Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marty Halverson's Ghost Stories

I'm married to a professional Ghostbuster.

Dee hunts for skeletons in closets, libraries, and archives. He sifts through crumbled letters, faded diaries, disintegrating scrapbooks, and dusty boxes from under somebody's bed. He not only hunts for ghosts, he learns to love them, and weirdly enough they love him back. We can always tell. They lead him to clues and secrets that will flesh out their story.

In the graveyard of old newspaper clippings and photo albums the relationship starts: Dee and the ghost begin bonding. Actually, his best friends (and most enthusiastic clients) are all dead. But they're still real. Dee's joy is introducing descendants to ancestors, giving them a contact to their past. Matthew Heiss, archivist in the LDS church history department, said, "Without a history, we are like people with amnesia. When we have a record of our past, we have a memory."

I've learned a few tricks of the Ghostbuster trade, searching for Bohemian Omas, princesses and pirates. Now I'm haunted by my own ancestors—I think it might be an age thing. Suddenly I'm dying to get acquainted.

Harbor Malmo

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 they 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 prove to 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

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

After Alex Haley published the book Roots, he said, "My hope is that Roots will start a ground swell of longing for people everywhere to go digging for their own roots, to discover a heritage to make them proud . . . "

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 heroines, rogues, villains and champions, and tales of tragedy and valor that could encourage us. Stories make these folks come alive.

Dee has noticed that every family has a self-appointed historian with a passion for keeping the records and photographs. Alex Haley discovered oral historians called griots in Africa. He said, "They are men trained from boyhood to memorize, preserve and recite the centuries-old histories of villages, clans, families, and heroes. Some are keepers of family stories so long that they can talk for three days without ever repeating themselves."

The last sentence in the Old Testament talks about ghost busting. In Malachi 4:6 it says:
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,
and the heart of the children to their fathers . . ."

Has your heart been turned? Do you believe in ghosts?

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~Get acquainted with a few of your own ghosts: Figure out who the family griot is and schedule a time to visit them.

~Find some pictures of your grands and greats. Do you look like any of them? Memorize the full names and birthdates of all four grandparents.

~You saw things differently as a child. Write a description of your parents from that perspective.

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


Christie said...

I CANNOT imagine losing children like that, in a foreign country, not speaking the language. What courage she had. Amazing.

~Kristina said...

My grands and greats. I have some work to do on dates.

The Grandmother Here said...

Your blog entry today should have had a warning to grab a handkerchief before reading. Wonderful but sad story.

Alyssa said...

Amazing! At my grandma's funeral earlier this year I had a long and fascinating conversation with my dad's cousin about my great, great, great grandmother who came from what I always thought was Finland but is actually a small island that has gone back and forth between Sweden, Finland and was even under Imperial Russia at one point. His stories about this heritage has been longing to visit my roots and learn more of her story. Thanks for the reminder.

diane said...

What a beautiful and tragic story. I felt my own heart break when she said, "I felt the hope go out of me."

Her story is much like my Grandma from Norway. She didn't lose any children but she was widowed at a young age and raised her 4 children.

Thanks for sharing this story of strength and faith.

Allison said...

I've been slacking lately, but I tried to make up for it in this post. I loved the story about your ancestors; it's amazing you have that kind of source about your family.


Sheri said...

Thanks, Marty. You know I'm a ghostbuster! I want to go to Malmo. It looks so quaint and pretty now. Can't imagine anyone wanting to leave. But my great grandmother left from Malmo also. I'm writing today about a living relative I found this year. Love your seminar.

Diane said...

Last night I tackled a long put-off task in my family history. I was sucked into the vortex immediately, thirsting for more information about my ancestors. Imagine my delight to read about your wonderful grandmother and get our assignment today.
week 7 assign 4
(after you read it you'll understand this - but I still have to look every day how to do the html code for my assignment. Audrey memorized it the first time she did it then painstakingly taught me how)

Diane said...

I'll try again - I had to modify my post, and now the link in my previous comment doesn't work.
try here

June said...

Good Information in this Blog. Keep up the good work!

Success Grandma

audrey said...

Oooh! This is one of my very favorite subjects ever. Thank you for sharing!


dalene said...

i love such legacies of sacrifice and courage--wow!

and my family ghost is not a ghost yet and i've had this nagging feeling i need to get a tape recorder and start getting a record of her stories before it's too late. my grandmother spent her whole life taking care of my grandfather who is the family historian. we know so much about him--volumes and volumes. but her life is the best-kept secret. i will do something about this this month. thanks for the much-needed kick in the pants!

~j. said...


debby said...

oh, to be a great genealogist.