A House I’d Love to Visit

May 25, 2010

Back in the 1980s, while raising my children, I fancied myself a writer. Well, let’s just say I was a wannabe writer. I wrote as a creative outlet. I wrote for self-expression. Once in a great while, I’d even get published in random, obscure magazines.

So, naturally, when Eivor sent me her story, I wrote one in response. And, naturally, I tried to get it published. Unlike Eivor, who is a professional writer, I didn’t have much success. You wouldn’t believe how many magazine publications I queried—and back then it was snail mail correspondence, a very slow process.

Well, thank goodness for today’s blogging. I’ve finally found a way to get my story published!

Here it is.

Her Picture and My Picture

She has an old family photograph of four sisters. The young women are dressed in formal black dresses of long ago and have been captured in a serious pose by a photographer in Des Moines, Iowa. She wonders of those sisters. She wonders what became of them and what the future brought for them in the land of America.

I have a photograph of an old house. It’s a small, frame house, located in Västra Harg, Sweden. I wonder of that old house and the history it holds. I wonder of the many generations born there, who then grew up to bring their own children into that same house.

Of different tenses of time. Of different subjects and places. Such are the wonderings the two of us have.

She is Eivor and she lives in Sweden. I am Diahann and I live in the United States. She is a descendent of those who stayed in Sweden. I am a descendant of those who immigrated to America.

In reality, the women in Eivor’s photograph were four of seven Lindahl sisters who grew up in the tiny Swedish house and later came to the United States. They were born into a large family during the latter half of the 19th century, a time when life in Sweden was hard and frugal. Their father, Anders Lindahl, is said to have been a very stern man. As was common during that time, the sisters were encouraged to go to America to seek a better life. The eldest came first, sending news back to their family in the homeland.

Eivor’s photograph, bearing the label of Kramers Photography, from Walnut Street in Des Moines, was one such greeting. Encouraged by these letters, their younger sisters followed in the years to come. As the family story goes, their youngest sister, Emelie, loved her life in Sweden and didn’t want to leave. In spite of this, her family bought a passage to America for her and she left with tears, promising that no one would ever hear from her again.

Eivor writes of the sympathies she feels for the family of the sisters. She imagines the tears their poor mother must have shed as she lost her daughters one by one. Yet, she feels a “wing-stroke of history” at the thought of the sisters long ago running and playing on the same hills she herself has run. And she appreciates the personal touch when she reads the name of Sofi, which was signed on the back of her photograph a hundred years ago.

I write of my feelings for the sisters. I think of the sadness they surely felt as they waved goodbye to their loved ones and watched the only home they had ever known grow more distant. Imagine how frightening, yet exciting, it was for them when they finally arrived in America. This was the country that would be their new home, nevertheless it offered many strange faces, languages and customs. What a happy occasion it must have been to meet an acquaintance or family member from the homeland.

As a great-granddaughter of Sophia (Sofi), I know a bit of what became of the sisters. Eivor’s photograph is proof they lived in Des Moines for a time. While there, Sophia worked as a housemaid for several years, as was common for single, female immigrants. She also met Carl Larson, an acquaintance she had known from Västra Harg. Eventually, they married and settled in Grovertown, Ind.

Sophia’s sisters eventually settled in Chicago or the surrounding areas. With the exception of one, they all married and had families of their own.

And what of their poor sister Emelie? No one knows. Apparently, she remained true to her word and broke ties with her family in Sweden and sisters in America.

Our pictures are different. Our thoughts and wonderings are different. Eivor is part of the homeland and family the four sisters left behind. I am part of their new home and the families they brought into being.

So very different the two of us are. Yet, because we are family, we’re very much the same.


The house in the photo above, and the barn in this photo, are part of the farm where the four sisters grew up.

In 1987, Eivor wrote that she had bought the farm from her uncle, thus keeping it in the family for another generation (Eivor’s grandfather was a brother to the four sisters).

According to Eivor, there were 13 children total. Imagine that many children in this little house! No wonder their father shipped them to America! And imagine what their parents thought when Sophia sent the picture of her family and large farmhouse in America!


The family attended this church in Västra Harg. Click here for an article on the church today.


The four sisters and their siblings attended school in this building. The church now uses it as a parish hall.

Unfortunately, over the years Eivor and I have changed addresses and are no longer in correspondence. However, if you search her name under this newspaper link, you’ll find she’s still writing professionally.

Today’s technology has enabled me to finally publish my story. Certainly it can help us reconnect with Eivor. Let’s do it together!

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7 Responses to “A House I’d Love to Visit”

  1. Terri Says:

    Sophie’s parents probably wondered how ever did they keep that big house in America heated during winter?

    Hur är det med famíljen, Eivor?

  2. Ann Says:

    Love the tile roofs!

    I also love the spare Scandinavian architecture. When those buildings were built, the simplicity of form was probably necessary – with 13 kids, who had time for fanciness?

    • adunate Says:

      I too like the minimalism of Swedish design. What I especially find fascinating is the age of these buildings. The article on the church talks about architecture dating from 1200-1300s.

      And we Americans think we’re so special when we have a 200-yr old building! In Watertown, we can’t even keep a Kohls or Pick-N-Save longer than 25 years before they tear them down and build another.

  3. Bethany Says:

    Tom and I had picked out the name Sophia to name one of our (future) daughters. Tom liked it because it meant ‘wisdom’ in Greek. I was very excited to discover it is actually a family name; and what an exciting family name, too!

    I was telling Tom the story of Sophia Lindahl this morning and his response was “Sveden, huh? That’s Vhy your so Sveet!”

  4. Bethany Says:

    Oooo…I also say I have to love that red house! I really do have a thing for small red houses. Whenever we pass one I ask Tom to buy it for me. (but he never does…) I wonder if there is such a thing as generational imprinting??

  5. Becky Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing all this family history. I have always connected with my German heritage, but never realized how close the Swedish ties are. It’s awesome to know a bit about the family that came from there, as well as those who remained!

  6. adunate Says:

    Ah, Tom is a sweetie, as well.

    I always like the name Sophia too. According to Larry Newburg’s research, her full name was Johanna Sophia Andersdotter Lindahl.

    And not only does Sophia refer to wisdom, but, in her case, also royalty. Supposedly, her lineage goes back to the 1600s, when a captain was granted nobility for his war heroism.


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