A guest post by writer Sheri Lesneski:
Why didn’t I ask sooner?
That is a question I keep asking myself. I do know part of the answer ….I was in my own little world leading my own life oblivious to much else. My ancestry roots were just something I had heard about and filed in the back of my mind, never really giving them much of a second thought. I knew that my dad’s side had come from England and my mom’s side was from Sweden. Cool! I am an English-Swede! And that was where my interest in my roots ended. Until now!
Now I am 53 and playing detective in tracking my ancestry. The relatives with the answers to many questions are gone. It is only my 91 year old mom and I trying to piece together enough information to add more branches to our family tree. Right now it is one lop-sided tree! It looks like it will topple over in a stiff breeze!
I have more information on my dad’s side than I do on my mom’s Swedish side. That is mostly due to the fact that Mom’s parents moved to the USA from Sweden. Tracing roots in the Swedish language is no easy feat! I could kick myself for not asking questions when relatives with the answers were still around. It just did not occur to me that later in my life I would want to know more about our family story.
When Mom and I began working on our family tree, we started off with lots of enthusiasm and some success. We excitedly filled in missing family members on the tree’s branches. But soon enough we ran into dead ends and lots of frustration.
Thanks to ancestry.com, Mom and I have had some more success with researching and adding to our tree. But, that darn Swedish side! Anyone who has ever tried researching family ancestry knows it is definitely not an easy job. For me it was those Swedish names –those impossible names! If you were Carl’s son your last name was Carlson. If you were Carl’s daughter your last name was Carlsdotter. Sounds simple enough, but Swedes are not simple you see. Swedes that moved to the USA often times would change the spelling or change their last name altogether! Not only that but …many Swedes have the same name—ahhhh!
Actually, ancestry.com has been very helpful and provided many valuable resources. They even have experts available to help you trace your roots. Unfortunately, I am not able to afford that on my own, so I have to be the detective.
Oh, and have you seen the ancestry show on TV? They trace the roots of famous stars. In an hour’s time, that star gets handed answers to their family roots…. if it were only that easy!
My dad’s side has had some interesting facts arise. If I follow one line, it leads to a distant relative who was an officer in the Revolutionary War. His uncle was President Tyler. Now let’s see, how am I related to President Tyler? And if you follow one of Dad’s branches all the way back to the 600’s, we find we are related to the King of Scotland. I always felt I should be royalty! But is this all true—really true? Or did I just get lead down a wrong branch in our family tree? Who really knows?
This is just my experience. Many people have had the forethought to keep good family records—not us! But being related to royalty does sound impressive.
One of the most exciting parts of this adventure was learning a few family secrets. Secrets that were not talked about while those relatives were alive came out now with such enthusiasm and delight. We don’t think of those secrets as bad but quite the opposite.
We have added a couple of living family members that we did not know existed! It is very exciting and we are all having a great time getting to know each other.
My brothers have little if no interest in this whole family tree thing. I seem to be the only one in the family who is interested besides Mom. But in case, down the road, one of the younger members of this family starts to ask the same questions that I am asking, we might have given them a bit of a head start on this family tree process. Hopefully, they will be better detectives than I.
Tracing our family roots has been filled with frustration, questions and wonder. It has also been extremely fun and very exciting. It is especially so when you do find an honest to goodness real live relative. But my leads are growing cold now. This may call for a research trip to Sweden!
Sheri Lesneski lives in Locust, NC with her husband and their cats. Sheri and her mom have been working on their family tree, hoping to learn more about their family story.
Posing in the first photo are Sheri’s grandmother and great-grandmother in the early1900’s.
The photo above shows Sheri and her mom on Easter, 1959, when Sheri was baptized:
And here is Sheri a few years ago, on a cruise through the Mediterranean. No relatives there that she knows of!