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June Pelo, a dedicated genealogist


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I have often been asked what it was that got me into genealogy. I think my interest was born after my first Finland trip in 1965. At that time I was employed by the American government in Washington, D.C. and a friend suggested we should take a trip to Europe and at the same time visit Finland and go to see my relatives. We tried to get my father, Anders Thure Andersson Pelo, to come along, but he considered himself too old to travel that far. He did, however, take an active part in the planning of our trip--wrote letters to our relaitves in Finland and decided what we should see.

It turned out to be a short but an intense visit. We stayed with Ernst and Alice Wikberg in Karleby. They had beforehand visited all the people and places we were going to see: Edit Nyman at Pelo, family Borg in Karleby, where my grandmother Brita Helena Eriksdotter Lågland was born in 1866, Anders Prest in Gamlakarleby--his mother was my father's cousin. We visited cemeteries and also schools my father had attended as a child. We also visited Skriko where my paternal great grandmother Greta Sofia Abrahamsdotter Skriko was born in 1836.

Although my father was born in Ludington, Michigan in 1891, his father died when the family was about to board a ship in order to travel back to Finland. Grandmother decided to travel on to Karleby where her father, sexman Erik Eriksson Lågland, lived. He arranged for a little house to be built close to his own house as a home for Brita and the children. I remember my father telling about the trouble Erik Lågland had with the sacramental wine, it seemed to constantly be all gone. He became suspicious and put a lock on the door where the wine was kept--after that no more problems with the wine. He suspected it was the pastor who quite often took a sip for his needs.

My father was the oldest of four children--so he lived during the winter in Storby with his mother. His father passed away when he was seven years old, so in the summertime he lived with his paternal grandparents at Pelo, Anders Mattsson Pelo, and Greta Sofia Abrahamsdotter Skriko. He helped his grandfather and uncle Karl ("Antas-Kalle") with their work. Grandmother did different kinds of jobs to earn a fare back to America. My father was confirmed in Karleby church 1909. (During another visit to Karleby I donated father's confirmation certificate and some other items to the Karleby Native Regional Museum--among them a handmade pencil holder by Erik Lågland).

In 1909 father, grandmother and aunt Ruth walked to the train depot in Gamlakarleby. They brought along only a few small keepsakes. They took the train to Hangö and from there the ship to Liverpool in England. There they boarded the Lusitania, that was sunk during the the first World War by the Germans. I have written several articles about emigration that can be found on my website and also on the Internet. I asked father how they could travel from Ellis Island to Ludington since they didn't know English. He said trains departed directly from Ellis Island and there were always someone helping them to find the right train, and that they also had a little piece of paper fastened to their collar that showed where they were heading.

Grandmother wanted to return to Ludington as her sister Brita Johanna Palm lived there. She was going to live at her place until they could find a house of their own. Father and aunt Ruth found jobs at a watch factory and grandmother Brita cleaned homes for several doctors.

When I was in Karleby in 1965, Ernst and Alice Wikberg took me to Österbottningen where the chief editor at that time was Erik Pakarinen, who became very interested in the map that father had drawn for me and he was so impressed by father's good memory after 56 years to be able to render in such great detail all roads, rivers, buidlings and so on.

In 1978, my cousin, Joyce Haglund Stewart, and I visted Finland again during a tour of Scandinavia. We stayed at Anders Prest's summer house at Brudskär and I had the opportunity to meet more new relatives. At that time I had already started to write down different things that my father remembered about his relatives. Via Edit Nyman I got in touch with Aake Pelo in Nivala. His grandfather Matts Mattsson Pelo was a brother to my great grandfather and he had moved to Nivala in 1887, where the Swedish language was soon forgotten. Matts Wassborr from Skriko came along with me to Nivala and I received quite a bit more information about this branch of relatives.

I had earlier become acquainted with Birger Lindqvist in Gamlakarleby, who is a relative of mine, and a devoted genealogist who sent me a great deal of material on the Pelo family and their origins.

During my visit in 1978 I also met Roy Hägg--another of my relatives. My maternal grandfather was Alexander Larsson Warg (1847-1906) who took the name Wargström when he emigrated to the US. We don't know the circumstances surrounding his emigration but we believe that he and some other Karleby people were hired by a lumber company in the USA to work as lumberjacks in Iosco county, Michigan. There were many Finlanders that worked around the areas of Au Sable, Oscoda and Tawas, Michigan. When all the forests were cut down some emigrants stayed as farmers, but many moved on to Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon, where they worked as lumberjacks and fishermen. One who stayed at Oscoda was Maria Karlsdotter Blom Pelo, ( 1833-1919), who was a widow of Karl Mattsson Källström. Maria emigrated to America with her two sons Edward and Arthur ( Adolf). Arthur married my aunt Selma Wargström. Maria and her children took the last name of Spring in the US.

My father was still living when I visited Finland the second time in 1978. Before I left he dictated a message on a cassette tape to our relatives in Finland. They were very happy to hear his voice and were surprised to hear how well he spoke Swedish even if it had been 69 years since he left Finland.

My parents met in an unusual way. My father moved from Ludington about 1919, which lies in western Michigan by Lake Michigan's eastern shore, and went to Flint to seek employment at General Motors. He needed some place to live and was sent to Alfred and Lovisa Swansons, who rented him a room. Edit Wargström, from Oscoda, which lies at Lake Huron in eastern Michigan, was visiting her childhood friend Mae Mattsson Forsberg, who was a neighbor of the Swansons. That is how Edit Wargström and my father met. Edit was supposed to travel back to Oscoda the next day so I feel fate wanted them to meet. They were married in 1922.

I have also been in touch with other Pelo people, among them Jukka Hansén, Stig-Ole Nyman and Robert Plogman and from the latter I have received some old maps and documents . My regret is that I didn't ask my father to draw a map of Pelo the way it looked before 1909. He knew all who lived there. His paternal grandfather's home was across Gustafssons on the other side of the road. My father and Fride Gustafsson were playmates. I met Irene in 1985, but unfortunately I didn't have the time to meet Fride before he died. My father outlived him and died on my mother's birthday, 11th of May, 1982--a little over 90 years old. He was still bright and had a good memory.

My grandfather Anders Andersson Pelo, emigrated to the US in 1882. Since my father was a child when my grandfather died, he didn't know much about him as to why he emigrated. He was the oldest son and should have consequently inherited the homestead. It went to his brother Karl Andersson Pelo ("Antas-Kalle") and when Karl died, the place was sold to Edit Nyman's father, as my father had no need of it. He had no plans to return to Finland and started to till the soil.

June Pelo

Swedish Translation and summary by Jan-Erik Nygren

It can be added that June Pelo is very well-known among genealogists in all Ostrobothnia and also elsewhere in Finland. She has accomplished a huge task with her research involving emigration descendants in the US--especially from the Karleby area and has helped countless people both in Finland and the US to find their roots. She has translated a great amount of articles from newspapers and periodicals to English and she has also written articles about her reasearch in various publications. I am also personally thankful for all the help I have received.

Jan-Erik Nygren

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