Driving back from a short ski trip to Dalarna, about 300 km northwest of Stockhom, I came to think of an old map I once got from my grandmother Edna. She had kept it as it was a record of how grandfather’s relatives had moved around in Sweden, from the 17th century onward.
As I have recently been contacted by relatives living in the Netherlands who have stumbled upon my writings, I thought I would focus a little on what I have found concerning our ancestors preceeding our family missionaries, who have been my main focus otherwise. I am very happy if my small findings can be of any interest to a wider circle of relatives – known or unknown to me. And as always, I welcome every addition to the story, factual or otherwise – email me or comment on the post, if you like!
My grandfather Rudolf’s father (born in 1829) was from Forssa Bruk in Vingåker, as I have already written about. And before that, the family originated from Dalarna.
The furthest back I have gotten in my research is 1635, and a man named Olof Hansson, who was born in Kittlingsberg, Norrbärke, in southern Dalarna. His son Hindrik, was born in 1660, also in Norrbärke/Smedjebacken. Seeing as we could easily choose to take the route back to Stockholm via Smedjebacken, we decided to do so, to get the feel of one more place connected to family heritage. I think it adds to the understanding and gives an extra edge to researching family history.
Start at the church
When trying to find out about relatives, one of the best places to start is at the church. In Smedjebacken, there is the Norrbärke church. It was reconstructed between 1661 and 1724. But as early as in 1352, there was a small chapel there (presumably built with timber), and theory says the real church was first constructed in the 14th century – probably a grey stone church, common at the time. It may well have looked like the church of Torsång, the oldest preserved church in Dalarna.
When my earliest known ancestor Olof was born, the reconstruction of the church had not yet started, but perhaps his son Hindrik got to visit the more modern church building during his lifetime. Hindrik is described as “poor, religious and patient,” in the church books. He would most likely have been an avid churchgoer.
It’s even more plausible that Hindrik’s son Olof (born 1688) and grandson Peter/Pehr (born 1738) would have been baptised in this very church.
Hindrik and his father both died 1703, and I therefore went by the church to see if there was any old gravestone to be found from that time. Perhaps even a family grave…
I stopped by the parish and asked about the oldest graves and was told they are the ones located closest to the church. Scanning the area for some time I did not find any graves from further back than the 19th century except for one dated 1711. A bit dissappointing indeed. Of course, some of the ground was covered in snow, so perhaps there are some that I couldn’t see. The older graves were very beautiful though, as were the surroundings.
I can well imagine how my ancestors lived in this small village, working as smiths. Even today the local community is very proud of it’s heritage and references to smiths can be found everywhere.
In order to get a feel for what this place looked like back in the days, we also visited the outdoor museum. They have put several old houses together and summertime it’s open for visitors. As for now, we had to settle without entering any of the old houses, like the small bakery or the saddlery.
Contending with theories
Even though I did not find my ancestors per se this time, I did get a feel for their life and surroundings, something that surely helps in understanding what lay the foundation for the brave missionaries who decided to break new ground outside of Sweden. It was either that, or staying back, continuing to work as smiths or saddlers.
Work as a smith was heavy and hard of course, and both Olof and Hindrik, who passed away in 1703, probably had some kind of accident as they died at the same time. So far, I haven’t found more information about this, but the parish recommended a visit to Uppsala, where the oldest church books are kept.
To find work, the smiths also moved a lot. Peter/Pehr, son of Hindrik, was the first one to leave Norrbärke and Smedjebacken in 1787. He went to Ålberga iron mill where he passed away in 1795. His son Anders (also born in Norrbärke) was the one who later ended up in Forssa. Anders’ grandson, also a smith, was Adolf Wilhelm. Wilhelm is the one who started the small congregation in Forssa, that would inspire his son Robert to become a missionary in China.
And there, the line of smiths ends and becomes one of missionaries instead.