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Otto and Ruth Lindberg

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Otto Lindberg was born in 1885 in Värmland, while Ruth was born in 1886 in Småland. They both came to Minnesota in 1904, but they did not know each other before immigrating. They met at the Swedish Tabernacle Church in downtown Minneapolis, where Otto sang in the choir, and they married soon after. Their daughter Katherine kept Swedish traditions alive in their family

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, thousands of people immigrated from Sweden to the United States, mainly the Midwest. Minnesota has one of the highest Swedish American populations today. My grandmother's grandparents, Otto and Ruth Lindberg, were a part of this influx of Swedish immigrants. They moved from Sweden to Minnesota as teenagers in the early 20th century. The story of my great-great-grandparent’s immigration from Sweden has a strong legacy that continues to impact the lives of myself and my family. We take part in Swedish traditions to remember our family’s history and acknowledge Otto and Ruth’s immigration story. Otto was born in 1885 in Värmland, while Ruth was born in 1886 in Småland. They both came to Minnesota in 1904, but they did not know each other before immigrating. They met at the Swedish Tabernacle Church in downtown Minneapolis, where Otto sang in the choir, and they married soon after.
Otto and Ruth had two children, including my great-grandmother Katherine, who was born in 1920. Although she was born in Minnesota, my great-grandmother’s Swedish roots were an extremely important part of her life. She grew up speaking Swedish, and everyone in my family called her Mormor, which means grandmother in Swedish. Some of Mormor’s extended family on her mother’s side still live in Sweden, and she often traveled there to visit them. Mormor was a strong supporter of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, and one of its rooms is even named after her. My great-grandmother was a strong presence in my life until her death in 2012, and she constantly ensured that my family remembered our Swedish culture. The emphasis that she placed on our heritage lives on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
As Mormor got older, Swedish customs became even more important for her as a way to acknowledge our family’s history. One of the most significant traditions that she started in my family was celebrating Santa Lucia Day, which is a traditional Scandinavian event. Typically celebrated on December 13th, Santa Lucia Day commemorates the Saint Lucia, who was killed in the year 304 because of her Christian beliefs. My family celebrates Santa Lucia on Christmas Eve, but we still follow many of the holiday’s usual elements. One of the girls dresses up as Santa Lucia and serves cookies to the rest of the family. We also sing the traditional song and read the story of Saint Lucia. This tradition allows my family to remember our Swedish heritage and feel a sense of connection with our ancestors who immigrated from Sweden.
My family’s history is an important part of my life because it has shaped who I am today. Being aware of my ancestry and participating in Swedish traditions allows me and my family to honor Otto and Ruth’s story and my great-grandmother’s commitment to keeping their legacy alive. Overall, my great-great-grandparent’s immigration from Sweden to Minnesota in the early 1900’s has a significant impact on the lives of my family and myself today.