On July 24th, 2018, I was privileged to attend a family reunion in Wheeler Park near the west banks of the Fox River in Geneva, Illinois. This was no ordinary reunion for me, however, as it was actually for the Olson family instead of the Thorins. As it turns out, the Olsons are the descendants of Erik Gabriel Thorin, who immigrated to America shortly after Joseph Arvid Thorin and stayed in Batavia, Illinois (just south of Geneva), while Joseph went further west to Iowa. The two families had not made direct contact in some 80 or 90 years.

The last time the families had made contact was recounted to me by Dorothy Thorin who said she faintly recalled cousins visiting from Chicago when she was a young child. Photographic evidence of such visits seemed to manifest at the reunion where pictures of my great-grandfather appeared with inscriptions possibly written by the visiting cousins on one of their visits. These cousins would have been Erik’s daughters, Mary Erika Thorin and Louise Thorin.

Emil Thorin on the left and my great-grandfather, Johan “Lennart” Thorin, on the right. This picture was in the Olson family photo album with the accompanying inscription as shown below.
This was the caption on the back of the photo of Johan “Lennart” Thorin and his brother, Emil. The inscription reads, “Emil is the same age as Mary. He was nineteen the 13 of March.” I suspect this photo was taken before Mary and Louise’s visit described by Dorothy since this would have been 1924 and Dorothy was not born until 1929.

Most of the people there were descended from Louise, who married a man named Elmer Olson. Interestingly I found that some of the family had taken Thorin as a middle name, but they all pronounced it differently than I did! They said the Americanized “thor-in” where I say it in the Swedish “thor-een.” There were even some Swedes at the reunion who confirmed that my family’s pronunciation was the Swedish way! It was confirmed by one of Louise’s daughters that her grandmother, Erik Thorin’s wife, insisted on Americanizing the family and went so far as to pronounce the name as an American would.

Following are some photos highlighting some of the discoveries from the wonderful reunion. I hope to make it back to another Olson family reunion soon!

Relatives of the Olson family look over family charts by a sign that reads “Välkommen hit!” or “Welcome here!” The reunion took place during the annual Batavia, Illinois, Swedish days. Such a high concentration of Swedes settled in Batavia that celebrations of Swedish heritage are an area-wide event to this day.
This stunning and handsome portrait of Johannes Josefsson Thorin was in the Olson family album. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the wonderfully preserved image of my 3rd-great-grandfather of whom I am his direct patrilineal heir.
This wonderful photo of my 2nd-great-grandfather, Joseph Arvid Thorin, was also in the Olson album. He was Erik’s brother and the first of the two siblings to immigrate to the US from Sweden. This photo actually did not have any damage when I first saw it at the reunion but a gracious family member there wanted to give me the photo and accidentally broke it before my eyes as he attempted to remove it from the album!
A family chart (redacted for privacy) of the Anderson tree. Erik Thorin married Mathilda “Tillie” Anderson and had two daughters before Erik passed away.
I did not previously know how Erik had died but only knew that it was an untimely death at the prime age of 30. This Swedish newspaper clipping announces the sad news that Erik died in a drowning accident in Elgin, Illinois.
This is a letter from my 3rd-great-grandfather, Johannes, and his wife, Lovisa, written to Erik’s grieving widow, Mathilda “Tillie” Anderson and their now-fatherless granddaughter Louise (“lilla Lovisa” which means “little Lovisa”). They did not yet know apparently that Mathilda was then 6-months pregnant with Erik’s second daughter, Mary Erika Thorin (her middle name apparently an homage to her late father). Read the full letter and its translation here.
An Olson works with two visiting Swedish relatives (on the right) to translate letters sent between the Thorins back in Sweden and Erik and Mathilda in Illinois.
This is a lovely and somewhat heartbreaking photo of Erik and Mathilda before Erik passed away. The way the lean toward each other indicates a tenderness and love for each other that was a nice touch to this early portrait. May the memory of the young father live on on both the Olson and Thorin sides of the family.

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