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Linda and I have taken genealogy vacations almost every year since 1990, and including sightseeing and visiting family in many of them. I’m counting conferences and cruises with genealogy companies in this list.
The BEST genealogy vacation for us was in August 1999 – we visited Scandinavia for three weeks. We flew from San Diego to Stockholm, Sweden, flew to Lulea, Sweden where our friends picked us up, spent a week in Finland in Tornio, Kuopio, and Helsinki, visited Tallinn, Estonia, flew from Helsinki to Oslo, Norway, took the train to Voss and Bergen, then flew from Bergen to Srockholm, and Stockholm to San Diego.
* In 1994, we hosted two Finnish high school girls in our home for three weeks who were on an exchange program. They were smart, sweet and fun, and our daughter Tami had a car and they all had a great time in San Diego. Mia lived in Tornio in the far north of Finland on the Gulf of Bothnia, and Anna lived in Kuopio in the middle of the country.
* Linda’s maiden name is Leland, and was derived from Liland farm in Voss. She has one-fourth Norwegian ancestry. I did Norwegian genealogy research during the first half of 1999, identifying the part of her ancestry centered on Voss in Hordaland. Her Norwegian ancestors went to Dane county, Wisconsin the mid-1850s.
* Linda’s brother had done quite a bit of Leland family history and had visited the Liland farm near Voss in Norway back in 1980. To prepare for our vacation, I tried to find Linda’s Norwegian ancestral families and had some luck – I used the Voss bygdebok (farm book) and Voss Parish Registers at the FHC to trace her families back into the 1600’s before we went. I used contacts from the Norway genealogy message board to ask questions, get answers, etc.
The highlights of the entire vacation:
* Stockholm was for sightseeing and getting acclimated to the time change. We did try reindeer meat. The flight to Lulea was to get close to Tornio.
* Mia and her father Kalle met us at the airport in Lulea, and drove us the 50 miles or so to Tornio. We loved Kalle and Aila, who both spoke English) and wanted to experience all of the beauty and food and features of Finland. We spent ten days with them. Mia had taught me some Finnish words in 1994, but all I could remember was the word for cucumber, and she taught me more on this trip. We met Aila’s parents and sisters. We took a day trip to Rovaniemi to visit the Arctic Circle and Santa’s village, and to an uncle at a cabin near Tornio which had a sauna. After several days, we all drove through Oulu (where Mia attended the university) to Kuopio where Anna and her family lived. We stayed two nights, and did some sightseeing, then we drove to Helsinki to sightsee. Two days was sightseeing around Helsinki, and one day was on a boat trip to Tallinn, which was fun to sightsee.
We have remained friends since then, exchanging Christmas cards, and Kalle and Aila came to San Diego in 2003 to visit us and sightsee in America. Mia has visited us several times since – one time in 2000 when she was doing graduate work, and other times on business.
Kalle, Aila and Mia dropped us at the airport in Helsinki and it was hard to say goodbye.
* We flew to Oslo, Norway for the "genealogy" part of the vacation. We spent two days in Oslo sightseeing and one night we met up with three Norwegian genealogists whom I "met" online on the Norway message board. They invited many Americans to visit and have a meal with them. I had a genealogy mystery – I could not read the church register for Voss on a certain page – I thought it was for one of Linda’s direct line ancestors in Voss. One of the fellows took some notes on one of the ancestral families. He went to the Archives the next day and sent me an email at the hotel with the answer, just before we left for Voss.
* We arrived in Voss after a 6 hour train trip through the mountains with snow at the tops, and made it to our hotel via a taxi. I took off for the bookstore, the library and the Internet cafe in beautiful downtown Voss. I bought a book, got a good map, and checked my email.
The Voss scenery is breathtaking. There is a long lake, mountains all around, many rivers and streams, very green in the summer, and very white in the winter (it is a ski resort then). I had corresponded a bit with Svein Ulvund (see his photo site here) and he knew the layout of the area.
* One of my message board friends had been to Voss the year before, and recommended that I contact Bjorg Liland, who was related by marriage to the Liland farm families. We called the first night, and Bjorg graciously offered to drive us around the lake the next day. We visited Gjelle farm, Midtun farm, Molster farm and Liland farm, all ancestral farms. At Liland farm, Bjorg had arranged to talk to the family, compare genealogy notes and have a snack there – it was quite enjoyable, although the Liland ladies didn’t speak English, but Bjorg translated.
Molster farm was where Linda’s ancestors lived just before they left for Wisconsin in 1855. It is now a "living museum" vintage 1855, with docents in each room, and a small artifacts room. I enjoyed it tremendously, especially the food cooked in the kitchen.
Needless to say, we really appreciated Bjorg’s efforts on our behalf and we treated her to a nice dinner at the Park Liland Hotel in downtown Voss (she used to work there). A few days later, she invited us over for dessert at her apartment. We did more sightseeing – we took the excellent "Norway in a Nutshell" tour) and visited the ski area in the mountains above the town.
* Finally, we took the train to Bergen and did some sightseeing. We then flew home from Bergen via Stockholm and Chicago.
We had a wonderful three weeks in Scandinavia.
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