I Found My Swedish Grandfather’s Identity and Reunited with a Long-Lost Aunt Thanks to MyHeritage

I Found My Swedish Grandfather’s Identity and Reunited with a Long-Lost Aunt Thanks to MyHeritage

Hans van Harskamp, 61, from Kudelstaart, the Netherlands, had a strong desire to discover who his unknown grandfather was for years. He joined MyHeritage and took a MyHeritage DNA test in hopes of finding a lead. Helped by a Swedish genealogist who combined family tree research with DNA matching, he not only learned the identity of his grandfather, but also found an aunt: a half-sister of his mother, with whom he has become close.

Here is his story.

Hans Van Harskamp

Hans Van Harskamp

I have always been fascinated by the question: who is my grandfather?

My grandmother never told my mother who he was, neither his first name nor last name. Maybe she didn’t know these details either. My mother never wanted to look for her father. Fortunately, she enjoyed a good childhood with her mother and (non-biological) father. Basically, I got zero information through the family. I did speak to a man once, who said he used to work with my grandfather in horticulture in Aalsmeer. He only remembered that my grandfather was a Swede with the surname Akesson. I started searching archives about immigrants in Aalsmeer, but to no avail. I also joined MyHeritage and took a DNA test. Although it took a while, I eventually started getting DNA matches from Sweden!

Combining DNA Matching and historical records to solve the mystery

I am grateful to the Swedish genealogist who offered his help in analyzing the DNA matches and helped me find my grandfather. He zoomed in on a close DNA match with a second cousin named Stefan Persson. Stefan had a family tree on MyHeritage. The genealogist concluded that my grandfather, and one of Stefan’s grandfathers OR grandmothers, must be siblings. When searching for Stefan’s paternal grandfather, he turned out to be unknown.

But the genealogist did not give up: there were 3 other individuals to investigate. The grandmother on Stefan’s paternal side didn’t seem to have any siblings, so it couldn’t be her. His maternal grandmother had two brothers, but one of them died early and the other got married in 1925 and never left Sweden. Now there was only one person left to investigate further, namely Stefan’s maternal grandfather: Weste Håkansson.

Weste had 3 older brothers. The genealogist followed the trail of the eldest two and quickly understood that it could not have been either of them. Now only the third brother was left. His name is Bror Mauritz Håkansson. Not Åkesson, but Håkansson — two surnames that are easy to confuse!

My grandfather's parents: Hakan and Emma

My grandfather’s parents: Hakan and Emma

Bror Mauritz Håkansson was born in 1901 in Ekeby, Malmöhus in the far south of Sweden. His parents were called Hakan and Emma and Bror was the third child in a family of 9 siblings.

Picture of the Hakansson children. My grandfather is the man in the middle with glasses

Picture of the Hakansson children. My grandfather is the man in the middle with glasses

  • Bror Mauritz trained as a landscape gardener and moved to Stockholm around 1921 to work in that field. In 1925 he was listed in a special register as “Obefintliga” which translates as “not present”/”disappeared.” The people in those registers have emigrated or otherwise disappeared. Bror could not be found in any Swedish register after 1925, so it is unknown whether he ever returned to his native country. The Swedish genealogist had gathered enough evidence to determine that Bror must be my long-sought-after grandfather:
    Name Håkansson, not Åkesson
    Gardener by profession
    Disappeared in 1925 and can no longer be found in the sources.
    Bror’s brother’s grandson and I share a large amount of DNA
My grandfather Bror and his wife Metta. Photo colorized and enhanced by MyHeritage
My grandfather Bror and his wife Metta. Photo colorized and enhanced by MyHeritage
My grandfather Bror and his wife Metta. Photo colorized and enhanced by MyHeritage

An inherited passion for gardening

My grandfather Bror appears to have wandered and worked in Europe. From 1930 to 1940 he lived in Denmark, where he ran an ice cream factory in Copenhagen. After 1940 he had a paper wholesale business in Copenhagen, but the war made it difficult to obtain paper. Economically difficult years began. He decided to return to his original profession: landscape gardener. In the Netherlands, specifically around Aalsmeer, there was already a lot of horticulture, boxwood cultivation and the like at that time. He ended up as an employee at a nursery there and that is how he met my grandmother. My grandmother’s parents also had a nursery that was located on the Uiterweg, a well-known street in Aalsmeer.

The parental home of Hans' grandmother, on the Uiterweg in Aalsmeer.

The parental home of my grandmother, on the Uiterweg in Aalsmeer.

After his identity was established, I found documents about my grandfather, including photographs. I find our shared passion very special: my big hobby is gardening and I also love plants and flowers! So I clearly have his genes. Also, thanks to the help of the Swedish genealogist, I found my mother’s half-sister through a DNA profile entered by one of Bror’s grandchildren. This half-sister lives in Denmark and is 87 years old. In the meantime, we have established a close relationship and the plan is to meet in the late summer of 2023. My mother’s three half-brothers are also still alive. The eldest brother is 94 years old, the middle one is 85 and the youngest 83. They also give me the feeling that I belong to the family.

Although the search process was tedious, I am very happy with the outcome. I feel relieved and happy that it’s all over now. I would encourage others who are also looking for their families not to give up. Eventually there will be a breakthrough that can lead to the solution. I am very grateful that finally thanks to MyHeritage I got the right information and it has come full circle. I now have a better picture of my family history and I am proud of what I have achieved. It has added extra meaning to my life. I can now continue writing my family history, with a new chapter about my grandfather. It has been a long and difficult quest, but with the right support and perseverance I finally made it happen!

Many thanks to Hans for sharing his story! If you have also made an important discovery using MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Please send it to us via this form or by email at stories@myheritage.com.