Minnesota Swede Blog

Södra Ljunga: Photo Elicitation


When I first heard about the opportunity to visit Sweden through the Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, I knew I had to at least apply. For my entire life, Sweden was viewed as a pilgrimage in my family. My grandmother spoke of it; my aunts and uncles spoke of it; my cousins spoke of it. The opportunity to be able to go and see the land of my ancestors on my paternal grandfather’s side was virtually the most important opportunity of my life. I had to take advantage of seeing Småland myself.

I pondered quite a bit about what I would find before departing for Sweden. During my time in Stockholm, I pondered quite a bit about what I would find in Södra Ljunga. I even thought at one point that I wouldn’t make it down south. I wasn’t sure if I had time to head south to Småland. After I made the executive decision to go, I wondered if I would actually find the location of where my family resided. I wondered if I would actually find the family that had been left behind. They would be the decendents of Sven’s younger sister, Karolina. If I found them, what would I say? There were a lot of questions and possibilities running through my head.

The following three pictures are a small part of what I experienced during my last weekend in Sweden. I did a lot and I did a lot of thinking. There were lots of emotions and I often pondered how this trip would change me during my journey. Mainly, I tried to remain humble and take it in stride. I tried not to expect too much and attempted to associate my experience in Södra Ljunga, Kronoberg, Småland with my views of the world. I was not sure what I would find, but what I did found was astonoshing.

The Castle of Jönköping 

The Castle of

The Castle of Jönköping – North of Jönköping

I am a modern abolitionist. I am heavily influenced by Tim Wise. He helped me to see my own privilege. He is the main reason why I am heading towards an exploration of introspection. I am also influenced by America’s grandfather, Frederick Douglass, and America’s grandmother, Harriet Tubman. Malcolm is dear to me and I appreciate Louis’ energy and passion for the struggle. And of course, Stokely and Angela are the fire that resides in me. But I am also a scientist.

Systems science is my discipline; urban dynamics is my field. Ed Dillon, mathematician, changed my life by introducing me to Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, the father of calculus. Jay Forrester, systems scientist, introduced me to my field and the prospect of my future. It is truly a gift. And I am forever indebted to him for a book he wrote more than 50 years ago. Of course, I currently have the privilege of working with some special people – people who support the intersectionality of my work in science and social justice. Their names will become salient as I progress in my writings and as I progress in my field. This combination and intersectionality provides me with a very interesting view of the world. But this is not my first exploration of my journey into leadership.

Are you familiar with the Leadership Identity Development (LID) model? It is a complex leadership theory. Well, it is fairly complex for a leadership theory. Most of the leadership theories are linear. Of course, most practitioners in leadership theory don’t have systems training, so it is understandable. But I digress. LID is comprised of 6 main components: awareness, exploration/engagement, leader identified, leader differentiated, generativity, and integration/synthesis. I won’t get into the meat and potatoes of the theory, but the theory is good at explaining the process of leadership in a fairly complex way. It recognizes that there are several things going on at once in this dynamical world.

For example, I have been a leader in several different careers including the military and baseball. But although I have been a leader in those areas, I am becoming a leader in my respective fields of systems science and social justice, my intersectionality. If I were to identify my current location of systems scientist and social justice writer (and I hope to add speaker), I would say that I exist at exploration/engagement. But perhaps I am not far from leader identified? I could be between the two as well. The model does allow for that prospect. Of course, I endeavor to be a leader and to take on that responsibility. I endeavor to be at the integration/synthesis of the intersectionality of systems science and social justice. But I will remain humble and disciplined, and continue to prepare myself and continue to head towards my destination. I won’t complete my journey towards my ultimate goal of leadership by the end of my trip to Södra Ljunga. That’s impossible. Something like that takes year. But I will find out more about myself and my origins in Södra Ljunga. I will find out more about myself and it will become a part of my identity as I search for the birth place of my great-great grandfather, Sven Alfred.

Södra Ljunga

Skogsdal, Sven's boyhood home, near Södra Ljunga

Skogsdal, Sven’s boyhood home, near Södra Ljunga

Indeed, traveling south to Småland, specifically Södra Ljunga, is a pilgrimage. It is a pilgrimage into my roots, into my past. What would I find? On the afternoon of Sunday, June 7th, and at the suggestion of my new friends in Södra Ljunga, I decided to attend the 2 pm church service in Kånna at the Kånna kyrka. It was a beautiful service in Swedish. There was a baptism. It was deeply emotional for me. There I was, in this more than 1000 year old church, experiencing a ritual that Sven experienced more than 150 years ago. It was truly Swedish. Moreover, I hadn’t been to church in years.

