Beginning Swedish genealogy can be daunting. But don’t let language barriers or unfamiliar naming traditions deter you! Check out these getting-started tips from an expert at Legacy Tree Genealogists.
This guest post comes from Paul Woodbury, a Senior Genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists. He’s an internationally recognized genetic genealogy expert and his varied geographical interests include Scandinavia. Thanks, Paul!
Many people avoid Swedish research because they don’t speak the language and because the names change every generation–like from Ole Olsson to Ole Nilsson to Nils Pehrrson. Despite these barriers, Swedish research can be relatively simple, fun, and successful for several reasons.
1. You can “read” many records without reading Swedish.
Particularly in late 18th and 19th century records, you don’t need in-depth Swedish language skills to make exciting discoveries. Swedish church records of the time were kept in tables and were largely composed of names, dates, and residences. Records include those of:
- Birth and christening (födelse och döpte)
- Marriage and engagement (lysning och vigsel)
- Death and burial (död och begravning)
- Moving-in lists (inflyttade) and moving-out lists (utflyttade)
- Clerical examination (“husförhörslängd”)–more on these below.
Dates were frequently recorded in number formats according to the European system (dd-mm-yyyy). As a result, researchers can learn a great deal from Swedish documents with little knowledge of the Swedish language. For the few additional words you may need to learn, consider reviewing this list of words commonly found in Swedish documents available through FamilySearch.org.
2. Family events are summarized in Swedish clerical examinations.
The clerical examination or “husförhörslängd” can act as an index to important family events. Beginning in 1686, each parish was required to keep a household examination for each household. Many early records don’t survive, but copies of these records exist for many parishes in Sweden after about 1780. As part of the household examination, parish priests of the Swedish Lutheran church were required to visit with the members of their parish at least once yearly and test them on their knowledge of the catechism.
Typically, these registers document a family over the course of 5-10 years. They not only include information about the family’s religious duties, but additional information regarding migration, family structure, residence and important family events. If a child was born, he or she was added to the clerical examination, and the birth date and christening date were noted. If an individual or a family moved within the parish, a note was made in the clerical examination with a reference to the page number of the family’s new residence. If they moved out of the parish, the date they left was often recorded along with the number of their entry in the moving-out books. The dates of deaths, confirmations, marriages, vaccinations and communions were also recorded. If you are lucky, additional notes might comment on crimes, physical characteristics, occupations, punishments, social standing, economic status, or other life events with references to pertinent records.
ArkivDigital, Dals-Ed (P) AI:15 (1866-1875), clerical examination, household of Per Johansson, Image 74 / page 64, https://app.arkivdigital.se, subscription database, accessed July 2017.
The above Household Clerical Examination in Dals-Ed Parish in Älvsborg covers 1866-1875 and shows the household of Per Johansson on the farm of Lilla Wahlberg in Bälnäs. The document provides birth dates and places for each household member. It shows that Per’s son, Andreas, moved to Norway in 1872. Another son, Emanuel, moved within the parish but returned after just a month. Among other notes on the document, we learn that Emanuel only had one eye and that he was a dwarf.
3. Many Swedish records cross-reference each other.
Clerical examinations reference other church records, such as those of a child’s birth or a couple’s marriage. But the reverse is also true: birth, marriage, death and migration records frequently reference household examinations. Birth records might list the page number of the child’s family in the household examination. Marriage records indicate the corresponding pages of the residences of the bride and the groom. Death records identify the residence of the deceased. Moving-in and moving-out records frequently report the corresponding page numbers of the farm where a migrant eventually settled or the parish from whence he came.
The yeoman farmer Ollas Per Persson and his wife Greta at a hut in Dalecarlia. Photograph by: Einar Erici, c1930. Wikimedia Commons image, Permission granted Swedish National Heritage Board @ Flickr Commons.
Most clerical examination buy medication for anxiety volumes include an index of farms and residences within the parish. In the case of some larger parishes and cities, local genealogical societies have sometimes indexed all individuals in the volume by name. When researching in multiple volumes, note the farm or residence of your ancestor in the previous record and then search the index of residences near the front or end of the next clerical examination volume. Usually, this will narrow your search to just a few pages out of the book rather than the entire volume.
