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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back to work

The last few days before I started work again this Monday were hectic. I tried to do as much research as possible before I would have to go to work to actually work. It doesn't feel that much different, although getting out of bed early is not pleasant. I have taken it easy, we have had some meetings to discuss the future and I have deleted a few hundred e-mail messages. It's fairly slow at the library at this time of year, we mostly have returned books to deal with now.

Last week we had the Christmas party, arranged by the social club. I didn't do much this time, only one meeting prior to it and then decorating the room. We had catering, so it wasn't such hard work for us. It was quite fun and people seemed to enjoy themselves. This year's theme was water and a guy who had dressed himself in a shower curtain won first prize. Others dressed up as a sailor, crab, fisherman and seal. Santa visited also, of course.

Friday the trains were cancelled and the library was closed in the afternoon due to a storm, so I stayed at home and decorated my apartment for Christmas. I brought down the fake tree from the attic and put loads of ornaments on it. It looks pretty good, actually. There is also a star in the window, additional decorations everywhere and I even exchanged the table runners.

The Christmas gift from work is a copper colored thermos. The company who failed to install the sprinkler system correctly has also bribed us with two barrels (over 40 kilos) of candy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Old letters and photos

I have spent much of my time reading through all the letters my great grandfather wrote to his brother. It's not a complete set, but there are letters from the 1930's to the 1950's. He mentioned, among many other things, that he had written an article about Alsace in a specific newspaper "a couple of years ago". Very disturbing not to get the details, but I actually found it. He had also written down some of his memoirs, mostly relating to his job as a sales director at Swedish Match. He travelled extensively in Europe from 1920 to 1955, and he had friends all over the world. He actually went to the US on business in 1951 and for the first time had a Coca-cola to drink - he liked it. This soft drink didn't make it to Sweden until 1953. It's wonderful to get this much material, but somewhat overwhelming. It requires a lot of research because he mentioned many things; factories, companies, people and places that I know very little about.

I can't explain in words how interesting this project is. This is really my thing - doing research, finding facts and searching for clues in books, newspapers and archive material. If I could have this as a job it would be great. Sadly, there is no money in this kind of work. It's very time consuming.

This past Saturday my father and his girlfriend came to visit. We went to Ikea in Helsingborg. We started out with lunch and then walked through this enormous store. I bought a cabinet to have in the hall. You have to assemble the furniture yourself and my father helped me. I haven't filled it yet, but it's only a matter of time. My father gave me one more box with old photos, so I have been busy scanning them also.

Winter is here. It's fairly cold, just above freezing temperature, dark, cloudy and windy. No snow yet in the south.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Research in Stockholm

While I was at work last Tuesday I printed a few copies of the first version of the book about Olga. I brought them with me on the trip to Stockholm, so that the relatives could read it and make corrections to it. There will be a second version later when I have added all the comments, both from the proof-reader and the relatives.

Wednesday morning I got out of bed early and took a train to Lund. Not the one I had planned on, unfortunately. I didn't think I would need 45 minutes to make a ten minute train ride, but things never cease to amaze me. Several trains in a row were cancelled and there was not a chance to get a taxi. When I finally arrived in Lund on an overcrowded train the limit had passed to the connecting train. I was very lucky, however, and made it onboard the long distance train with about 20 second's margin. It was delayed too. Not a good start, but everything went well after that. I was on my way to Stockholm, but made a detour to Jönköping about half way up. Jönköping is situated by the southern shore of Lake Vättern, our second largest lake. It's a very windy place. This was the town where my great grandfather Arndt and his family lived in the 1930s. My grandmother graduated from school here. I started out at the Matchstick Museum, right by the train station. A unique place, related to my family history. Arndt worked for Swedish Match as a sales director from 1920 until 1955. The head office was moved from Stockholm to Jönköping in 1933 and Arndt had to move there too. The museum depicted the factory work mostly, but also matchbox making, aspen splinting and the big boss Ivar Kreuger. Mr Kreuger tried to build a matchstick empire, but the Wall Street crash of 1929 made him bancrupt and he ended up dead, presumably by his own hand, in 1932. The company lived on thanks to government loans. The history of Swedish Match will be included in the book about Arndt. I took photos of the factory buildings, the former head office and the school. After a nice Italian style lunch I continued on by train to Stockholm. I settled in with my mother's cousin, like every time I visit the nation's capital.

