Wednesday, March 30, 2011


We are professional Ghostbusters.

Finding skeletons is our business. They hide in closets, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and dusty boxes under the bed. Not only do we hunt for ghosts, we learn to love them, and weirdly enough they love us back, leading us to clues that will flesh out their story.

Other people's ghosts have worked on me, and now I'm haunted by my own ancestors. Suddenly I'm dying to get acquainted.

Harbor Malmo

Great-grandma Tilda Louise Borgeson Lavin Lundgren was born in 1867 in Malmo, Sweden. She married Anders Lavin when she was just eighteen and at nineteen had a baby boy named Theodore. She wrote this:

I was raised as a devout Lutheran. When my tiny boy Theodore died at just two years old I began to question God. At this time of sorrow I found a new faith that brought hope of eternal families. On February 4, 1886 the ice was cut in the river and my husband and I were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I knew I would be ridiculed by my family for what I had done, and I was right. All the members of my family turned against me.

Street in Malmo

Only a few days after my baptism I met my mother on the street and she crossed to the other side so as not to speak to me. (In time they became more friendly and eventually my mother,
my sister, and her family also joined the Church.)

By then a new little boy, George, had filled the void in our hearts left by the loss of our baby. We decided to emigrate to Utah in America to join other Mormons who lived there.

The ship was crowded, and the trip was long and difficult with much illness on board. I was very frightened, as I was only 22 years old.

On board an immigrant ship, 1880's.

When we arrived in Salt Lake City my husband was very ill. I became a dressmaker, and worked at a restaurant where I did cleaning. I went early in the morning and made sure I was through before anyone came, as I didn't want anyone to see me doing that kind of work, though it was honest labor.

SLC Main Street about 1900

If I had had any money I would have gone back to Sweden, where I could get better work. Those were trying days, and I almost lost my courage. Learning the language was a very hard task. The Lord helped me learn English and adjust to the customs.

In just three years we already had an adorable baby girl, Agnes, and another precious son, Joseph. When he was a year old he became very ill. It was the Lord's will that he should go, but it was terribly hard to lose him.

Not long after this great sorrow another beautiful blue-eyed baby was born to us. How proud we were of him. I loved to lie on the bed and look at him. He was such a healthy baby and when my friends came, I was over-anxious to show him off.

One day while I was busy in my kitchen, a never to be forgotten accident occurred. I kept a wooden tub outside by the water pump. I left just a very small amount of water in the bottom of it to keep it from drying out and cracking. I had just checked on my baby and then went about my work. Within seconds I heard a terrible scream. My neighbor had come to get water and there she found my baby, Henry, face down in the very shallow water in the tub. He had died instantly, it seemed.

The sorrow was almost more than I could bear. Everyone did all they could for me, but I failed to be comforted. Baby Henry did not have a wet spot on him. His little life was just snuffed out so quickly. Oh, the shock was terrible! He was just a little over a year old. I felt the hope go out of me.

Our oldest son, George was then about seven years old. He came to me in my sorrow and tried to comfort me. I was so bereaved I scarcely knew what I said. I answered him, "Oh, you will probably die too, I guess." Instead of turning from me he looked up at me and said, "No, Mama. I'm not going to die. I will grow up and make you proud, and you will be glad."

It seemed like there was magic when our eyes met. As he said this to me, something in my soul awakened. The faith my little son showed at this time acted as tonic from heaven to me. My faith in God's love was made stronger, and I was again able to walk through this garden of Gethsemane. Little George's prophesy was fulfilled. He did grow up to make me proud, and I was glad.

My prayer from that day on was that I would be worthy to meet my babies Theodore, Joseph and Henry again. I always gave thanks to God that he allowed me to keep my children George and Agnes, who lived to raise seven children each. I have had much joy and gladness in my life."

Lundgren Family, 1930

Here is Tilda's daughter Agnes (the one with glasses) with her husband Axel Lundgren with their seven children. My mom, Junie is the one on her Dad's lap.

As I get older I feel a yearning to know my history. Referring to someone famous, a reporter said, "He's from an old family," as if the rest of us just popped up from nowhere in recent generations. We each descend from "an old family" with heros, rogues, villains and champions, and tales of tragedy and valor that could encourage us. Stories make our ghosts come alive.

The last sentence in the Old Testament talks about ghost busting. It says:

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,
and the heart of the children to their fathers . . ."
—Malachi 4:6

Has your heart been turned? Do you believe in ghosts?
Try a little ghostbusting, and you will!


kenju said...

She sure lived a hard life. I can't imagine losing one child, let alone three.

VickiC said...

How very fortunate you are to have your great grandmother's history. I have very little information about any of my ancestors. A few left their skeletons in the closet, but any other information has to be derived from dates and places.

Sometimes dates, names, relationships can suggest a lot, however. One of my ancestors gave birth to almost 20 children, but looking at the available info I've been able to determine most of her daughters died in childbirth or within the weeks that followed.

Wish I could have more of the story, but just this little bit of information makes them very real to me.

Jennifer said...

I wish I could find a journal from one of my ancestors! We have family stories, but it's not the same as hearing their thoughts in their own words.

Becoming hooked on genealogy has made me more of a journaler since I'm always thinking of what my descendants might want to know about me. :D

Kerry said...

i always love reading the stories your write about our ancestors. they're so fun to read and to learn more about. can't wait to go to ireland with you and dee!