"I will not have a single person slighted or left away"

"This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you."

Friends of mine, friends of this blog, now it can be told: I am one quarter Swedish. I will pause for you to regain your composure after this revelation.

If you know me personally, you know that my highbrow film director of choice is Peter Greenaway, not Ingmar Bergman; my classical musical tastes running to Purcell or Gilbert & Sullivan, rather than... whoever the Swedish composers are. Even with the Muppets, I always preferred Sam the Eagle to the Swedish Chef. I have just never really cared about Sweden. I don't even like Swedish fish.

More Robert Bork than "Bork bork bork!"

My other half, at least, has an interest in some things Swedish, if you count ABBA, and Ikea's meatballs. Can we assume this swedophile tendency accounts for at least 25% of his affection for me?

If you know me through this blog alone, you will know that the ancestry I have written about is primarily British (either English or Scotch-Irish), with occasional forays into France and Denmark, but never Sweden. Until now.

This Scandinavian heritage comes to me by way of my paternal grandmother, Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002); she is unique among my grandparents as she was the only first-generation American, born of immigrants. She loved all things Swedish, at least, and contributed elements of my costume, seen below, in a school pageant from second grade. (We sang a medley of "it's a small world" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.") Inexplicably, I am holding a Danish flag, although I notice one of the girls in the front does have a Swedish flag... lilla slyna.

"A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America."
Harper Elementary School, Fountain Valley, California.

Anyway. Grandma Hazel's parents were Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svärd (Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914). Although both were born in southwest Sweden in the Västra Götaland area, they emigrated to America in 1888 and 1892, respectively. Erick, the oldest of nine children, came alone (his four youngest siblings following some years later); Marie seems to have arrived with or shortly after her only sister, Ida Carolina Svärd (29 Apr 1872 - 4 Nov 1952).

At any rate, by 1900, they were both living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Erick was working as a railroad foreman, while Marie was a waitress in her sister's cafe; perhaps that is where they met? They married on 17 January 1903, in Minneapolis.

Wedding Portrait.

The Erickson's first child, William Arvid Erickson (21 Jun 1905 - 18 Apr 1954), was born in 1905 in Hibbing Minnesota (where just a few years later the Greyhound Bus company would be founded), followed in 1910 by my grandmother. Interestingly, Hibbing is also the home town of Bob Dylan, who in nearly every way imaginable is the exact opposite of my grandmother Hazel, who, despite many nice attributes, was famously uptight and perpetually fussy, which seems to neatly put to rest the idea that environment has much to do with personality, but I digress....

The Ericksons remained in St Louis county, now home also to Erick's youngest three brothers, who worked the mines in the Iron Range. Then in 1914, Marie died, age thirty-nine, leaving her husband alone with two young children.

Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis Minnesota.
Photo courtesy of  Reed and Mary Lou Erickson

Erick, William, and Hazel returned to Minneapolis, where Erick continued working as a railroad foreman. Sometime after 1920, my grandmother went to live with her aunt and uncle, Ida Carolina (Svärd) and Gustaf Ferdinand Erickson (5 Jun 1865 - 24 Jun 1943, and no apparent relation to her father), and their three children. My grandmother's cousin Grace B Erickson (22 Aug 1898 - 12 Apr 1993) was like an older sister to Hazel, and they remained close until her death.

From left: Hazel Lucille Erickson, Erick Albert Erickson,
 Grace B Erickson, Ida Carolina Svärd. Probably the late 'teens.

By 1930, my grandmother was living with the other Ericksons in Minneapolis, but neither her father nor brother William are to be found, at least on the 1930 U S Federal Census. It all balances out, however, as Erick, Marie and William appear twice on the 1910 Census, unless there happen to be two families with the same names, birth dates and locations, and father's occupation; both families living in St Louis County. Of course, with so many Swedish Ericksons in Minnesota at the time, anything's possible....

Erick Albert Erickson continued to work on the railroad for a few more years, finally retiring and living with his son William until his death in 1948. My grandmother met my grandfather, married, and had three boys.... But that story is for another time.

Left: my grandparents, Hazel Lucille Erickson and Leroy "Roy" Stanley Burnett.
At her feet is her cousin Russell Fillmore Erickson (11 Jun 1910- 3 Sep 1988).
Right: Hams indeed! Grandpa Roy, cousin Russell, and Grandma's brother William Arvid Erickson.

As I said, I've not had much interest in Sweden, and by extension that part of my family tree. Growing up, on summer vacations or other trips, my paternal grandparents, she prissy and humorless, he stern and humorless, were not much fun. So dour, so Swedish (at least in her case; he was a dour Yankee).

Seeing the photos above, however, I wish I had known them better.

1  Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948), son of Erik Andersson (24 Oct 1830 -1917) and Anna Charlotte Clauson (5 Oct 1841 -1920), married Johanna Maria "Marie" Svärd (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), daughter of Johannes Svärd (3 Jun 1837 - 27 Oct 1917) and Katarina Larsdotter (8 Jun 1830 - 30 Jan 1896), on 17 Jan 1903, in Minneapolis Minnesota.

2  Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002) married Leroy Stanley "Roy" Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980), son of Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) and Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 21 June 1933.

3  [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (5 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), in Long Beach, California, on 4 March 1961.

4  Your humble blogger.


  1. Great blog, I'm glad you wrote about your Swedish ancestry as we are related! I have met both Hazel and Grace. My grandmother is Lois Hansen (Masunaga by marriage) and her mother was Essella Erickson daughter of Ida Carolina. I believe that in one of the pictures the woman you labeled as Ida is actually Essella. So we are relatives/cousins of some sort!

  2. As far as I can tell, we are second cousins, three times removed, our common ancestors being Johannes Svard and Katarina Larsdotter. My father knew your grandparents well, and would visit them whenever he was in Hawaii. As for the photo, if you're sure, I'll change the caption. Those were the names I was given. Are you interested in genealogy at all?