Here is a really cute story from our honeymoon:
Florian and I were waiting in a reeeeeeally slow line for a table outside for dinner one night in Finland and we overheard a couple of older ladies speaking American English. It’s still a novelty to me when people speak English so I immediately struck up a conversation with them. We chatted for a bit but then Flo and I won the table lottery and finally got seated! We’re so Swiss that we immediately noticed the inefficiency – we were 2 people at a table for 4, and so many people were still in line. We obviously couldn’t leave our new friends waiting so we invited Diane and Merrie to come sit at our table and join us for dinner.
Turns out, the two were in Finland to track down the history of their ancestors (they’re cousins!). Their grandparents had immigrated to America and spoken very little about their Finnish heritage because they wanted to immediately assimilate into American culture. This left M & D with very few clues to go on, but an interest to pursue! I emailed the ladies to show them some pictures (and share the crazy video of how Florian rescued a hedgehog from underneath our table!!). Here’s the adorable email response I got back with their trek across Finland and their warm kindness showing through.
What a treat to hear from you! Merrie and I had great success finding information about our grandparents. After having no luck at the Kuopio provincial and congregational offices, our guide in Kuopio contacted the Migration Institute, located in Turku. I had the dates that our grandmother and grandfather arrived in the US (they came separately and met in NY) and, from there, the Migration Institute was able to find the date our grandmother left Finland. That gave us the town where she was actually born and details about her family. She was one of 10 children and the only one of her family to migrate to the US, at the age of 16. I marvel at how brave she must have been!
|This is just what I imagine their ancestors looked like coming to America –
it’s not an actual picture of them. I stole it off Google, let’s be honest.
It turns out that at the time of their births, Finland was divided into provinces, though they weren’t called exactly that (whatever they were called had a lot of vowels and umlauts and were unpronounceable), and each province had a provincial “seat” which was where all the births were registered. Vaasa was the seat of our grandmother’s province, and though she was born in Alavus, a town about an hour east of Vaasa, Vaasa was given as her birthplace. We haven’t yet located the actual town where our grandfather was born in the province of Kuopio, but we now have the names and e-mail addresses of all the provisional offices in all the towns in Kuopio province. So as soon as we can get caught up with all the paperwork, etc. that awaited both of us on our return, we are going to do a more thorough search for him.
I hope your language lessons are going smoothly and you are progressing well with no more tears! Remembering my German lessons in Heidelberg all those many years ago, my only advice is to drink lots of beer before each lesson!! Do keep me updated (in English, please) on how it is going.
I don’t know how often you and Florian are able to get back to the US, but do know that if you ever have a yen to visit Arizona and Tucson, you will always be welcome guests at my house, and I know Merrie will offer the same hospitality in Oregon. If Florian hasn’t seen the shootout at the OK Corral, in Tombstone, which is an hour south of Tucson, he really must visit. Boot Hill Cemetery is also there. We have wonderful hiking trails here (although the terrain is much different than Switzerland’s) and we also have all the US major holes in the ground (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Monument Valley) just to our north. So don’t forget to let me know if you come west!
Again, thank you for the photos and video. They are great reminders of an evening filled with laughter! Do stay in touch and let us know what is happening in your lives.
Doesn’t that just make your heart melt a little bit. So sweet! And such a good reminder to ask the questions of our ancestors while we still have them around to ask. I have dinner with Florian’s grandma next week. I think I’ll ask what it was like during WWII!