4. You can trouble-shoot record gaps.
Even when an ancestor’s record trail turns cold, recent publications and indexes created by active Swedish genealogical societies make it possible to pick up the trails of elusive ancestors in earlier and later records. Even if these records do not list the specific pages of interest, they may still provide the reported residences, which can then be located in the clerical examination records.
Occasionally, an ancestor might have moved in a year for which migration records are not currently available, or they might have moved to a larger city with many parishes. Other times, their migration may not have been noted, or jurisdiction lines may have been redrawn resulting in the formation of a new farm and residence. In these cases it may be difficult to continue tracing an ancestor’s record trail. One strategy to overcome these situations is to search the clerical examinations by reported birth date. The birth dates or ages of Swedish ancestors are recorded in many of their records. If you are browsing through large collections, consider searching by birth date rather than by name. Since birth dates were often recorded in their own unique column and are more immediately recognizable than names, this may expedite your search. Even if these strategies still yield no results, searches in indexes may help to uncover an elusive ancestor’s record trail.
5. There are some excellent Swedish indexes and databases online.
In recent years, online indexes and databases have made Swedish genealogical research simpler than ever:
- FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com all have large collections of indexed birth, marriage and death records from Sweden.
- Sveriges Släktforskarföbund has compiled an index of Swedish death records from 1900 to 2013. It includes the birth dates, birth places, names, maiden names, death dates, residences at time of death, age at time of death, and if the individual was married or widowed, the index will also include the date of marriage or the date of death of their spouse. If they were not married, it will indicate their civil status. Click here to purchase the database (the price is in Swedish krona; do a Google search such as currency converter sek to usd to see the price in your country’s currency). (A related Ancestry.com database is entitled “Births from the Swedish Death Index” and only includes names, maiden name, birth dates and birth places of the individuals in the index.)
- MyHeritage has partnered with ArkivDigital to provide an index to Swedish clerical examinations between 1880 and 1920. (Indexing is underway for household examinations from 1850 to 1880.)
- Other indexed collections at ArkivDigital include the 1950 and 1960 Swedish censuses.
- Ancestry.com has indexes of Gotenburg passenger lists, which can help identify relatives who migrated from Sweden to others parts of the world.
As you can see, Swedish genealogical records from the late 1700s and 1800s can be fairly easy to read, detailed and full of cross-references. It’s often possible to trace a Swedish ancestor in every year of their life from birth to death! So don’t let language or patronymics (naming traditions) frighten you away from exploring your Swedish family tree.
Help is available when you need it
Have you hit a brick wall that could use professional help? Or maybe you simply don’t have the time for research right now? Our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists provide full-service professional research customized to your family history, and deliver comprehensive results that will preserve your family’s legacy.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Look for your Scandinavian ancestors in new and updated online Swedish marriage records, as well as population registers and vital records indexes for the Netherlands. Also: English parish registers, an Israeli collection for the Six Day War, and several U.S. collections: biographies, WWII draft registrations, Indian wills, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.
Netherlands – Population Registers, BMD
In May, MyHeritage published major new collections for the Netherlands. Among them are indexes to civil births, marriages and deaths, as well as church baptisms, marriages and burials. You’ll also find their new Netherlands, Population Registers, 1810-1936 index, with more than 16 million records from population registers across the Netherlands. “Records typically list name, birth date, birthplace, residence date, and residence place. Sometimes an individual’s age, occupation, and names of their parents or spouse is also included.”
TIP: Use the source information given to go to browse-only collections of register images at FamilySearch (free) or Ancestry.com (subscribers or library users).
Sweden – Marriage records
Over 6.5 million records are in the new Ancestry.com collection, Sweden, Indexed Marriage Records, 1860-1943. According to the collection description, “records in this database were created by Statistics Sweden (SCB), a government agency established in 1858 that extracted and transcribed birth, marriage, and death information from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden parish record books from 1860 to 1941.” You will likely find the names (including maiden name), dates of birth, gender and number of marriage for the bride and groom, along with dates and place of marriage. Later records may add more details: occupation, residence, nationality, religion and previous marital status. TIP: See the collection description for an explanation of Swedish naming traditions.
FYI–Ancestry.com’s Sweden, Indexed Death Records, 1840-1942 has also been recently updated (it’s now got 12.5 million records).