Based off of my paperwork, I thought I was in the correct church. When I approached Jonas, the gentleman with the black trousers and the priest at Kånna kyrka, after the service, I showed him my paperwork and he and I were off to the races. Although it was a cloudy, cool, and windy day, it was a beautiful day. We found Sven’s house. Each person we met during our journey that day was truly amazing. They made me feel at home and I truly felt it. Here I was in Södra Ljunga for a little less than 48 hours and I had already found the boyhood home of Sven and his brothers and sisters. It was amazing. It was surreal. It was a small house that resided upwind from the fields below. It was the home of a poor Swedish family in the middle 19th century.


Södra Ljunga Kyrka

Södra Ljunga Kyrka

I knew this part of the journey would be the most difficult. What you see pictured to the left was the church directly across the road to the Hostel I stayed in over the weekend. Although it is not the same church (Kyrka) that Sven, his brothers and sisters, and his parents attended, it is nonetheless similar and very much in the same area. My ancestors, Sven’s family, were Baptists. This is a Lutheran church. During the middle part of the 19th century, they were discriminated against by the Swedish state church, the Lutheren church, because of their religious beliefs. As Jonas, the Lutheran priest and person who helped me to find the home of my ancestors and what had happened to my great-great aunt Karolina, stated, the Baptists at the time were viewed as radicals. They were looked down upon and were definitely the outgroup. And sometimes, Baptists girls and women were deported from the area and out of the county.

During my visit to Södra Ljunga, I wondered why Karolina’s family never contacted us. Why was this such a mystery? I did not wonder this before I arrived in Södra Ljunga, but only after I arrived. This is because the Swedes I met who had contact with their American relatives were very excited about it. They were extremely proud of it. The people who had not found their American relatives or had not been contacted by their American relatives were bummed out about it. This made me wonder if Karolina had ever married, and if so, did she have children. Surely her children would have known that their mother’s siblings had left for the United States.

I did not find her decendents before I left. But Jonas told me he would keep looking on his end and he did. A day after I arrived back in the states, I received an email from him

Got a subscription to view the Church records online a hour after you left. Got this information about Carolina and her parents: Carolina stayed in Sweden. Father died 1893. Mother died 1897. In 1897 she got married (civil wedding, no state church wedding – baptist!) 41 years old and moved 10 km north of Skogsdala to Boarp Stakagård. She herself died in 1923 of “old age” (!) and probably dementia. No children with husband August Göransson. Will try to get more info on her husband August, etc

All Good Things

In my first posting, the Minnesota Swede blog page, I stated

My hope is that I will be able to visit not just the birth place of Sven, in Smaland, Sweden, which is in Southern Sweden, but that I will also get an opportunity to meet the descendents of my great-great Aunt Karolina, Sven’s sister, who remained in Sweden.

During my trip to Södra Ljunga, I found more than I could have imagined. Although I did not find the birth place of Sven, I found his boyhood home, literally. He resided there from the age of 8 to the age of 19 when he immigrated to the United States. I found out that Karolina did not have any children. This was unfortunate. But we are still the descendents of those who once resided in Skogsdal. I also found a bit more than what I intended to find.

As I told Jonas and his wife, “Even if I don’t find Karolina’s children, my cousins, I still found family.” And I meant it. Thomas and Berit, my Hostel hosts, Louise, Niclas, Jonas, and all of the other wonderful people who helped me have become a part of my Swedish family. They helped me to realize my dream of visiting the home of my great-great grandfather. They helped me understand my family here in the states a bit better as well. There is such cultural continuity between my family and those in Södra Ljunga.

I got an opportunity to eat with Niclas. He invited me into his home for futbol and food. I got an opportunity to Fika with Louise and her son Justice. She and I chatted about a great many things. Jonas invited me to dinner with his wife and kids, and we did Fika afterwards. Like Louise, Jonas and I chatted about a great many things. In each case, I felt like I was home. In each case, I added to my growth and identity. In each case, it was All Good Things.

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