For decades, I thought I was 50% Swedish and 50% German.
Never mind that my maternal grandfather was somehow English. I’m not sure how we overlooked that bit of information, but I continued to believe I was half one ethnicity and half another long after I should have known better.
I started my genealogical exploration with the Swedes. It was my Swedish great-grand uncle‘s safe deposit box that gave me the push into a “hobby” that has taken over my life.
The Swedes are a fascinating group and I attribute many of my personality quirks to them. In terms of record keeping, you can’t ask for a better ancestor than a Swede. Every move was dutifully recorded in the church books making it easy for genealogists to follow a line back more generations than there are Andersons in the phone book.
At some point, I realized my gene pool had more swimmers than just Swedes. My dad is Swedish too and we correctly believed, German. But our oh-so German-sounding surname actually belonged to a Swiss ancestor. Hmm. A little re-framing of the picture, but we adjusted and accepted our “new” heritage. Books on the history of Switzerland and dreams of a vacation to the Alps filled our days. But before I finished winding my Swiss watch, I learned my direct-line ancestor from Switzerland married a woman who immigrated to the United States from France. A French woman, mind you. From France.
Okay. So I’m not just Swedish and German. I’m Swedish and German and Swiss and French. This seemed a bit much for me to digest at one time. So I returned to the comfort and safety of the Swedish church books. And I researched one line after another, making the connections between Sweden and America. Until I learned one of my direct-line Swedish ancestors married a man from Norway. A Norwegian man, mind you. From Norway.
Still okay. I understand and accept I am no longer just Swedish and German. I’m Swedish and German and Swiss and French and Norwegian. Oh my!
Is this really okay? After all, I’d been so enamored with Sweden that I have celebrated St Lucia Day for, oh dear, could it be 30 years now? Will I ever love a Swiss holiday the same way? Can I embrace my French-ness as enthusiastically? And Norwegian? Didn’t Sweden once rule that country?
Oh, but I mustn’t forget Grandpa who is somehow English. Is it even possible to add another country to the display on Flag Day? Some of my grandfather’s personality traits, in particular his dry sense of humor, were always attributed to his English ancestry. So it was rather interesting when I learned my grandfather isn’t just English. His father immigrated from the Isle of Man and his father’s father immigrated to IOM from Great Britain. Which means….
I’m Swedish and German and Swiss and French and Norwegian and Manx and English. And finally, after getting to know the ancestors that contributed their DNA to my gene pool, I’m more than okay with that. I’m proud of my heritage.
But wait – there’s more! Another surprise may be lurking on the horizon. I traced one of my direct line ancestors to 17th century Maryland. For all we know, he may have crossed the ocean from Ireland or maybe Scotland…
I’d better start shopping for another flag pole, don’t you think?
Originally posted on It’s All Relative March 22, 2010. Updated for where2look4ancestors.com.