England – Parish Registers
Findmypast.com has recently posted the following new and updated parish records:
Israel – Military
The Israel State Archives has released a digital archive from the Six Day War. According to an article at Arutz Sheva, the collection numbers over 150,000 pages and includes “minutes of 36 meetings of the Ministerial Committee on National Security from January-July 1967, Cabinet protocols and documents pertaining to the war from various ministries (Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry, Tourism Ministry, Justice Ministry, Housing Ministry and others), as well as sound and video files, still photographs and materials from the personal archives of Levy Eshkol, Yaakov Herzog, Aviad Yafe, Moshe Sasson and Rabbi Shlomo Goren.” Click here for the Six Day War Collection on the Israel State Archives website.
United States – Miscellaneous
- Biographies of Famous People: You’ve likely seen late 19th-century U.S. county histories with biographical sketches of prominent residents (perhaps you’ve even found your family among them). A national version of these “mug books” has been published and indexed on Ancestry.com. Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1600-1889 includes over 15,000 entries from annual volumes 1887-1889, with entries from most states. “Much of the information found within was compiled by either the subjects themselves or by their families,” warns the collection description. “Not all of the biographies found within the Cyclopedia may be accurate….Since contributors to the project were paid by space, there is speculation that the authors of the false pieces may have been financially motivated to add fabricated entries.” As always, use what you find to inform and guide your research: verify everything you can.
- Red Cross: Nearly 20,000 newly scanned photographs from the American National Red Cross collection are now online at the Library of Congress website.
- WWII draft registrations: Fold3 has added 21 new states or regions to its collection of WWII Draft Registration Cards. Draft registration cards are an excellent resource for determining where your family lived after the 1940 census; employer information, which can lead to business records or help you identify a relative in a city directory; and more.
- Indian wills: Ancestry.com has a new collection of U.S., Indian Wills, 1910-1921. According to the collection description, for a time, “the Probate Divisions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs were responsible for determining the heirs of deceased Indian trust allottees. Ultimately, Native Americans submitted more than 2,500 pages of wills and probate records to the Bureau. These records span the period 1910 to 1921 and, with a few exceptions, pertain to Indian families living in the Plains and several western states. Researchers will find members of the following tribes represented in this collection: Chippewa, Sioux, Apache, Shawnee, Quapaw, Assinboin, Leach Lake Chippewa, Confederated Flathead, Ponca, Cheyenne, Crow, Sac & Fox, Nez Perce, Southern Ute, Omaha, Osage, and more.”
- Arkansas: The Arkansas State Archive Newspaper Digitization Project has now digitized and indexed over 200,000 pages that will appear on Newspapers.com in June. Click here to learn more about this project.
- Florida: Flagler College (St. Augustine, Florida) has digitized its archive of yearbooks and photos, articles, college catalogs, and more. Now available to the public online
- Georgia: Now on the Georgia Archives is a digital version of its Bible Records Microfilm Index. These are images of the “card catalog (compiled by Georgia Archives staff) of the Archives’ holdings of Bible records on microfilm. The cards have been scanned and saved in PDF format.”
Got Swedish roots?
Then you’ll likely enjoy our current Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title, The Whole Town’s Talking by internationally-bestselling author Fannie Flagg. It’s the story of two Swedish-American immigrants to the U.S., who find each other and marry after the man places an ad in a newspaper. Their dairy farm becomes the core of Swede Town, which grows into a classic Midwestern town. This novel is the multi-generational story of that town. Click here to learn more about The Whole Town’s Talking and The Genealogy Gems Book Club.
A WWI history app for genealogy leads our top picks for this week! History buffs are going to love Remembering WWI, an app that makes your WWI family history come alive. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical collections, Swedish church records, Canadian marriage records, Pennsylvania naturalizations, and more.
WWI History for Genealogy
The National Archives has launched Remembering WWI, a free app for iPad and Android. It is especially geared for young people, but with an ability to explore, collaborate, and engage with NARA’s extensive collection of WWI photographs, it’s for any history buff. The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary, in April 2017, of the U.S. entry into World War.
It is now available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.
What is even more interesting about this app is how it invites people nationwide to contribute their own stories. You can create your own collections and build and share new narratives around the people, events, and themes you are researching.
Sweden – Norrbotten & Kopparberg – Church Records
Church Records in Swedish Collections at FamilySearch
Also this week at FamilySearch, Sweden, Norrbotten Church Records, 1612-1923; index 1658-1860 has been updated. You will note the large year span in this collections coverage. Because of this, records will vary. Generally speaking, you will find church records include births, marriages, and deaths and also images to clerical surveys, registers of birth, marriage, death, move-in and move-out lists, confirmations, and church accounts.
