Destinations, Europe, Journal, Sweden

Swedish Family Reunion

August 19, 2014

Our final European destination for the summer is…Sweden!

I have to say it is pretty surreal to be here. My parents have told me stories my whole life about the time when they visited Sweden and got to meet all of our distant relatives and how amazing it was.

Early in college, I started chatting with a “cousin” of mine on Facebook. Her name is Erica Carlsson [my maiden name was Carlson, but her name got a fancy two S’ :) ] Our grandpa’s on our dad’s side were cousins. So, I’m not sure what that makes us, but we are cousins of some sort :)

Erica and I started chatting back in 2007-2008ish in a sort of modern pen pal type of way. We got to know about each other’s families and interests. It was fun to get to know family who lives halfway across the world. It’s even crazier that I’m getting the opportunity to get to know her in person!

Erica has been so incredibly sweet and let Dennis’ and I stay in her apartment for the time that we are here–so generous! She and her dad even picked us up at the airport. Family is the best :)

We went to Erica’s parents house for dinner and it was wonderful. Erica’s parents, Roland and Karin, live in a suburb just outside of Gothenburg, which is a city on the south western coast of Sweden. It is incredibly beautiful, lined with forests and hills as you drive to their house. Erica told us that when she was driving once, a moose walked across the street in front of her! Yes, a MOOSE. Crazy.

Their house is incredibly charming. It looks like it’s right out of a magazine, with perfectly manicured bushes and gorgeous flowers on the outside. Karin prepared an incredible meal [honestly, the best meal we have had out here!] and after, we talked for a while about our family history.

A few years ago, my dad had started to do some work in building our family tree on He got in touch with Erica’s family who helped to fill in a lot of the blanks in the tree.

We sat on the couch eating an incredible brownie dessert [with fresh whipped cream and these tiny little raspberries that Erica’s grandma had picked… Seriously, could it get any more amazing than that!?]. Roland had done a lot of work in filling in the blanks of the tree. Erica’s grandpa had written a life memoir that really helped to fill in a lot of the blanks. It tells his life story and goes back into past generations–all the way to the 1600s! There is a little snippet in the memoir that speaks of my great-grandpa Fritz and how he immigrated to the US and went to Minnesota.



Roland went through a PowerPoint that showed our common relatives–Carl Johansson and Emma Christina Johansdotter are the couple that connect our families, which go back four generations [So, my Grandpa Wally had a Grandpa named Carl, and that’s our common thread!] Roland had pictures of Carl and Emma and it was so fascinating to learn all of these new things about my heritage.

In looking at the span of my life it seems like all of this was so long ago, but then looking at the family tree, it was not long ago at all! It’s crazy how “young” our country is in comparison to so many other civilizations around the world.

Roland then showed a bunch of pictures that his father had taken from the 1940s around his home and when he was in the Swedish navy. It was amazing. The photos were incredible! There were so many that I want to frame. Dennis snapped photos of a few of the projections, just to give a taste of some of them!



I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to connect with distant relatives in this way. It was amazing to hear all of the stories about our heritage. I can’t wait to learn even more in the rest of the time that we have here!

xo Kelsey


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  • Reply Pat Carlson August 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Did you know the reason for the double S? In Sweden, your last name was your father’s first name plus “son” or “daughter”. Thus, Carls-son or Carls-dotter! Guess your last name should’ve been Richardsdotter! :)

    • Reply Kelsey Heenan August 21, 2014 at 9:24 am

      I know that is so interesting! I guess I could informally adopt the name Richardsdotter… Maybe it will be a stage name ;)

  • Reply Penny Giesbrecht August 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Kelsey, we had the same experience in Norway and Sweden. We didn’t even know we had relatives alive there til we began planning our trip. Now, many of my cousins are facebook friends – we actually are part of a group Roragen family site with members from all over the world. Our trip, four years ago, was one of the highlights of my life, and I can’t wait to go back. We’d love to compare notes sometimes. We have some family in Gothenburg too I guess. I love that area. Two of our great grandfather and great grandmother strands comes from just north of Gothenburg (now a suburb). Did you see the huge candy store on the highway north of the city? That is the church of one of them. Blanking on the name right now though. What an amazing trip you and Dennis have had. How did you come to do this summer long trip by the way? Penny

    • Reply Kelsey Heenan August 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Hi Penny!

      That is so amazing! Isn’t it fascinating to meet family across the world? It would be great to compare notes! Gothenburg is amazing. I didn’t see the candy store, but I will keep my eyes open for it :) So fun!

      Traveling has just been a dream of ours, so we saved, and Dennis started an online business about a year and a half ago, so I have now joined him, and we have been working along the way!

      Hope all is well!

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