Discovering his roots while planting some of his own
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 9:35 AM
A trip back in time and a step toward the future, all in the matter of months. Thomas Trehus, son of David and Donna Trehus of rural Spring Grove, has experienced both recently as he spent seven weeks traveling in Europe and began a new career across the country in a new time zone.
Trehus who has a political science degree, recently landed a job in Sen.
Al Franken’s office at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Thomas finished college a semester early graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in December 2012. He is a 2009 Spring Grove High School graduate.
"I hadn't planned on graduating early, it just worked out that way with my summer internships and credits from advance placement courses in high school," he explained.
"After graduation, I wasn't sure if I wanted to start working full-time right away or not. I had been working throughout college, so I had money saved up and no obligations at the moment. So I decided what better time than to take a trip that I had always dreamed of - to Norway to find the original Trehus homestead.
"I bought the plane tickets only about one month before I was to leave! I got in touch with friends that I had met at college that had been exchange students, as well as friends I had met when I studied in South America so that I could also visit them."
Norway is treasure trove of info
His first stop was London. Here he met his friend, Carl, who had been an exchange student at the University of Minnesota and was now living in London but was from Norway.
They traveled to Norway together and stayed with Carl's parents who live just outside Oslo. They spent time touring Oslo and when Thomas mentioned that he wanted to go to the city of Gol in search of his ancestor's homestead, Carl's parents lent him their family car.
On the way to Gol, is a small town of Flå. Trehus had been told there was a lady in Flå that was interested in genealogy. He only knew her first name and that she worked at the government office.
"We decided to stop and see if we could find this woman. My friends thought that I was crazy!" he added with a laugh.
"I went into the building and asked if Maryann was working. The lady at the desk said, 'No, it is her day off, but I'll give you her phone number. She lives across the road - see that yellow house?'
"So we went across the road, her car was outside and running and as we drove up she came out on the porch. I told her who I was, and she went into the house and got a big binder of Trehus family history. I couldn't believe it!
"My aunt and uncle who live in Nebraska had been at her house in the '90s, and I didn't even know it! What a small world!
"I told her that I wanted to go to the Trehus homestead. She opened the binder and pulled out information that was all in Norwegian, of course. Then we went to her computer, and she pulled up the government map of where houses were and are.
"After about half an hour to an hour, with my Norwegian friend translating, she pinpointed the homestead location on her computer and printed it out for us. We had iPhones with GPS, so we could find it from there."
They continued their trek on to Gol, which was about one more hour of driving. They located the homestead property, which now has two homes on it. When they arrived, no one was home.
Trehus knew the original house was located behind the ones that were there now, so he decided to go and see if he could find foundation boulders or some remaining piece.
"There was so much snow that I just kept sinking in. Luckily, Carl had brought cross-country skis so I put them on with the map in hand and set out in hopes of finding foundation boulders to see where the buildings once were."
His journey was a success; he found some foundation boulders!
"Even though there was not a lot left, just being on the land and looking at the woods they once looked at was very cool. It was kind of a spiritual experience," Trehus added.
There once were three houses on the property, which is where the family last name - Trehus - comes from. This was Thomas' great-great-great-grandfather's homestead, Endre Trehus.
He married Gunvor Storla whose homestead was just up the road from the Trehus homestead. They traveled to the United States in 1844 with their son, Tomas, who was about 19 or 20 years old.
On the boat over, Tomas met his wife, Anne Mathias Hansdatter Monson. They are all buried in the Old Wilmington cemetery in rural Spring Grove. This young man (Tomas) is where Thomas' name came from.
"For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to visit Norway because all of my ancestors came from Norway," remarked Trehus. "I've wanted to connect with where I came from, it's a big part of life and standing on the same property as my ancestors was amazing."
Maryann had a lot of detailed information of family trees that dated back to the 1600s. She allowed Thomas to make copies, and he brought them home with him - a very treasured souvenir.