Church records are particularly helpful when searching pre-civil registration time frames or when there has been loss or damage to the civil records you need.
In particular, these collections contain household examination records. A household examination record is filled with genealogical data and some other unusual statistics. Information may include:
- The name of the farm, village, or rote (registration area).
- Names of household members including any pigor (female workers) or drängar (male workers)
- Birth date or age
- A score for catechism knowledge
- Dates of partaking communion
- Dates of participation with the Household Examination
- Moving information
- Death date
- Marriage date
- Disciplinary notes
- Vaccination against smallpox
- Reference to military conscription
Sweden, Kopparberg Church Records, 1604-1900; index 1628-1860 was also updated.
Canada – Ontario – Marriage Registers
The Ontario, County Marriage Registers 1858-1869 at FamilySearch have also been updated. These records contain an index and images of marriages. There are some records that actually date prior to 1858 and after 1869, so be sure to check the collection thoroughly.
These marriage records will generally include the following information:
- Name of groom
- Name and maiden name of bride
- Age of groom and bride at marriage
- Names of groom’s parents and bride’s parents
- Place and date of marriage
- Names of witnesses or possible relatives
United States – New Hampshire – Civil War Service & Pension Records
The New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866 are now available at FamilySearch and have been recently updated. The collection includes both an index and images of Civil War enlistment papers, muster rolls of New Hampshire Regiments, and pension records.
The pension records are arranged by town with indexes arranged by name and town. The enlistment papers are arranged by military unit, volume, and year range. The muster rolls are arranged by unit name and folder number.
Pension papers can often be used as substitute records for vital information such as birth, marriage, and death. Additional information may include birth place, occupation, and a physical description.
United States – Alaska – Vital Records
Though a rather small collection with only just over 80,000 records, the Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959 may be just what you need. These records include both an index and digital images of birth, marriage, death, and divorce records from Alaska covering the years of 1816-1959. This collection is being published as images become available.
United States – Pennsylvania – Petitions for Naturalization
Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931 at FamilySearch continues to grow. Now up to over 300,000 records, the collection will offer naturalization petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania for the years 1795 to 1931. The records corresponds to NARA publication M1522 part of Record Group 21 Records of District Courts of the United States.
Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant’s nation of origin, his or her foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. It is important to note that naturalization changed over time and information will vary greatly.
Swedish-American newspapers are our first stop as we head off the beaten path. This week you’ll discover special record collections of Burke County, North Carolina yearbooks, photo images for Scotland, and State Militia records. Also this week, German civil registrations, Utah divorces, and lots of Irish goodies.
There are more online records than just those found at Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage, or FamilySearch. Lesser known record collections pack a powerful punch to your family history research!
The Minnesota Historical Society has made some Swedish-American newspapers available online for the first time. This past week, Swedish-American Newspapers were made available through an online portal. Users can explore more than 300,000 pages from 28 different Swedish-American newspaper titles published across the U.S. between 1859 and 2007.
The portal is available in Swedish and English and includes a keyword search.
United States – North Carolina – Burke County – Yearbooks
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has a statewide digital publishing program located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The center works to digitize and publish historic materials online.
Among their digital holdings, more than 60 years worth of yearbooks are now available to view online. The schools covered include:
Yearbooks provide enriching details into the lives of our ancestors and can be especially helpful in finding names of living family members!
United States – North Carolina – Militia
Also for North Carolina, the State Archives there have made their militia records, specifically the troop returns for the 18th and 19th centuries, available online.
The Troop Returns collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War, North Carolina Continental Line.
Militia records generally include the names of officers and soldiers, and are usually organized by district or county. Continental line records include field returns, general returns, draft records, and enlistment records.
This collection is a work in progress. As more records are digitized, they will become view-able online. In the meantime, see what’s there by checking out a helpful index in pdf form here.
Canada – Books
Though these new books added to the shelves of the Library and Archives Canada are not online, the information may be of value to you. Several new books are available to view in-person at the Library and Archives Canada.
Some of the new listings include:
Obituaries from the Christian guardian, 1891 to 1895, by Donald A. McKenzie (AMICUS 42197735)
American loyalists to New Brunswick: the ship passenger lists, by David Bell (AMICUS 43913838)
The link to the AMICUS record gives the call number you need to find the book on the shelves.
