Caution: The Myth vs. the Reality
For many Swedish Americans, the glowing art of Carl Larsson epitomizes Sweden. But not all Swedes have enjoyed the comfortable, secure lives and happy family relationships depicted in Larsson's paintings. In fact, the artist himself grew up under grim and impoverished conditions, son to a father who treated him cruelly. And Larsson was not alone. Well into the 1900s, life in Sweden could be very hard.
The lovely young woman shown here, Kristina Svensson, is one of countless Swedes whose fate was a sad one. In the late summer of 1906, she and her husband, Hans, traveled from the city of Malmö to Kronoberg County to attend a family reunion. The event was organized in honor of Kristina's emigrant brother, my grandfather Frans August, who was visiting from America and had brought along a camera. Kristina and Hans had married the previous December, and the pictures Frans August took at the reunion show her heavily pregnant and smiling. A month later she gave birth to a daughter. But by spring both Hans and the baby were dead, victims of tuberculosis. Kristina collapsed, deeply depressed, and was committed to a mental hospital. She never fully recovered.
In accordance with professional genealogy's ethical guidelines, I do not hide from clients the facts that I discover in my research. Therefore, if you commission a study on your family history, you should be prepared for unexpected and possibly distressing information.
My previous research into Swedish and Swedish-American families has revealed cases of murder, suicide, drowning, theft, mistreatment of children, child marriage, illegitimate births, bigamy, adultery, illegal fornication, irregular marital arrangements, desertion by soldiers from the military, desertion by unmarried men of women they have made pregnant, desertion by married men of their wives and children, desertion by women of their children, desertion by children of their aged and ill parents, excessive gambling, drunkenness, physical handicaps and disfigurements, horrendous diseases, psychiatric disorders, and extreme poverty, as well as confinement to psychiatric institutions, prisons, orphanages, workhouses, and poorhouses.
Having Martha Garrett do research on your family history is like opening Pandora’s box. If your family has an interesting secret, she will probably find it. Birgitta F, Malmö