Trehus spent a little more time in Norway, two weeks total, touring with his friend Carl and learning to cross-country ski even more. What better place to learn to ski than where Nordic skiing originated?
Next stop, five more countries
After saying good-bye to his Norwegian friends, Trehus boarded a train for Stockholm, Sweden.
"It is a beautiful city! There are many canals and islands. What I found most impressive was seeing so many dads pushing baby strollers! Many dads out and about with babies. I learned in Sweden that dads are guaranteed paternity leave. It was really cool to see that."
His next stop along his journey was Copenhagen, Denmark. Here he stayed with a friend who he met when they were both studying in Peru.
"I spent about five days here, another beautiful city," remarked Trehus.
"My friend gave me a bicycle to use. You can bike everywhere in Copenhagen; the bike lanes are as wide as car lanes! It was super safe and there were no hills."
The fifth country he visited was Switzerland where he met a friend in Bern. He had met this friend when she was doing research in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
While he was there, she showed him around various places including Zurich and the majestic Matterhorn. The candy bar, Toblerone, was first created by a man from Bern and features the Matterhorn on the package.
The ancient city of Rome was Trehus' next stop. He stayed in youth hostels during his travels in Italy. While in Rome, he visited all the major places like the Coliseum and the Pantheon.
"The Pantheon is one of my favorite buildings in the world," he commented. "It is the oldest fully-intact building. I also had amazing food in Italy! I did try to learn a few simple words so that I could be polite, but most everyone speaks a little English."
To learn about the sites that he was seeing, he had done some research through Trip Advisor and also listened to walking tours by travel guru Rick Steves that he had downloaded and could listen to with headphones.
While in Italy, Trehus also visited the city of Florence. "I really enjoyed seeing the architecture of the powerful Medici family. I tried to take myself back in history and imagine what it was like being the center of history. The Galileo Museum was also very interesting and one of my favorite places that I visited; they had his telescopes on display!"
Trehus had one final country to visit before he headed back to the states - France and the city of lights, Paris.
"Paris is a beautiful city, and I spent a lot of time walking around day and night, but my favorite time to walk was at night."
He stayed at a youth hostel in Paris as well and made friends with others that were staying there. They enjoyed touring the city together.
"I spent more time relaxing in Paris, I was pretty tired by this point," he remarked with a little laugh. "I really enjoyed visiting the sidewalk cafés and having an espresso! There are so many remarkable things to visit in this city!
"This was a trip of a lifetime! I took many photos, and it is fun to look at them and relive all the great moments and sites that I visited."
Thomas lays down his roots
Trehus returned to Spring Grove for a few months before beginning his next big adventure - moving to the political hub of the United States - Washington, D.C.
He packed his belongings and headed east on the Amtrak. He lived with a couple of good friends from college for two weeks while he looked for a place of his own to rent.
"While I am here in the heart of our nation's government, I want to learn as much as I can about how government works as well as meet as many people as I can and make connections.
"I'm not sure how long I'll stay, maybe a couple years? I'll see where it goes. I miss Minnesota, but am enjoying my experience here and with my job, I get to meet people from home."
In July, Trehus was hired as staff assistant at the Office of Senator Al Franken.
"It's an honor working in the U.S. Senate, and my favorite part of the job is to meet almost every Minnesotan who stops by the office.
"It helps cope with being away from the state when I'm able to see so many friendly, and sometimes familiar, faces every day."
His job duties include such things as managing the reception area, interns and handling non-legislative requests such as Capitol tours, flag flyovers and other requests.
Throughout all of his travels across the world, Trehus has seen what a big planet we live on, but yet how small it is, too.
In Norway, he discovered that the husband of the genealogy expert, Maryann, is related to Thomas' dad's side of the family.
In Washington, D.C., he met a man from Harmony, Minn., who works for a textbook company. "It makes you wonder how small the world really is," Trehus said with a smile.
Words of advice from this young man just beginning to leave his indelible mark upon the world, "I always think, how can next year get any better than the last, but somehow it always does. Stay focused, stay positive, know what you want and go get it!"