Finding my ancestors in the forests of Ölme, Sweden

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I’d been wanting to go for as along as I can remember. Sweden. The other half of me, or at least the one I would become better acquainted with. What I didn’t realize is that after a year of planning, I would convince my whole family to go. Even more unfathomable is the fact that we would meet distant cousins in the process, see familial ruins, and the places were my great great grandfather, and his family, lived and worked.

Cottage in the countryside

Ölme, Sweden

We made the four hour drive west of Stockholm to a province called Ölme, about a half hour west of Karlstad, Sweden. I, my girlfriend, Mia, and sister, Carmina, and brother-in-law, Paul made the drive to meet up with my parents in the Swedish countryside, who had been there several days prior. A long sunset and warm cottage greeted us.

The following day was an interested mix of jetlag, eating an incredible lunch, wandering around a nearby cemetery, then exploring Karlstad, all during a gloomy, wet day.

Lunch was the highlight – We had the distinct pleasure of experiencing Ölme Prästgård Gästgiveri, which serves old-style meals in a hotel building that’s been around since the 1700s, a previous priest’s house back then.

Is it time to go back to our cottage and relax yet? Yes it is.

Going back in time

More than 100 years ago, my great great grandfather, Lars, and his family, lived and worked in Ölme, Sweden, which is what brought us to this place.

Thanks in large part to some extensive efforts by my cousin, Kjell, we were able to not only see the house that Lars built, but also ruins in the forest where he was likely born and the land he would have worked in the late 18 and early 1900s.

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My cousin Kjell, also introduced us to several other cousins in the family. Lars (different one that before) and his wife and granddaughter, welcomed us into their home for fika, or coffee break with delicious pastries, except this was no casual gathering. We were brought together to meet family and discuss our connections.

From the moment we walked, I felt as though I was in a movie. Things were moving in slow motion. The setting was perfect and many were being said I didn’t understand, but everything felt eerily familiar, in the best way possible. I regret not asking the right questions, or even realizing the gravity of the situation until after the fact.

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Thereafter, the group donned rubber boots and snuck into the wet forest. Here, we were able to see the homestead of which my ancestor was born and lived in. Only ruins were left, but we could clearly the base of a foundation, areas where a cellar would have been, and clearings where animals would have been allowed to graze.

It was amazing to share this experience with the others and at the same time become better connected with my roots; something I will never forget.

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You would think the day couldn’t get any better from this spot, except it did. After touring several other old plots of land where various events from my ancestor’s history happened, we retreated to the house of which of our hosts owned. Typical of all the other Swedish homes we entered, the space was immaculate, and nearly straight out of a Pinterest board. I felt entirely gracious to be here, enjoying this space with such welcoming people – new friends and family alike.

Ölme, Sweden

We filled ourselves with the absolutely best Swedish meatballs, potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and salad. I have never been so excited to eat a meal as this one.

Conversation filled the air, my father told stories of his grandfather Frank, and parallel lines were soon filled in between my immediate family and the extended one we had found.

Honestly, I’m at a loss for what else to say next. The day went on. We went back to the cabin to relax. The next day we said goodbyes to my parents, brother and sister, the cabin, and the area, as a trip to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, was in store. Don’t forget to read all about that once I’ve posted!

While this phase washed over us, the emotions felt therein are still settling in to their roots. Even almost two weeks later, I’m processing thoughts from what happened and will be for months to come.

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