Thursday morning I walked to a church to visit Arndt's gravesite. It's in a very unusual place; a columbarium underneath the church. Not difficult to find, but the staff had forgotten to unlock the door. After a while I got help and located the space. It was a plaque with Arndt's and his wife's names on and behind it were the urns. Sadly, about this time my camera decided to quit functioning, but I got the most important photos taken. After lunch I took the subway three stations to visit Arndt's nephew. He had found letters Arndt had written to his brother. We talked about family the entire afternoon. They know so much more about Arndt and his siblings than I do. I was also given the letters and I'm very grateful for this.

Friday I took the subway four stations and then a bus for about 20 minutes. I visited the Stockholm branch of the National Archives for the very first time. I studied original documents written by Arndt in his capacity as a director of an import organization during World War II. This organization tried to import chemicals to Sweden's industries, which was increasingly difficult under those circumstances. Very interesting documents.

Saturday I went to the Royal Library. I had applied for a library card on-line and ordered books ahead of time. There were some Swedish-American books we don't have at my library and I wanted to look at them. I also went to the newspaper room. They have digitized some newspapers and I searched for articles about Swedish Match. Found some interesting ones.

Sunday I took the westbound regional train about 40 minutes to visit my aunt. She had agreed to be interviewed about her grandfather Arndt. She gave me lots of information and also some poems and stories he had written. I was treated for a salmon lunch and then we went to see my grandfather. The 100-year old is now in a care facility and not that happy about the situation. He was glad to see me, however. We talked some about his life story also and I wrote it down. It turns out that he and the woman he didn't know at that time, but would later become his wife, were both abroad the day World War II broke out, and both had problems getting back to Sweden.

Monday morning I did more research at the Royal Library. I disturbed my fellow librarians by asking stupid questions. Of course, I never told them what my job is. At noon I took the long distance train back home, without detours this time.

At home, I re-packed my bag, and the next morning I went on a train to a place in Halland province, Falkenberg. It's a seaside town with lots of tourists in the summer. In the winter you can get discounts on the spa treatments there. My mother had found a good deal and booked an overnight stay with two treatments included. The only complaint I have about the whole thing is my mother's snoring. She said the same about me. It was a very nice visit. The food was marvelous, we had a three course meal with grilled trout in the evening. The spa was great with three different saunas, facial treatments and a warm indoor pool with a view of the ocean. This afternoon we got massage, which again pointed out where my back problems are located. We managed to get back to the train station just in time, my mother went north and I went south to get home. Needless to say, I'm pretty tired now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book searching

I have visited my workplace every day for a week now. My great grandfather worked at a large company and I have searched for information about it. There was quite a lot and I have written a couple of pages about it in the book. Tomorrow I'm going to Stockholm to visit relatives. They have dug into their family archives and have located some old letters and photos for me, so I will go there to look at it and bring some of it home.

Today I was at work to actually work. The social club board had a meeting to discuss the upcoming Christmas party. It was also a convenient day to visit, because the building administration treated us all for lunch. Probably a bribe or consolation for the mess the leaking sprinkler system has caused. The woman who works with preservation said that all the books survived in pretty good shape, thanks to the staff members who worked very quickly to get them frozen. Today I also solved a mystery here. Four book boxes were missing on the shelf and it looked like they had never been there, there was no space for them. After three others had searched I found the boxes on a cart five meters away. I got a chocolate bar as a reward. My reputation as a book locating detective is still intact.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Water and books should be kept apart

My life is mostly about research these days. I have made it to a couple of malls, and at my favorite one outside Helsingborg I bought a long ash grey cardigan. But mostly I sit long hours in front of a computer, either at home, at the library or at the archive. I was at the library last Friday and that was not pleasant. The brand new sprinkler system collapsed and water poured out over the floors and book cases in the public areas of the library. Our visitors have never seen so many staff members at once. Librarians are rarely seen running in the corridors, but this was not an ordinary day. We got the situation under control in about one hour, with the help of the cleaning staff. We were lucky, only three books were damaged by the water. We don't count the two chairs, the table or the poster in the exhibit hall.

I was at the library during the weekend and I could hear the sprinkler company people work in the building. The research I did there was a success, I found a piece of information I never thought I would get. Olga wrote in her almanacs many times from about 1947 to 1978 that she had either written to or received a letter from "Gladys in America". That was it. No address, no last name, no indication to who this woman was. Very frustrating. It turns out that Olga's brother-in-law Christian had several nephews who emigrated around 1910-1914. I found all of them in New York, and one had a daughter named Gladys! I was able to follow her in the records up to 1940, after that it gets difficult, since she probably married. So far I haven't found her in any death records and she might actually still be alive. I don't need to go any further with this case, I'm just happy that I found out who "Gladys in America" was.

