Family reunion decades in making [UPDATED]Published 10:22am Monday, September 17, 2012 Updated 12:23pm Monday, September 17, 2012
A genealogical search for relatives that began more than 50 years ago will soon turn into hand-shakes and hugs when a family from Norway pays a visit to Fergus Falls.
Audrey Stach and her brother Bob began a search for distant relatives in Norway in the early 1950s. After hitting dead end after dead end, they didn’t know if they would ever find anyone.
That all changed, however, in 1996 when Stach received a call from a man named Øyvind Sohol (pronounced Shol). He had found an inquiry in a news article from Fergus Falls and asked Stach if she knew of anybody in the area with the name Sohol.
“I laughed, and said, ‘There are a lot of them,’” Stach said.
They talked for a while and found out that Øyvind’s great great grandfather, Mathias Sohol, was Stach’s great grandfather’s uncle.
Mathias and his wife moved from Norway to Mankato in the 1880s before moving to the Fergus Falls area. The “o” was dropped and the name was changed to Shol shortly after the move. The family bought a farm near Weetown just down the road from where Stach lives now.
This connection became even more important to Stach because her brother began the search for a connection to relatives in Norway but died before Øyvind made the breakthrough phone call.
Stach and Øyvind have stayed in touch over the years through letters, pictures and a few phone calls, but they will soon have the chance to meet in person.
Øyvind will bring two of his daughters, Ana and Kjershi, along with his son Lars, to Fergus Falls from Oct. 6 to 13. Stach has watched these kids grow up through letters and pictures, and she will finally have a chance to meet them.
“I’m excited to just sit down and talk with them,” Stach said. “We will be able to see things together. I always describe everything, and now they will be able to see it in person.”
The girls want to go to Mall of America, and they are all excited to meet many of the Shols in town, Stach said.
For residents who have lived in the area for years, the flatlands between Fergus Falls and Moorhead aren’t much to look at, but Øyvind and his children are excited to see the plains, said Stach.
“They said they can’t even conceptualize what land like that would look like,” she said.
In a way, this meeting will connect Stach with her brother, she said.
“It’s fulfilling my brother’s wish to make a connection,” Stach said. “I’m glad I could help connect the dots.”