Genealogy Journey: A Family Affair

1200-1700 Ancestral Farm, Elmelunde, Currenty a Museum & Farm Residency.jpg

By Linda Stewart


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel writer Linda Stewart discusses her genealogy journey through Scandinavia. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean.



My interest in genealogy springs from my childhood, when my father and grandfather would talk about our Danish heritage.  I also read the diaries of my great-great-grandparents.  Although we had some general family history at the time about their homeland and knew the names of a generation or two that came before them, today’s technology has made a tremendous impact on gathering family information that can go back hundreds of years.

A DNA test through was the first tool on my journey of ancestral discovery.  As I expected, Danish was a high percentage of my ethnicity. However, the test also showed a significant percentage of Swedish heritage, which was a surprise.

I started charting my family tree on Then my cousin told me about a free genealogy service,  I entered my ancestors’ names, birth dates, death dates, and places I knew they lived on both services.  There are other ancestry services, these are just the two I used. Thousands of entries have been added to the databases by these services, interested communities, and church volunteers (especially the Church of Latter-Day Saints).  Every day more official documents are uploaded to ancestry sites – baptismal records, marriage certificates, death certificates, military records, the U.S. Census, and even photos of cemetery headstones. The general public can also upload information, and although the vast majority of information is accurate, I have found a few errors.  So, my caveat would be to check that dates and relationships are exact. One of my interesting finds was my great-great-grandmother was from Sweden –– which explains my DNA report.

After gathering my genealogy information and entering locations on Google Maps, I went on a Scandinavian journey with my cousin and my great-niece. We represented three generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Z. Our first stop was at the Danish Island of Bornholm, located in the Baltic Sea, about 100 miles east of Copenhagen. The information from marriage and baptismal records allowed us to find the churches they attended, touch the baptismal font where they were baptized, and view the altar they stood before to say their wedding vows. The round churches on Bornholm date from the 12th and 13th centuries.


  • 1200-1700 Ancestral Farm, Elmelunde, Currenty a Museum & Farm Residency
    1200-1700 Ancestral Farm, Elmelunde, Currenty a Museum & Farm Residency


The beautiful frescoes were painted in the 14th century. The sea-faring Danes have models of ships hanging from the ceilings of their churches. This custom commemorates those who have been lost at sea, offers a symbolic safe return, and represents the church as a refuge.  Many Danish immigrants to North America took this custom with them, and ships can be found in some Lutheran churches in the United States today.

We found our most illustrious ancestor to be Captain Jens Pedersen Kofoed, 1621-1698, the Liberator of Bornholm, who regained the island back from Sweden, after it was lost in the Second Northern War (1658) between Denmark and Sweden.  It was exciting to find his estate, Maglegard.

We flew to Copenhagen from Bornholm Island and rented a car to drive across the Danish and Swedish countryside, visiting more towns from our family history: Mon, Ammendrup, Ugilt, Haestrup, and Tars (Hjorring). We also took in notable sites along the way with a 994 round trip step hike to Mon Klint (white cliffs made from 70-million-year-old seashell remains), and a visit to Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark.  Our noteworthy family discoveries were a family farm in Keldby, an estate in Ammendrup, and a creamery where my great-great-grandmother worked before emigrating to the U.S. in 1860. Lutheran Church records were invaluable because of the Scandinavian practice of patronymic, creating surnames from their father’s first name plus son or daughter, e.g., Lars Hanson’s children would have a surname of Larson or Larsdotter.

We took a ferry from Frederikshavn, Denmark to Goteborg, Sweden to see Sandhult, Bone, and Beatenberg.  Ekeskog Kyrka with a beautiful painted wood ceiling in Moholm was near the end of our heritage adventure and the resting place of our ancestor Lars Nillson 1726-1803.  As we reflected on our journey together, we felt a special connection to those family members who had come before us, recognizing their accomplishments and their challenges.  And we felt a special bond with each other.  I believe a genealogy journey adds a personal association and a sense of purpose to travel.

Linda Stewart, a former English teacher, is enjoying her newfound career as a writer of food, wine, cocktails, and travel.  Through the years she has lived in the Pacific Northwest, Washington, D.C., and Southern California and brings these different perspectives to her writing.  Cooking and the culinary arts have been her life-long passions, and she has edited and published three cookbooks for non-profits. Linda writes a cocktail column for titled, “The Cocktail Corner.”  This website encompasses food, travel, and the arts.  She also writes for and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA).





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About the Author:

Linda Stewart, a former English teacher, is enjoying her newfound career as a writer of food, wine, cocktails, and travel.

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