I'm greatly interested in learning how we came to be, and the time that generations before us passed through to get us to where we are now.
Over the past few years, I've made more a mission of it to scan & copy old family letters, photographs, & documents. I've asked questions & wrote things down.
Some of our family heritage is better documented than others, but while the dates and names are helpful, it's the personal connections that mean more.
I've become particularly more eager in pursuing this knowledge during pregnancies. It usually stems from searching for baby names from the family tree, and my curiosity continues. When we were expecting our fourth child and Mitch decided he liked the name Lilly, I learned it was the name of my maternal grandmother's grandmother. Lily Mae Bowser. I wanted to know about her... what was she like? And so I asked, and I learned that she had "snappy dark eyes."
The trouble is, I have all this scattered information, that gets jotted on papers here and there, and tucked aside in this box and that.
And so, I'm going to tidy up my mission and put it in one place here on my computer.
I start with Kristian & Karoliina Huju.
(My great-great grandparents)
Kristian Apsalom Huju lived 83 years, from 1844 to 1927.
Karoliina, twelve years younger, lived 84 years, from 1856 to 1940.
The image above is of their 55th wedding anniversary in 1926.
That would put them at the ages of roughly 70 and 83.
Kristian & Karoliina had 11 children, all born in Finland:
1) Kalle (Karl) 1873-1958
2) Amanda 1876-1940 (Great Grandpa Huju always teased me that Amanda was an old woman's name.)
3) Fanni 1878-1932
4) Kristian 1881-1959
5) Hilma 1883-1962
6) Fabian 1886-1966
7) Perttu 1888-1975
8) Nikolai 1891-1975
9) Vihtori (Victor Huju Sr., my great grandpa) 1893-1992
10) Ville (died in 1897 as an infant)
11) Helmi (died in 1900 as an infant)
Kristian & Karoliina had a large farm in Finland.
Great grandpa Huju (Vihtori) grew up on that farm until he headed for America at 15.
I'm told by my grandma that Kristian was a "tyrant," and that is why her father left the farm in Finland. But also that he loved and missed his mother. He wrote her letters, but never saw her again. He didn't return to Finalnd until he was 90.
Only he and Nikolai (Uncle Nick) came to the U.S.
The following Duluth News Tribune article refers to Kristian Huju Sr., my great-great-great grandfather.
Happy Dad's Day, Kristian Huju, wherever you are
(The clipping is not dated, but I'm figuring it to be 1989) written by columnist Tom Dennis
If you're ever worried about the population explosion, then it's a good thing you weren't in this town of 350 on June 5. A very good thing indeed.
Because you would have seen Hujus, Hujus and more Hujus, dozens of Hujus, hundreds of Hujus, Hujus from near and Hujus from the far corners of the Earth.
And every one of those 200 Hujus (pronounced Who-you), themselves only a few of the world's 1,700 Hujus, were descended from the same two Hujus, Kristian and Anna-Liisa Huju, the original true Hujus of Finland.
You would have said it, had you been in Marcell amidst all those smiling Hujus. You would have rolled your eyes skyward, thrown up your hands and said:
Happy Father's Day, Kristian Huju, wherever you are.
There was more blond hair in Marcell that day than any place outside a Clairol commercial. And with good reason, said Elsie Anderson, one of Kristian's great-granddaughters (grandma's oldest sister): Hujus are as Finnish as they come. More than 1,000 Hujus still live in Finland, and 47 of them made the 6,000-mile trip to Marcell for the reunion.
"Say, are the Australians here, do you know?" she asked. A Huju contingent from down under was due any minute, she said. "And if you don't think that that's an interesting accent: Finnish and Aussie"
The Hujus had two reasons for gathering in Marcell, which is about 25 miles north of Grand Rapids. One was for their annual reunion. The other was to celebrate the birthday of 96-year-old Victor Huju of Marcell, the only surviving grandchild of Kristian & Anna-Liisa - and himself a lulu of a Huju.
"So you're a reporter for the Tribune, eh?" Victor Huju said, looking up from his wheelchair at a visitor. "I've been reading your paper for 75 years. I remember when it was $3."
Huju's eyes narrowed. "A year."
Victor Huju was one of two Hujus who settled in the United States. He set sail in 1908 at the age of 15, his passport being the name and address of a family acquaintance in Duluth.
He reached Duluth, but never met the man. "I went right to work in the woods," Victor said. "In those days, they didn't care how old you were or where you were from. If you could work, you worked."
Growing up a Huju in Marcell meant learning the values of the old country, said Lt. Cmdr. John Huju (grandma's youngest brother), a retired Navy officer and Victor's youngest son. Tolerance for others, hard work, and love of country were the watchwords of the day.
"I remember he had a saying," John said. "It was in Finnish, but it's equivalent was something like this: 'In the end, all you really have is your integrity.'"
Two hundred Hujus, one wearing a ball cap reading, "I'm Mike, Huju?" moved into the Marcell Town Hall for dinner. Soon their plates were piled high with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, lefsa, beans, pumpkin pie, and all the coffee or milk they could drink.
Unto Huju of Vammala, Finland, head of the family association, stood to make a presentation to Victor.
"He's apologizing for being late. Their plane was delayed," whispered Irene Lyytinen, one of Victors daughters, translating Unto's remarks from the Finnish.
Then the crowd laughed. "He said, 'But at your age, Uncle Victor, a few days probably doesn't make much difference,' " Irene whispered.
Unto gave Victor a painting of a farm house in an idyllic green field: the old Huju homestead in Finland, which still stands today. Victor thanked him in Finnish, then thanked everyone for coming to the reunion.
"Maybe this is my last one. I don't know," Victor said.
"Oh no, Uncle Victor," Unto said. "At our last reunion you promised to come to Finland for your 100th birthday."
"Next time I won't make such big promises," Victor said, and again the crowd laughed.
Later, John Huju stepped up to the podium wearing the dress-white uniform and shoulder boards of a Navy officer. Before him stood his son, Petty Officer Second Class Juhn Huju Jr., ready to re-enlist in dress whites of his own. They had decided to make the re-enlistment ceremony part of the reunion.
Both men raised their right hands. "Are you ready to take the oath?" John Sr. asked. John Jr. nodded.
"Then repeat after me: I, John Huju Jr. do solemnly swear..."
And still later, Victor met the newest bud on the Huju's oak-sized family tree: Onni Richard Prestidge, daughter of Kris Prestidge, granddaughter of Helmi Prestidge, great-granddaughter of Nikolai Huju and great-great-great granddaughter of Kristian and Anna-Liisa Huju.
Onni was 12 days old.
Happy Father's Day, Kristian Huju, wherever you are.
I was present at the reported reunion and remember the bus full of Finns arriving.
I was nearing ten years old.
I now have a copy of the painting my great grandfather received that day, of the old Huju homestead in Finland.