When my husband was thirteen, his mother telephoned the township chairman about the poor state of affairs in the Union Cemetery. Her concern was for a small, country plot of land up the road from their farm that had long served as a historical record of the surrounding neighborhood.

As a result, that summer my father-in-law became sexton for the Union Cemetery of Jefferson Co., Wis. (a poetically old-fashioned name befitting the caretaker of gravestones dating back to the 1850s).

For his work he received an ever-so-slight compensation, which he passed on to his 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter for diligently pushing their lawnmowers up to the cemetery, mowing and trimming, and then pushing them back home again.

Little did my mother-in-law know this would become a perpetual position. In fact, here it is forty years later—my father-in-law still serves as sexton and three generations of our family have taken turns at mowing, general maintenance, a periodic grave fill by hand and the annual Memorial Day cemetery board meeting.

I know, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Ruth? Or beaded bells?

Well, in a paradoxical way, maybe it does.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, we’ll head up to the cemetery for that annual board meeting. With the exception of my husband and me (because we, of course, never age:-), its a gathering of ever-aging members whose loved ones are buried there under the trees. They come with the pretense of discussing cemetery business, however, in truth I know they come to reflect. They walk through the rows examining gravestones. They tell stories and connect the family names. They bring reverence to this hilly sanctuary of lives worth remembering.

As I watch and listen to the board members, I’m reminded of Ruth. I think of all the family names connected to her, none of who rest in the Union Cemetery. Instead they’re in Chicago’s Bethania and Oak Woods Cemeteries. Or Oak Hill Cemetery in Owosso, Mich. Or a country cemetery outside Imlay City, Mich.

I hope someone is taking care of those grounds as well as my husband’s family has taken care of these.

George and Ruth Larson’s stone in Oak Hill Cemetery, Owosso, Mich.

The state of Wisconsin has an ongoing genealogy project called the U.S. GenWeb Archives Project. Volunteers have photographed thousands of tombstones and submitted them for an online database. Does your state have anything like this?

And lastly, the end of May brings an end to the heavy duty family tree stuff. By now, I’m sure you’re thoroughly confused. If so, but you still want a basic record, I’m including two charts here, taken from ancestry.com. They’re somewhat abbreviated so I eventually hope to add pages with full names and such.

Click below and enjoy now. Check back again later for updates.

The Hooge Family Tree

The Larson Family Tree


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!

So, I’m wondering if my three sisters and I could sail an ocean together by steamship? Could we traverse half a continent by train? How long before they were so sick of me, they’d throw me overboard?

In 1892, my great-grandmother, Sophia Lindahl, and her three sisters did just that (minus throwing anyone overboard). They left their homeland in Sweden and traveled to America. They left behind their parents, their brothers and sisters, and the familiar life they’d known all of their 20-some years.

They left, just the four of them, together.

Eivor Lindahl Schutz is a descendent of those they left behind in Sweden. In my last correspondence with her, she still lived in Sweden. In fact, she owned the very farm where the Lindahl sisters grew up.

Eivor has a picture of the four sisters and, being a journalist, wrote a story about them. Here it is, as she translates from her original Swedish to English.

The Girls from Västra Harg Who Sought Prosperity in West

In the photo album my grandmother left I found a photo of four sisters Lindahl who left their native place during the later part of the 19th century to seek prosperity in USA. In reality they were seven sisters, but all did not travel at the same time. It was usual that the elder ones traveled first and then through letters and encouragement enticed sisters and friends to follow.

The photo is taken during the first time out there, that indicates expecially the youngest sister’s appearance. Dressed up and serious, dressed in exactly the same frocks, a photographer in Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa, immortalized the four sisters. This photo was sent as a greeting to father and mother in the old country. With this photo they wanted tell that they were doing well and took care of each other. Certainly letters came perhaps with a dollar or two but the sisters never came back.

It must have been an enormous blood-letting in the life of family Lindahl, despite a big family of children. I only can have a feeling of all the tears that the miserable mother shed over her seven lost girls. About their destinies and lives we hardly know anything today, but htanks to Rune Wikell list in his book (“I Minnen Bevarat”) over the emigrants from Västra Harg their names are known.

The last sister passed away unmarried in about 1950, that is on the whole all we know. Their life and deed among many other emigrants founded the powerful USA.

But I feel the wing-stroke of history when I think about that they have romped and played on the same hills and stones as I have. Judge of my joy when I find that somebody with a neat writing has written the name “Sofi” on the photo, perhaps herself. Soon the photo gets a more personal impression. None now living in Sweden has seen the sisters Lindahl in real life. One more generation and nobody should have known who the photo represented. But now I know that the name of the girl at the front, to the left, was Sofi and with a little detective work I will starting with this be able to follow up the names of the other girls. Hundred years has passed since the photo was taken and perhaps I may, in spite of that, name the girls who were my grandfather’s sisters, thanks to a name on the back of a photo.

—Eivor Lindahl Schutz
translated from “Östgöta Correspondenten” February 24, 1984

The sisters, pictured above, are Alida Lindahl Johnson (upper left), Amalia Lindahl Anderson (upper right), Sophia Lindahl Larson (lower left) and Ella Lindahl Fristrom.

Three years after she came to America, Sophia married Carl Larson. George (Ruth’s husband) is one of her children.