Baptisms and marriage books for several churches also are among the new publications. For a complete listing of the new books, click here: https://thediscoverblog.com/2016/10/28/new-books-in-the-genealogy-services-collection-at-395-wellington-october-2016/
Germany – Civil Registrations
New this week at FamilySearch.org are the Germany Bavaria Nuremberg Civil Registration 1803-1886 collection. This record set is an index only of over 1.2 million civil registrations.
The collection includes birth, marriage, and death records from Nuremberg.
Birth records may include:
- Name of child
- Names of parents
- Place of residence
- Date of birth
Marriage records may include:
- Name of bride and groom
- Place of residence
- Name of bride’s parents
- Name of groom’s parents
- Groom’s date of birth and birthplace
- Bride’s date of birth and birthplace
Death records may include:
- Name of deceased
- Age at death
- Place of residence
- Date of death
United States – Utah – Divorce Records
Findmypast has added Utah Divorces to their collections. More than 177,000 records from Utah district courts cover the years of 1997 to 2016. Each result includes a transcript that will reveal the date the divorce was filed, the petitioner, respondent, attorney, case type, and the judgment that was reached.
Ireland – Cavan – Registers
Cavan Registers & Records currently includes only one title named “Crosserlough Census Index 1821.” The 1821 census of Crosserlough, County Cavan, was taken on 28 May 1821. The Four Courts fire in Dublin destroyed the original census documents, but a copy was made prior to this.
There are near 8,000 individuals listed in the 1821 census. Each entry records an individual name, age, occupation and relationship to the head of household.
Ireland – Kilkenny – Registers
Kilkenny Registers & Records are presented as PDFs. The collection includes the Castlecomer Census Index 1901 compiled in 2000 by Tom Delany.
The publication is a summary of the population of Castlecomer in 1901. It lists the names, ages, and occupations of the all the inhabitants. On image number 204 is the beginning of an index of all the names found in the publication to help you.
Ireland – Dublin – Registers
Ten new publications have been added to the collection of Dublin Registers & Records. These new items include school registers, district and street censuses, business directories, and monumental inscriptions. The collection also includes parish records from the Church of Ireland.
Ireland – Newspapers
Over 1.7 million new articles have been added to the historic Irish Newspapers collection. New additions have been made to existing titles including The Irish Times and The Weekly Irish Times.
Newspapers can be searched by time-frame, place, county, and newspaper title.
Scotland – Leith – Photographs
A picture is worth a thousand words, or maybe in this case, a thousand records! A rare collection of photographs from the 1920s in Leith, Scotland is available to view online. This collection was digitized by Edinburgh University.
Though most of the images are of buildings and streets and not well labeled, if you are familiar with the area, something might stand out to you. Take a stroll down memory lane of yesteryear in Leith Scotland by clicking here.
More Gems on Researching Newspapers for Genealogy
Available at www.shopgenealogygems.com
This week we explored Swedish-American newspapers as well as some from Ireland. Perhaps you are in search of newspaper elsewhere in the world. Lisa Louise Cooke presents everything you need to know about How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. This exceptional book is packed with information on how to find and utilize newspaper collections. Available in book and e-book, you will find
- Step by Step Instructions
- Worksheets and Checklists
- Tons of Free Online Resources
- Websites that are worth Shelling Out a Few Bucks For
- A Massive Amount of Location Specific Websites (International)
- A Case Study that Puts It All to the Test
MyHeritage is a leading resource for Scandinavian genealogy research. Now they are offering a free webinar for those researching Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic ancestry.
On Wednesday, April 15, Mike Mansfield, MyHeritage Director of Content and Jason Oler, MyHeritage Senior Program Manager, will host a program packed with research tips and strategies for navigating the millions of Scandinavian genealogy records now on MyHeritage. Click here to register.
Ready to learn about Scandinavian genealogy NOW? Genealogy Gems Premium members can access Premium Podcast Episode #15, in which Lisa interviews Scandinavian research expert Ruth Mannis at the Family History Library. Ruth simplifies and clarifies the process and reassures us that everyone can have success finding their Scandinavian roots. If you’re not a Premium member yet, you’re missing out on gems like Ruth Mannis’ interview–and more than 100 more premium podcasts like these and dozens of genealogy video tutorials. Get a year’s access
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