At a summer family reunion, we got into a discussion about DNA testing. Using 23 & Me, our hosts had gotten connected with previously unknown Swedish relatives, who visited that weekend.
We were surprised to learn that they were not 100 percent Swedish, but also had a significant amount of Finnish and Russian.
A few weeks later, at Ingebretsen’s meat market and gift shop on Lake Street in Minneapolis, I came across the book “History of Norway,” by John Yilek. For someone who used to say I was 100 percent Norwegian, I discovered in this book that way back in my history I might have some Russian influences, with grandparents coming from Sami areas of northern Norway, which Russian immigrants had populated earlier. The Viking period in the book was also fascinating — I learned that a large share of Ireland, parts of England and all of the Normandy area of France were once ruled by Vikings. The Vikings also raided down to Spain and Portugal and over to Italy, leaving their mark on the European continent.
Yilek’s book was a great beginning in filling in that gap of understanding my family’s past in Norway, going beyond a genealogy that reached only as far back as the mid-1700s. It is a great historical survey of the deep history of Norway before my forebears boarded a ship for America in the 1880s.
Yilek’s book also prompted me to dig out another European history that has been gathering dust on my shelf, “Europe: A History,” by Norman Davies, which goes back to the Ice Age.
Too often our historical inquiries are nearsighted, using magnifying glasses and microscopes to delve into minute details. Such an approach can miss a wider view that informs us what shaped specific events from our “deep history.” Yilek’s “History of Norway” does this.
David Thompson, Rosemount
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