It was really exciting to take my husband Josh's last name, because it symbolized joining his extended family and our new shared future. Bonus? IT'S JUST A COOL LAST NAME.
Not a last name that you hear often in the United States. But it's very common in Finland where Josh's great grandfather was born — Victor Alfred Sundquist. Thanks to family records that my father-in-law has kept, we knew that Victor was born in the Jakobstad area in northern Finland, which is 5,357 miles from Santa Monica, California where we live.
We traveled an astounding 5,357 miles from Santa Monica, California to Jakobstad, Finland.
Now that COVID restrictions are being lifted and we felt safer traveling, we decided to take an adventure to explore Josh's ancestral roots in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Thanks to a 23 & Me DNA test, he learned that he's 10% Swedish, 10% Danish, 10% Norwegian and 20% Finnish. We had never even met someone from Finland!!! But we wanted to visit and honor Josh's great grandfather who grew up there.
We flew from Bergen to Helsinki before boarding a
small plane to Vaasa on FinnAir.
It's not easy to reach the town of Jakobstad-Pietarsaari, which has about 19,000 residents. Even though we were already in the region, it was a pretty extensive journey to get there. We had to take a 1 hour bus from our hotel in Bergen and walk a mile in the rain to the Bergen International Airport. We then took a 2 hour flight to Helsinki and a second 2 hour flight to Vaasa. Once there, we took a two hour taxi to Jackobstad.
Here's a photo of me after walking a mile in the rain to the airport. We took the wrong bus, but couldn't miss our flight! So, we walked.
Anyways, our taxi ride to Jakobstad from Vaasa was amazing because of our driver Eek of Sundquist Taxi. Yes, you heard that correctly. We hired a taxi company entirely based on the fact that we share its name. But their service was incredible and Eek gave us a detailed glimpse into life in Finland. We learned so much about history and what it's like to live in this rural community. Eek was a highlight of our trip!
We'd been traveling for 10 hours by the time we met Eek in Vaasa! He gave us a safe, educational and fun taxi ride to Jakobstad.
Our stay at the Hotel Epoque was amazing. We loved coming back to our warm, cozy room after walking several miles around Jakobstad on our ancestral scavenger hunt. We'd never stayed somewhere with a sauna in the room, so it was fun to enjoy every evening.
The Hotel Epoque was located conveniently in downtown Jakobstad
where we stayed for 3 nights during our trip.
Another highlight of the trip was meeting Jan Ehnvall, the lead archivist and historian at The Jakobstad Museum. He helped us track down Victor Alfred Sundquist in the local records in the basement of the archives! We even found out that Jan and Josh are distant cousins.
We spent time with Jan from The Jakobstad Museum.
Jan, an avid geocacher and cross country skiier, even took the time out of his day to take us in his car to show us where Victor Alfred Sundquist was born in Gragg near Sundby. It was such a beautiful drive past the forests and snowy river banks.
Jan took us on an amazing tour of the area to show us Sundby where
many Sundquists come from and still live today.
All in all, it was such a fantastic opportunity to learn about Finnish culture, connect with Josh's heritage and explore this beautiful region of the world.