OPINION

The road to becoming ‘Bell Ringer’ Bill

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

—by Bill Haglund

For many people, tracing roots is more than just a quest for information about ancestors — it’s an obsession.

While I’m not caught up in a frenzy about my past, I certainly find it interesting to unearth nuggets of information about those who have gone before me.

I knew, for example, that my grandfather, Andrew Haglund, was born in 1878 in Leksand, Sweden, and grew up in neighboring Insjon. I also knew that his birth name was Anders Persson, in keeping with the Swedish tradition of taking a father’s first name, adding “son” at the end of it and changing a family’s surname with every generation.

Since my great grandfather was Per Persson, my grandfather became Anders “Pers-son” or Persson. His sisters took the surname “Pers-dotter” or Pers daughter. (But that’s another confusing facet in finding one’s roots.)

That particular tradition was also followed in other Scandinavian countries for generations. Making things even more difficult is the fact that records, until only 50 years ago, were kept by the Lutheran Church and not in courthouses. That’s because until a half century ago, the Lutheran Church was the “official” church of Sweden.

Another discovery I made was that my great-grandfather was a man named Per Danielsson; hence, my great-grandfather, named Per, became Per Persson.

I know it’s confusing. It was to me for a long time.

My great-grandfather Per Persson was born in 1844; his father, Per Danielsson was born in 1800.

Needless to say, I didn’t know any of my great grandparents, even those who lived in America. The only great-grandparent still alive when I was born in 1943 was my mother’s grandmother, born in Norway, but she passed away in 1944.

Interestingly, my great-great-great grandfather was named Daniel (that’s natural given his son’s name) Andersson. There is no record of his date of birth, obviously in the later part of the 1700s.

The most interesting fact of my great, great-great and great-great-great grandfathers is that “Klockar” preceded each of their names. So … in at least three generations of Swedes, my grandfather’s ancestors were Klockar Daniel Andersson, Klockar Per Danielsson and Klockar Per Persson.

If it’s confusing to you, rest assured it’s just as confusing to me.

Since I lived in Sweden for six months in 1968, I’ve had in my possession photos of my great grandparents. I knew “Klockar” preceded great-grandpa Per Persson’s name. I just didn’t know why.

Then one day, in email correspondence with an old Swedish friend with whom I played baseball in that long-ago summer, our back-and-forth communications turned to ancestors.

“You know,” my friend Kjell wrote, “you can be ‘Klockar’ Bill, too, it you want.”

He explained that nowadays, if that was part of an ancestor’s name, it’s part of yours, as well.

Klockar Bill.

Well, since he told me that, I’ve often thought about it. Instead of signing checks using my given name of William, should I now endorse them using the name “Klockar Bill?” Nah, I don’t think so.

Still, that got me thinking about the name. Klockar, in Swedish, is “bell-ringer.”

Obviously, I came from a long line of bell ringers. That’s not to say they didn’t have other jobs. My great-grandfather, for example, was also a farmer. Since it was the custom then to divide farms among sons, and my grandfather had five brothers, it was far more advantageous for him to move to America to seek a better life than to remain in Sweden and hope to eke out a living on one-sixth of a small farm.

When my grandfather was still young and living in Sweden, he and his brothers also decided to adopt the name “Haglund.” And so, Anders Persson became Anders Haglund. His first name was changed to Andrew at Ellis Island.

Still, although I’m not a bell ringer, I have the right of my ancestors to use “Klockar” as part of my name.

I’m not sure about it, though.

I don’t think editors of newspapers running this column would like to include a disclaimer that reads “Klockar Bill Haglund is a former editor …”

We’ll just leave it at Bill.

Bill Haglund is a former staff writer for the Dallas County News and the Boone News-Republican. He can be reached at bhaglund13@msn.com