Monday, September 15, 2008

Old Country for New Men


I discovered a bit more of my heritage over this past weekend. Yes, most of us can count several cultures and peoples of differing backgrounds in our genetic lines, me included. The fact is, if we go back far enough we are all related in some miniscule way, correct?

Well, I, being a man with a surname like most (Prince and Sting not withstanding), have always 'owned' the line of my father, and my grandfather, and my grandfather's father, and my grandfather's father's father, and so on and so on. If you follow the 'Austin' line back far enough, as my Uncle Jack Austin has done for the Austin line I decend from, I can count a member of my ancestral line as being part of the original Plymouth colony. If you go even further back, my ancestors were vassals of Saint Augustus in England in the 1500's. This is most likely where the Austin name originated. I am taking Uncle Jack's word here. I haven't done my own research but he is a decent enough fellow and sounded pretty convincing when we spoke. So, given all this I have identified myself with the English on my Fathers side, and also of German heritage on my Maternal Grandfather's side although I don't know as much about that line. I also know that there is Welsh background in my Maternal Grandmother's line.

Now, as recent developments have made it clear to me, my Paternal Grandmother Retha, who passed away in 2007 rest her soul, was of Swedish Heritage. I hadn't really thought of it until recently, when I learned that a 3rd cousin from Sweden, Magnus Julleryd and his mother Inger had done some of their own genealogy research and found our branch of Grandma's family right here in Washington State. In fact, they were going to be visiting this month. My parents, along with my some of my aunts and uncles decided to host a reunion for that line on my family dairy farm with over 100 of our closest relatives on Gram Cracker's ( as we affectionately called her) side of the family.

That was Sunday. The day turned out beautiful with plenty of fall sunshine, the atmosphere was festive, the people friendly and as one long-lost relative appropriately described: "it was terrific to get people together without it being a funeral." After a hearty feast, cousin Magnus gathered everyone around, and with a megaphone, described the journey of his Great-Great Uncle Henry (my Great Grandfather) and how that led to his own journey, along with his mother, and brought him to our small corner of the world to meet his extended American family.


After Magnus spoke at length about this story, he was kind enough to hand out gifts for many in the crowd of distant relatives. This included handheld Swedish Flags, Soccer (football) jerseys for the kids, and Swedish yellow and blue baseball caps for many of the adults. Lukas received his very own toddler yellow football jersey and a Swedish flag, which he proudly waved about and unwittingly poked people with. After the gifts, it was time for group pictures, desert, and more conversation to round out the afternoon. Magnus was a very nice fellow, and many of us wanted to return the favor by traveling to visit him in Sweden some day!

Now, I along with Lukas, can also proudly identify ourselves to a certain extent as being of Swedish heritage. Who knows, maybe Lukas will even grow up one day join the ranks of famous Swedish Americans - Kirsten Dunst, The Big Train Walter Johnson, Ingrid Bergen, and The Swedish Chef ("borg she borg she bort bort") come immediately to mind. The possibilities are endless!

At the very least, I know I will be watching the Olympics and World Cup Soccer in the future with more of an interest in how my cousins from the Old Country are faring. I will certainly be there in spirit, rooting them on and raising a pint of Nils Oscar in their honor.

However, I am not sure what I'll do when they face the English. Probably raise a pint of Newcastle with my free hand!

8 comments:

Dan said...

i wouldn't worry about the English. we rarely qualify for anything these days (although we did do rather well at the olympics)

SciFi Dad said...

Whenever I think about this sort of thing, I am reminded that my father will be one of those asterisks when my descendants do it. When he immigrated to Canada, the officer misspelled his (our) surname. None of his siblings spell their surname like us, and when you google my last name, all the hits are Portuguese or Brazilian (we're Italian).

iVegasFamily said...

We're from California. That's all I know. Perhaps a little research will do me some good. I'd love to have a real "old country." Currently, it's L.A.

morethananelectrician said...

That Swedish Chef has some awfully big hands!

Magnus is an amazing name. I throw back my shoulders when I say it. It has such a powerful image that goes along with it!

James Austin said...

@Cousin Dan - I will be over to visit some day, so keep the refrigerator stocked with beer.

@Scifi - I didn't know that Scifi was an Italian name. Hmmm...

@VegasDad - Everyone comes from somewhere. I'm sure that if you dug a bit you would find history beyond LA.

@MTAE - That Swedish Chef cracks me up. Yes, Magnus is a cool name.

claresdad.com said...

My wife had people at Plymouth. You might be related. My people didn't show up until 250-300 years later.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

That's quite cool.

(geddit? cool? Sweden?)

James Austin said...

@Darren - Might be. I am finding that I have quite a few relatives recently that didn't know about.

Hey, if she ever wins the lottery I will be there, cause that is what distant relatives do.

@Xbox - I'm sure that it isn't always cold there. But what do I know?