Monday morning I got out of bed surprisingly early to go to the Archive Center. I needed to use their databases. After lunch I went to the library and was told by my colleagues that they had had a terrible day. At eight in the morning (before the library opens), a sprinkler pipe had burst and lots of water had damaged a large part of the reference collection. I listened in amazement when they talked about the incredible job they had done. It probably sounds odd, but in order to save water-damaged books, you have to deep freeze them immediately. We have a small freezer and the Archive Center has one, mostly used to prevent vermin from surviving in old paper material. They were both filled with our reference books. This was not enough space, however, so one of the grocery stores now house boxes with our books in their freeze storage!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall break at the summerhouse

Last week was fall break for the school kids. My mother made the trip down to the summerhouse Tuesday by train and bus with the two grandkids. I arrived an hour early to get the fridge and heat turned on in the house. It wasn't cold at all, it was around 15 centigrades most of the time. My sister joined us a few days later. We got some things done, we mowed the lawn and burned a lot of fallen tree branches. We used the fire to grill sausages. This weekend we actually bought a pumpkin and carved eyes and a mouth in it. We placed a candle inside and put it out on the deck in the evening. It's not a Swedish custom, but the kids here are taking after the American Halloween traditions. They sometimes also go "trick-or-treating". (And I can see why).

My father came to visit to play with his grandkids mostly. He had been in Stockholm to help getting my 100 year-old grandfather into a permanent care facility. My grandfather, who celebrated his big birthday in May, fell during the summer and broke his hip. He was in hospital for a while, and then in a short term facility. Now my father and his sisters were there to clear out his apartment and divide the items between them. They found lots of old photo albums, some of which my father brought down to give me. It was a real treasure, there were lots of photos depicting many of my father's ancestors. Many photos of his mother I had never seen before. There were also photos of Olga. It seems like her own photos and a scrapbook had ended up in my grandmother's possession. It was great to get all this, but now the book about Olga will be delayed, because I have to add information and images.

For me, the visit to the summerhouse ended Saturday. We went to the cemetery to put flowers on the family graves, and we met a relative there (a living one). My mother's cousin, I hadn't seen him in probably 20 years. He remembered that I was interested in genealogy. After this, we went to a nearby town for afternoon coffee at my mother's friend's place. Then I took the train back home. Sunday I picked up a parcel (these days you most often go to the grocery store to do that). I didn't know what it was, but guessed it was a prize in a consumer competition and I was right. I had handed in the flyer in a store, and won a picnic basket and some gift certificates.

The research for the books I work on continues. I visit my workplace so often that many of my colleagues now think that I have returned to my job, and I have a hard time telling them that I'm only there to use the databases and the scanner. It will take quite a while to get all those photos scanned.

And I almost forgot to write that two weeks ago I joined some of my colleagues to go bowling in Malmö. It's an annual event arranged by the social club. Dinner was also included, the food is great there. A very nice evening.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

One more project

I have been busy doing lots of research. One more visit to the archive was necessary. The book about Olga is almost finished. It will be about 75 pages. I have added photos and images, and I have to say that it was more challenging than expected. Some photos were in my camera, others as pdf-files and jpg-files.

I have already started on a new project. My great grandfather Arndt (Olga's brother) will be the next subject. Olga wrote a fair amount about him also in her almanacs and there are supposed to be letters he wrote to his brother. Arndt died before I was born, so I never met him. I think this project will be more difficult, because there isn't as much material as in Olga's case. We'll see how it goes.

I have made some excursions in Skåne (I have a train pass valid in the entire region). There was a mail order company which had a closing-down sale and had opened their storage to sell to the public. They sell arts and crafts material, like ribbons, Christmas decorations, souvenirs, beads and all kinds of ornaments. All of it was spread out in this large warehouse in random order (at least so it seemed). It took a long time to go through, but it was quite interesting. I got some small things, it was extremely cheap.

It was also time to get new sandals. There is one particular kind that I get, which is very heavy-duty black leather sandals. I walk a lot on concrete floors at work, so I need shoes with thick soles. Sometimes I buy them in Copenhagen, but last time I was there the store didn't have my size. There is another store in the southern part of Skåne which imports them, so I placed an order there and had to go on a long train ride to pick them up.

The fall weather changed from nice and sunny to very windy and rainy just over the last few days. I couldn't find my boots this morning (they might be in the attic), so I had to wear sneakers. Not a wise decision. I was soaked from head to toe (literally) when I came home this evening. It doesn't help much to use an umbrella, it soaks through after a while.