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Stanley Nelson's Search For Relatives


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Nine-year old Erik Westerholm sat on a plane from Yttermark to America where he lived in ignorance of the fact he had a younger sister in Finland. Twenty-four years later he began a genealogy search and as a result found his sister.

Erik is now known as Stanley Nelson and he recently visited Finland for the second time. He related: "My mother died when I was only two. I was taken over by my mother's parents Carl and Hulda Westerholm in Yttermark." Erik was sent to America in 1954 when his mother's parents became too old to raise him. His new home was Worcester, MA where Westerholm relatives Anna and Oscar Nelson took him in as a little nine-year old who spoke only Swedish.

In 1976 when Stanley was 31 years old he began to search his family tree. He had found information that mentioned his mother Elin Alexandra Nordberg had two children. He wrote to the pastor's office in Kaskö where his mother had lived, and he eventually found his little sister Margareta Höstman in Vasa.

He said: "My little sister was five months old when she was adopted by a couple in Vasa." The siblings were so small when they were separated that they had no memory of it. Stanley's adoptive parents said nothing although they probably knew the boy had a sister somewhere in Finland.

Stanley lacked his sister's present address, but he wrote a letter with the hope it would be received by the right person. Six weeks later the letter was hand-delivered to Margareta by a police constable. Margareta knew she had a brother after she had seen a family analysis, but it was a mystery as to where he was. She said: "I had it good and didn't think I could search for him. When my brother made contact with me I was quite surprised." She answered Stanley's letter and several months later in June 1977 they were reunited in Vasa.

Now 23 years after Stanley's first visit the siblings sat together on a swing in Yttermark. It was the second time they've seen each other. Stanley and his wife Gail were on a 7-week visit with his sister. He said it was so wonderful to meet his sister again and they had such a good time. Margareta said they get along so well together and have had good contact with each other. But she said there's a bitter feeling that they couldn't spent their childhood together. She was the only child in the family and longed for siblings.

Stanley said he had a bad conscience at first, but now that they know of each other they will make up for the lost time. He hopes Margareta will come to visit him soon. He has some memories of his childhood days in Yttermark. "My mother's parents were good to me and I stayed in contact with them when I moved to America. I missed them very much when I was forced to move. But very soon I adjusted to the American community and later I had no more homesickness." He had gone to school in Yttermark three years before he moved to America. "I remember my childhood friend Ola Åkerman very well. We often played after school."

Stanley has done alright for himself in the US. But when the American Erik Westerholm stepped on American soil for the first time he did not know many English words. He learned the language quickly among his classmates. Now it is Swedish that has been lost. He understands Swedish very well, but has difficulty speaking it.

Nelson now lives in W. Warren, MA in the summer. In the winter he goes to sunny Florida. His family consists of wife Gail and two adult daughters, Laura and Dawn. He has worked as a machinist at a steel plant, and is five years from retirement. Now he has turned his free time into work. He sells fishing equipment, rents out boats and owns a little restaurant. He is also interested in antiques. He has discovered some very good finds in Finland. "I bought about 30 old planed wooden boards and think I'll sell some of them and keep the rest for myself," said antique dealer Nelson.

Together with the Höstmans, the Nelsons have seen a great deal of Österbotten. They have fished a lot, gone to museums and been to the summer cottage. But the best part of the visit is that he has read so much information about his family. He has visited his mother's and her father's graves and he now knows who his paternal aunts are. But it is very important to find all of his relatives. They have not found any of the remaining Westerholm family whose origins came from Korsnäs, so he hopes they'll contact his sister.

He has met many of his friends who wonder how it was when he went to America. He was greeted by a woman in Nykarleby who went to school with him and now he is here with Ola Åkerman who also was a classmate in the 1950s. They aren't the only ones who have contacted him when they heard Stanley was in Finland. An aunt in Yttermark whose mother had known his mother's mother gave him a special gift. "It was a beautiful Arabia plate that had belonged to my mother's mother", said Stanley.

He noted "Finland has changed a lot since my last visit in 1977. One of the big changes is the mobile telephone. You have one of the world's best telephone systems. The US is far behind when it comes to developing mobile telephones."

It is Gail's first visit to Finland. She said: "It is so different here. Your lifestyle is more relaxed. In the US it is stress, stress, stress." She also noticed the light summer nights. "Here I can take a walk at 11 p.m. I will not go out at night at home because I feel unsafe."

Stanley's next visit will come soon. He plans a trip to Lappland next autumn. "I have heard so much of Lappland's traditions and the beautiful autumn sights." He also hopes to find a small summer cottage in Yttermark for future visits.

NORDEN newspaper, 31 August 2000

Translated by June Pelo

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