles, aunties?
I remember my grandmother telling me about letters from Grandfather’s family back home in Sweden. But nobody knows anything about them. And I was much too young to appreciate the significance of it back then.
All I can do now is to continue shaking the branches of the Family Tree. Maybe one day the answer to some, or all of these questions will be answered.
The Genetic Link
I remember the day Grandfather died.
I might have been only nine years old – but I remember. And on that day, the link to the Swedish family we know nothing about, died too.
I submitted my DNA through Ancestry a few years ago, and that has been invaluable in finding cousins all over the world – but only a few in Sweden. And there are no clues about any common ancestors.
Somewhere in Sweden is another family with their own folk-lore about the brother who sailed away and never returned.
One day I hope to find that family and connect the stories that will shake the truth out of both our family trees.