Swedish visitor and genealogist speaks with locals who have ancestors in Sweden
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, COKATO, MN In an area rich in Swedish history, Rigmor Mähler, a visitor of Ruth Christenson, Dassel, had little problem finding people with roots from her home in Värmland, Sweden.
For two weeks, Christenson was the host to Mähler, along with her daughter Erika, and granddaughter Josefine. They are from the Torsby area.
Three years ago, Rigmor, along with the help of Margaretha Hedblom and Inga-Greta Lindblom, helped Christenson locate the home place of her great-grandfather, PJ Delin.
Delin came to Stockholm, Cokato (Mooers Prairie) in 1869. John Lind, Christenson’s brother, currently lives on the homestead.
Delin’s house in Sweden was located just across the field from Mähler’s home in Vitsand, Torsby. Her cousin actually purchased the house in the 1950s, and remodeled it for a guest house, according to Christenson.
With an interest in genealogy, Mähler and her family came to visit Christenson to learn more about the area in which many Swedish immigrants settled.
Along with visiting popular tourist attractions like Darwin’s Twine Ball and the Mall of America (twice), the Swedish guests also were able to visit with a lot of locals who have similar roots.
“No matter who we talk to, [Rigmor] knows the relatives,” Christenson said.
With an interest in genealogy, Mähler sat down with a number of Cokato and Dassel residents who still have relatives in the Värmland area of Sweden.
Some of the people Mähler spoke with from the Dassel-Cokato area included Jack and Jim Peterson, Ramona Peterson-Franke, Tim and Ronelle Lundeen, the Haglund/Nyquist family, Leona Simonson, and Bruce and Gloria Peterson.
At the Johnson’s residence, Mähler was able to speak in her native tongue with Gloria, who grew up in a bilingual family where they spoke both Swedish and English.
As Gloria sifted through mailings from relatives she and Bruce connected with during a visit to Sweden 20 years ago, Mähler wrote down names and addresses she would later bring “greetings” to.
When back home, Mähler will try to make contact with the various relatives and talk about her visit to see if she can get more useful information to help with family histories. She will also attend a Vitsand town reunion July 24, where she hopes to share information she received from her visits, Mähler said.
Mähler’s daughter, Erika has her own connection in Cokato, with Tim Lundeen being her third cousin.
Lundeen, who has relatives in the city of Torsby, where Erika teaches children with autism, heard some interesting stories of his relatives.
Tim’s grandmother’s brother was a shoemaker in Värmland, Sweden, and was said to be a short, kind man, Ronelle explained. He was also a funny man, she said.
One day, he took a dare and stood on his head on the church rooftop.
“It was fun to hear that,” Ronelle said. “I found some similarities in my husband,” she added.
Because the community of Torsby (which includes the cities of Ostmark and Vitsand) is small in regards to population, it was no wonder Mähler found so many connections.
This was Mähler’s first time to Minnesota to America for that matter and she was able to see why Swedish immigrants settled here, as there are many similarities with climate and geography, she said.
They visited three local cemeteries Stockholm, Knapp, and Ostmark where Mähler found names of her relatives.
While Erika an avid geocacher was here, she was able to reach her goal of finding her 100th cache. Geocaching is a treasure hunt using GPS.
She even found a cache at Big Swan Lake, Christenson said.
“We met so many nice people,” Mähler said, adding that everyone here was very welcoming.
Christenson has also enjoyed the different visits and the connections found in Sweden.
“I like geography and history . . . and I like people and learning about your family in the process,” Christenson said, adding she may have inherited her interest from her two aunts, who were very interested in the Swedish culture.