When Robert Burns’ parents passed away a few years ago, he felt the need to try and capture his family’s story for himself and future generations.
“As a young man, I had every opportunity to learn about my heritage,” he said. “Regrettably, I never asked my parents enough about it.”
Burns did know that his roots were Swedish. He also knew that his ancestors were part of the wave of immigrants seeking opportunity in America during the latter half of the 19th century.
“I began to think about the paths that preceded mine, about the people who walked them, and about how my life’s journey is an extension of theirs,” he said.
Burns, who grew up in Stanwood and now lives in Virginia, began meticulously researching his family history.
“I was able to trace my heritage back four generations to the small town in Sweden from which my mother’s family emigrated,” he said.
Burns pieced together the story of how his ancestors left Sweden in 1867 and ultimately settled in the Cedarhome area of Stanwood.
This past July, he published the story of his family, “A Long Way Home: From Sweden to Cedarhome, a Trail of Tears and Triumph.”
“(The story) is a reconstruction of the immigrant path to Cedarhome, taken by what I call the original Hagglunds, John and Anna Hagglund, who were my great-great-grandparents,” he said.
Burns’ family history is filled with the challenges and tragedies his relatives faced as they traveled and settled in different areas of the Midwest.
Finally in 1899, after the death of two of their children, the Hagglunds, with the encouragement of friends from Camano Island, struck out for Western Washington.
“My relatives discovered and embraced what I call the ‘moody skies’ of the Pacific Northwest and the modest charms of a village called Cedarhome,” the author said.
Burns’ ancestors found work in the lumber mills that prospered in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
“It was the kind of work familiar to many Swedes, who were used to working in the woods,” he said.
According to the author, many of the Hagglund descendants remain in the greater Puget Sound area, including some in Stanwood. However, Stanwood Camano School Board candidate Natalie Hagglund doesn’t think her family is part of the one researched by Burns.
“My husband’s family only recently started living here when he married me,” Hagglund said. “There were some (family) in Sedro-Woolley and the rest were in Seattle, as far as I know. Unless there are ties to those Hagglunds, I would say we are not related.”
Still, Burns is pleased with the results of his research and the knowledge he gained.
“It has shown me that my family’s striving helped form the bedrock on which future generations, including mine, were built,” he said. “I admire and thank them for that.”
“A Long Way Home: From Sweden to Cedarhome, a Trail of Tears and Triumph,” is available on amazon.com.