Europe, 2004

Europe, 2004

Tracing Our Roots

Our trip began on Saturday, July 11, 2004. My husband, Hank, and I met my sister, Barbara, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport and headed for Dublin, Ireland on a 7:30 PM flight. We got a little sleep on the flight and arrived in Dublin around 9:30AM. We were met with cold temperatures and rainy weather. We were able to drop the luggage off at our hotel, but could not check in until close to 3PM, so had to roam the streets - not fun considering the weather conditions! We had a bite to eat and took a bus tour to see the sights.

Trinity College Molly Malone St. Stephens Green

After two days in Dublin, we boarded a plane and headed for Copenhagen, Denmark, which would be our "base of operations" for the next leg of the trip. We picked up our rental car at the airport and made our way to our hotel, which was within walking distance of the main downtown shopping area. It was an early evening, as we had to get up early the next morning to drive about 90 miles to Gedser, Denmark, where we drove on to the car ferry, heading for Rostock, Germany.

We checked into our hotel in Rostock, and then headed for the Pomeranian countryside to find some of the villages and churches of Hank's ancestors. We found the villages of Prohn, Muuks, and Gross Mohrdorf, and were able to go inside the churches in Prohn and Gross Mohrdorf. Unfortunately, the govenrment in this area has not allowed the filming or duplication of their church records, so we left without obtaining any additional information on Hank's family. Just being in the area where his ancestors lived was exciting.

Prohn Church Gross Mohrdorf Church Rostock Street Scene

We spent the night in Rostock, and did some shopping the next morning, then headed out to find the ancestral villages of Barb's and my ancestors - the Dettmann family. We had some very detailed road maps, and found all of the towns and churchs with no problem. We visited Rugensee, Gross Trebow, Muhlen Eichen and Borzow, all in the Mecklenburg area of Germany. Unfortunately the churches were not open, so all we could do was get photos of the exterior. Still exciting to know we were actually stepping on the ground of our ancestors, and probably walking over them in the church graveyards! As a general rule, the European graves are not maintained, unless there is a family member who is willing to either do the work themselves, or to pay somebody to care for the grave. When the markers fall over they may sink into the ground, or just be piled on top of each other at the side of the cemetery.

After spending the night in Lubuck, Germany, we returned to Rostock to take the ferry back to Copenhagen. We arrived late afternoon and after a bit of a rest went to Tivoli. While it did have some very pretty gardens, I was not really impressed. I think we have equal, if not better, in the United States. We did find some Danish Christmas ornaments, so bought those, had a small dinner, and wandered around the park for a few hours. Then, back to the hotel. The next morning after breakfast we had a chance to do some shopping, and then drove into Sweden.

Church in Gross Trebow Muhlen Eichen Church Tivoli, Copenhagen

We arrived in Varberg, Sweden mid afternoon and after driving the wrong way on a one-way street, found our hotel and got settled in. Barb and I went to the old fort, while Hank went in search of the beach. This was one of the few warm days we had, and we all enjoyed being outside. Varberg is the town where my great-grandfather, Anton Andersson, was a helper in a dye factory prior to emigrating to the United States. We had dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant, and then watched the 1950's and 60's "muscle cars" parade around the town, with boom-boxes blaring rock and roll tunes. The next morning we headed to the village of Lindberg, where Anton lived as a child, and went into the church he attended. From there it was on to the Parish of Valinge, where Anton's maternal grandmother was born.

Old Varberg Fort Mile Marker from 1666 Interior, Lindberg Church Valinge Church

The next stop was Göteborg, where we would stay for four nights - a welcome change after so many "one-night stands"! Everything was fairly close to our hotel, and we found a mall to roam around in, as well as some places to check out later for meals. On Monday morning we drove about 95 miles from Göteborg to the kommuns of Mullsjö and Tidaholm. These were the areas where my father's paternal grandparents, Vallentin Johansson and Olivia Josefina Jansdotter, were born and raised. I had previously corresponded with a gentleman in the area by the name of Jerker Lundén. Jerker is a "amateur genealogist" and we were to meet him for a tour of the area. In doing some of the research for me, he found he had also done research for somebody else on some of the same family lines, by the name of Rolf Ivarsson. Jerker brought Rolf along on the tour, and he was a great help. We were with them for nine hours (again, in the cold and the rain that has plagued us on this trip) and Rolf proved to be an excellent translator. Jerker took us to more than 17 different stops - the farms, villages and churches of Vallentin's and Josefina's families.

