Sweden and North Dakota: Local Genealogy and Google Earth

During the first week of July 2012, I sat down with my grandmother, Vivian Marie (“Larson”) Barth, and we started chatting about genealogy. We, as in the Royal Humanity We, are interested in genealogy for several

Vivian points to a Google Earth map focused in on the near historic archaeological townsite of Bremen, North Dakota. Her father, H.T. Larson, and his brothers and relations settled in and around Bremen and throughout Valhalla Township.

reasons. One of the reasons has to do with identity, or explaining who we can identify with, and how we identify who we are when asked by others. Large genealogical thinkers are often reflected in the form of theologians and naturalists (such as Charles Darwin): they have thought long and hard about where humanity came from, or might have come from.

Another reason we are obsessed with genealogy has to do with trying to explain to ourselves and others with better detail where we came from (when we know our origins, it gives us a feeling — delusional or not — that we know exactly where we are going, a way in which to push into the future).  It’s a fallacy to think that those in the past had such clarity of vision and that they new exactly where they were going. It is only the present, or present mindedness, that imposes this view on the past.

Anyhow, while chatting with this 96 year old Swede, I was able to capture some more focused familial history that invariably reflected a broader historical pattern (migration patterns and that thing we call diaspora). Vivian’s father (or my Swedish great grandfather, Hans Theodore Larson, or “H.T.” as he

Ivö, Sweden on a Google Earth map.

preferred to be called), came to the United States with his Uncle Pehr in 1889. H.T was 13 years old at the time, and he eventually found himself in Willmar, Minnesota (amongst other folks who talked his talk as well). I knew H.T. came from Skåne, but I did not know he came from the eastern portion of Skåne called Ivö. While sitting with Vivian, I pulled Google Earth up on the laptop and typed in “Ivö, Sweden” and hit “return.” The Google Earth map went from the now nearly historic archaeological townsite of Bremen, North Dakota (in northeastern Wells County), zoomed out, and then back in to the rural Ivö setting in southern Sweden. Below is a short clip of Vivian recalling where her father came from. One more ancillary note: does anyone else see a likeness in facial features between my grandma and the sitting Swedish King? Yeah, you’re right, I’m probably just projecting.

3 responses to “Sweden and North Dakota: Local Genealogy and Google Earth

  • Vivian Marie (Larson) Barth | The Edge of the Village

    […] She was the reason we think of Swedes as stoic, and by no means was she void of emotion. She loved her family, her friends, her church, and her community. On occasion she would inject a sharp quip that would bring gravity to any lofty conversation. I once said to her, after reading in Engelhardt’s history of Fargo-Moorhead about J.A. Johnson, the first long-time Swedish mayor of Fargo, that he was mayor for 5 terms. Without missing a beat, Grandma Barth responded with, “Sounds like someone was in office for way too long.” This caused me to laugh out loud. While driving around with Grandma Barth, she once gave an indirect opinion of conspicuous consumption by simply saying, “You don’t need all that money to live and be happy.” Yes, we will miss you Grandma Barth, but your intellect and wisdom will continue echoing through the ages. You taught us well. A full obituary is linked here, and some reflections from Grandma Barth are linked to here and here. […]

  • jbarth53

    Such a great story!! Thanks for putting this on of Grandma Barth!!

  • Fargo Trolls and Ragnarok Weekend | The Edge of the Village

    […] Trolls have increasingly interested me as of late. In genealogical e-mail conversations with Valerie Larson-Wolfe, a distant Swedish-American cousin of mine (who lives in Chico, California), she mentioned that our great-great-Swedish uncle August used to remark on how, as a young boy, he used to see trolls in and around his family’s farm near Ïvo in southern Sweden. […]

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