Not everyone can still be found

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.

The old map, drawn by a relative (perhaps my grandfather’s brother Morris?) It starts a bit later than Olof Hansson, but shows Kieslingsberg/ Kittlingsberg, south of Smedjebacken and the different locations for the family until the 1950’s.

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.

Norrbärke church

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.

Perhaps this beautiful christening bowl was in use at the time – it was made in 1707 and donated to the church in 1735.

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.

Proud heritage

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.

Down by the harbour one cannot miss this area’s great pride.

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.

13 comments

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Liz! Yes, such a lovely church and graveyard! It was wonderful to see how they cared for their history in Smedjebacken. We even met a young man who had lived in Stockholm for some time, but had decided to move back. Perhaps something that has become more common during and after the pandemic, but it’s still not evident, as smaller places don’t have many job opportunities. Lovely to see, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s very sad people have to leave these quaint little towns to find work. Or, they have to spend lots of time commuting, if at all possible. But with digitalisation that sped up considerably because of the pandemic, more people are able to work from home, so perhaps that will make it possible for at least some to move out from the bigger cities. You do need to work with something that is not dependent on location though…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, very true! The reason remote working was fine during the pandemic is probably to a large extent because everybody was in the same situation. Of course one wants to be where the co-workers are – and be equal part of the team. Good point!

        Liked by 2 people

  1. What a beautiful treasure to have the map from years ago from your grandmother, Edna! What beautiful pictures and how wonderful you have so much family history. ✨

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! How lovley you enjoyed the post and welcome to my blog! I do think it’s fascinating with family history – there is so much one can learn, and one gets to see oneself in the bigger picture, which is always a good thing, I find. In addition, one gets to meet many interesting people and see new places while researching 🙂 I highly recommend it. I started out with only bits and pieces, but have now collected vast amounts of materials over the last years. It truly is like a big puzzle where you do not know what the next piece will look like or where it will fit.
      Happy Easter!

      Liked by 1 person

    • How great! Have you visited the beautiful stone church in Torsång? It seems amazing! I’m so glad I found out the three furthest back generations of my family started out in Dalarna – I love the landscape, the small towns and hospitability of the people in this area. Happy to be able to say it’s also part of me 😉. A few years back I visited Falun as well – with the impressive mine and all the cute houses in town – had a wonderful time there!

      Liked by 1 person

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