Family history moments: Too perfect for chance

My daughter and I were fortunate enough to travel to Europe this past summer. This being my first trip across the sea, I wanted to see as much as possible. Among my top priorities was to visit some places of ancestral origin.

In Scotland we were able to locate the exact dwelling place in Edinburgh of my great-great-grandfather, as was recorded on his death certificate. But an even greater thrill was in store as we continued on our journey to Sweden.My maternal grandfather's mother was born in Slimminge, Sweden, in 1833. We found southern Sweden to be lovely farmland, somewhat like the Iowa countryside in which we live. There were massive fields of red poppies adorning the landscape in places. In Slimminge there was one street only, no stores, and a church with an adjoining graveyard. As we walked toward the church a man, Borje Hansson, appeared from one of the houses and spoke to us. His English was quite good; he had visited Chicago as a young man.

When we informed him of our desire to perhaps find evidence of family connection in the cemetery, he volunteered to go along with us. We searched through the rows of headstones with no recognition of any familiar name. We exchanged names and addresses with Borje as we parted.

Upon our return home, a letter arrived from Borje in Sweden. He told of looking through some of his grandfather's old papers one day when he saw the name Holmquist (my great-grandmother's surname). To his great surprise, he found my ancestors had sold their farm to his grandfather in 1871. Borje had been born on that very farm!

Had we known that at the time of our visit, he could have shown us where they lived. Along with his nice letter, he sent two pages of valuable research information listing three generations complete with dates and names of children from my direct line.

During the many years I have worked at family history research, I have been rewarded numerous times by unexpectedly coming into contact with people who have been a great help in providing me with information - instances that were too perfect to have been by chance. Such was our meeting with Borje Hansson.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed