"Return to Sweden"

I went to Sweden to make a travel film about it, because it was the land my ancestors had emigrated from in the 19th Century.

I was unable to learn much about Solomon and Christine Johnson, my great grandparents. All letters, pictures and documents had been lost in a house fire before I was born. So I didn’t even know what part of Sweden they had come from.

 

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But I would make this film anyway. And in the process I would learn more than I’d ever expected.

Eventually, in Sweden, I went to the Emigrant Museum in Växjö, to do some filming there. I told the director about my great grandparents and that they had settled in Texas after the American Civil War.

As we set up lights for photography, the director disappeared for a time. In about 20 minutes he came downstairs with a book called Swedes in Texas, saying he had found pictures of Solomon and Christine Johnson, my great grandparents.  

I didn’t know that such a book even existed, and I thought, “he’s just found pictures of someone with the same names”. But the information with the pictures told us that Solomon and Christine had gone to Texas in 1870, and had settled in Swedonia Coloney...the place where I was born! It was the first time I’d ever seen pictures of them. All of this made the hair on my neck and arms stand erect. It was ethereal.

The written text also told what Province Solomon and Christine were from, the name of the village where they were born. Even the name of the farm where my great grandfather had grown up.

A couple of weeks later I was able to find that farm. The people living there were named Johansson, which is the Swedish form of the name Johnson. It turns out that they were relatives of mine! They had descended from my great grandfather’s older brother.

In Swedish law of that time, the oldest son always inherited the farm. As the second son, my great grandfather had to move on.

But this was the land of my roots! The place where my great granddad had grown up himself. I spent several days here, absorbing the spirit of this farm...and the spirit of this man…that I had never really known. And I realized, that without even knowing it himself, he had become a pioneer...an early settler of Texas.

Dale Johnson