When news anchor Bill Lunn approached ancestry experts for help answering questions about his great-great-grandfather, he hoped to learn more about his family’s origins. What he didn’t expect was a transatlantic treasure hunt that would reveal shocking family secrets and monumentally change his own sense of identity.
Lunn knew that his great-great-grandfather, Nikolas, immigrated to the United States from Sweden and settled somewhere in Minnesota, but the trail of his family history had run cold there. Where did Nikolas settle when he immigrated? Where did he live in Sweden, and why did he leave? These were some of the questions Lunn hoped to answer, and answer he did.
Ancestry experts were able to use an old property map from Jackson County, Minnesota, to locate the exact plot of land Nikolas, also called Nils, owned and farmed for at least ten years after immigrating to the U.S. For Lunn, this discovery put to rest a lot of personal questions about his origins. “It’s like a mystery is solved,” he said, standing on the property where his ancestor once stood. But the hunt for answers didn’t end there.
Using immigration records, Ancestry experts were able to show Lunn that his surname, which he supposed to be passed down to him from generations, was not originally Lunn, but Jonsson. The change happened due to an error in immigration paperwork, which most likely switched Nils’ last name with the city in Sweden he came from: Lund.
This stunning revelation “absolutely floored” Lunn and blew open the door to more family secrets that had previously been undiscoverable. Knowing his great-great-grandfather’s true name enabled Lunn to discover more details of his Nils’ life, such as Nils’ father’s tragic death when Nils was only four years old. He also learned that Nils was a fisherman in Sweden before emigrating in the hopes of creating a better life for his family in America.
Lunn’s living that better life himself, he admits, as he saves a bit of soil from Nils’ Minnesota farmland. It’s a small reminder of where the chance for that good life came from—and from whom.
You can check out the complete story and follow Bill on his exciting path to discovering his family history here.
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