There are moments in time that never seem to disappear from our memory. It is as if they were yesterday. As a fledgling genealogist surfing the internet on Yahoo late into the evening some years ago, I came upon the Finnish American Heritage Society. A tiny photograph caught my eye and sparked interest. Once I read the caption, I realized I had found a treasure I could never have imagined!
The first thing I did was enlarge it and print it. As my printer went from side to side, I felt like the photographer waiting for the image to take shape in the developing tray. When I saw the printed copy my curiosity was heightened, as I imagined, and perhaps even then realized that all the folks in the photo were most likely relatives.
I could see my father as a young fourteen-year-old wearing a crisp white shirt and long slender tie standing directly behind his grandfather, Johan. Who were all the other people?
I immediately sent an email to the webmaster inquiring about the picture. Before I knew it, I had a response from a cousin, Chuck Altonen (in Ohio) and he reassured me that all the people in the photo were my relatives, descendants of Johan and Sanna Karhu, my maternal grandmother Ida Karhu’s parents. He informed me that he was the historian in the family.
Growing up in different countries we had little contact with our American relatives.
Many years passed. I kept in touch with several relatives in Ohio. During the summer of 2010 I drove to Ashtabula to take part in the Altonen, Karhu, Kuivinen Lindell Family reunion.
Finally, I met long lost cousins. They showed me around Ashtabula Harbour where grandfather had his shop, the family farm outside town, the famous swing bridge and the lighthouse. I visited the original Bethany Lutheran Church that my relatives attended and where my Dad was confirmed.
The little photograph I first saw on the computer screen has been an inspiration over the years. I have dabbled in our family history and the reunion in Ohio in 2010 was the catalyst behind a Canadian Lindell Family reunion during the summer of 2012. Forty direct descendants of our parents, Karl and Estelle Lindell, my siblings and their extended families from across Canada and the U.S. spent the weekend together at our brother Karl’s home at Cedar Farm in Walter’s Falls, Ontario. Unfortunately about twenty family members residing in Nunavut were unable to attend but were with us in spirit.
One of the rooms in the studio had been transformed into a mini-museum with a huge family tree showing all the descendants of the Canadian Lindells. The younger generation were interested in the family tree which had photographs. Some of the young people were meeting for the first time and relationships were immediately established. Teen-agers and little ones alike.
The weekend passed ever so quickly. Some of the adults enjoyed a sauna, children splashed in the pool and burnt off energy on the huge trampoline. Many of the youngsters took a trip to the the neighboring farm to visit the family horses. Others tended the bar and BBQ, so no one went hungry or thirsty. During the first evening we sat around a campfire, sang and reminisced about past exploits.
Saturday evening we gathered in a local community hall and shared in a catered meal. As the family historian I was asked to share several stories about our parents and their ancestors. We adjourned to the main hall where music was provided by the younger set and everyone got in to the dancing spirit.
Sunday morning between rain showers we managed to get the entire group together for a family photograph when the sun made an appearance. Before long it was time for some of us to begin the long drive home, after having spent a wonderful weekend.
It was a simple family weekend. One to remember.