Yllestad Parish Church Sandhem Parish Church Interior, Sandhem Church Kymbo Parish Church

The Kymbo Parish Church above is where my great-grandfather, Vallentin, was baptised. He and Olivia Josefina Jansdotter were married in May, 1863 at the Yllestad Parish Church. The Sandhem Parish Church is where most of Olivia Josefina's family was baptised, married and buried. The photo below shows the estate home called Kättilstorp where my great-grandmother was working as a maid when she met her future husband. There is also one of fields and buildings at Rännagården, the farm where Vallentin worked when he met and married Josefina. The last photo below was taken in Kyrkevarn, and shows the Tidan River. The whole area is very wooded, with many lakes and rivers - similar to the terrain of Minnesota in the United States. After taking this tour, I felt like I knew so much more about my great-grandparents and their early lives, even though I never had to opportunity to meet them.

Kättilstorp Rännagården Farm The Tidan at Kyrkevarn

On Tuesday, July 21 we had a leisure day, and spent it shopping and sightseeing in Göteborg. It was another relatively warm day, and we took the hour-long canal tour and saw much of the city. The next morning we had any early breakfast and made the drive back to the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, to catch an afternoon flight back to our starting point of Dublin, Ireland. We managed to get in a little more shopping before the shops closed and had dinner at a charming little pub. The next morning it was back to the Dublin airport, where we met up with the Blackburn Family Association group. This was a group of about 50 individuals who were taking a five day tour to the Belfast and Northern Ireland area. Our original Blackburn ancestor, John Blackburn was born in Loughall, Kilmore, Armagh, Ireland, about 1675. He came to Pennsylvania, Mennallen Township, in 1736 and died there in 1752.

On our way to Belfast we stopped at Monasterboice, which dates from the 5th century and is famous for its collection of intricately decorated Celtic high crosses. We had views of the Mourne Mountains as we continued on to Belfast, and had a bus tour of the city prior to checking into our hotel.

Monasterboice Belfast City Hall Mourne Mountains

The following morning we boarded the coach and visited the Ulster Americal Folk Park, just outside of Omagh. The park is located on the farm of Thomas Mellon, whose cottage home has been preserved. Exhibits show the rural way of life in Ireland in past centuries as well as how the emigrants traveled to North America to begin a new life. From there we went to Armagh, which is the spiritual capital of Ireland. Is is the seat of both Catholic and Protestant archbishops, and both cathedrals are named in honor of St. Patrick. The next day we visited the Irish Linen Centre in Lisburn, then went on to Moyallan and had lunch with the Quakers at Moyallen Meeting. The original Blackburns were Quakers, and we were able to visit several areas where they worshipped. From Moyallen we went to Lurgan, which is where the first meeting of the Irish Quakers was established in 1654. Our trip coincided with the 350th anniversary of Quakerism in Ireland.

Ulster American Folk Park St Patricks, Protestant Lisburn Lurgan

On Sunday we went to Richhill, to attend the Meeting with the Friends, and had lunch with them. They were gracious hosts, and prepared a fantastic meal for us. Richhill was combined with Ballyhagen Meeting, which was the ancestral meeting of the Blackburn family. From there we went to Longhgall, the ancestral home of the Blackburns. We also made a stop in Portadown, County Armagh, to visit the site of the Dan Winter house where the Orangemen were formed. In 1795 there was unrest between the Catholics and the Protestants, and on September 21 there was a battle between the two groups, and the Catholics were defeated. Immediately following the battle leaders of the various groups who had been engaged in it met in the top room of Dan Winter's farm house home. The object of this meeting was to discuss the formation of a new organization, which would bring all Protestant groups under one umbrella. Today this organization is called the 'The Orange Order".

Richhill Meeting Ballyhagen remains Dan Winter House

On our last day in Ireland we followed the scenic route along the Northern Ireland seacoast, on our way the Giant's Causeway. This is an area of hexagonal columns, formed over 60 million years ago by cooling lava. Leaving Giant's Causeway we made a visit to Bushmills Distillery, which is the world's oldest whisky distillery, licensed in 1608. Following a tour of the distillery, we we able to sample some of the finished product. After lunch and some browsing in the gift shops, we returned for a final night in Belfast. Most of the group gathered for a farewell dinner at the Crown Bar. The Crown dates back to 1826, and the interior boasts of an ornate bar, inlaid with colored glass.

N. Ireland seacoast Giant's Causeway Bushmills The Crown Bar

We had an early wake-up the next morning, as we had to make the trip back to the Dublin airport. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:45PM so we had lots of time in the airport to pick up a few last minute gifts. Then it was on the the plane for a seven hour flight home to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Barb made her connecting flight to return home to Houston, and Hank and I caught the bus that would return us to Rockford, where we had parked our car. We picked up the car and made the 1-1/2 hour drive home, arriving just before 9PM. By the time we got luggage into the house and could finally get to bed, we had been up close to 20 hours. We were glad to be home, and now have wonderful memories of a fantastic trip - and dreams of doing something similar in a few years.

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