Beginning Swedish Genealogy: Tips from Legacy Tree Genealogists

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.

To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website here.
 
Summer Sale Legacy Tree Genealogists

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!

New Genealogy Records and Updates

Here are the important system and records updates from industry leaders. Each new feature and record offers a new opportunity to learn more about your family history. Let’s get started!

 

new genealogy records and updates

MyHeritage Updates

MyHeritage announced an update their Related Records features on December 16, 2019. Here’s the latest from their blog:

“We recently revamped Related Records in SuperSearch™ to ensure that you don’t miss any important historical records that can lead you to new discoveries.

Related Records, previously known as Record Detective™, shows additional records or family tree profiles that might belong to the person or people featured in the historical record you are currently viewing.

The technology scans the record you’ve discovered in SuperSearch™ and matches it to our entire database of over 10.2 billion historical records and family tree profiles to locate related records.

For example, a birth record could point to a newspaper article about the wedding of the same person, where you could learn about new family members that you weren’t aware of.

To make Related Records more practical and ensure that you won’t miss them, we now show them in a convenient panel on the right-hand side of the record instead of below it.

Related Records are generated by MyHeritage’s record-to-record matching technology, and we’ve just re-calculated these matches, adding hundreds of millions of additional Related Records. This will open the door to many new and exciting discoveries.”

MyHeritage Records

MyHeritage has also been busy adding new records:

Germany, War Graves Index, 1902-1961

An index of 4,234,266 records

“This index of over 4.2 million records containing information on German soldiers and civilians who died in wars or military operations between 1902 and 1961.

 Many of the records are for soldiers killed during World War I or World War II. While the amount of information in each record varies, the vast majority of records contain the following searchable data: first and last name, date of birth, date of death, and place of death. Some records also include birth place, burial place, and military rank.

The burial place is seldom recorded, but when available it can provide valuable information about the location of the grave.

While this is largely an early 20th-century military death index, many women are present in this collection.

In the case of soldiers who went missing, the date of death field may refer to the date on which they went missing. Similarly, the place of death may refer to the place from which they went missing.”

Australia, Military Lists and Awards

An index of Australian military rolls.
960,081 records

United States, Index of Burials, 1900-2019

An index of records from various cemeteries located in the United States.
492,002 records

Australia, Index of Burials, 1900-2019

An index of records from various cemeteries located in Australia.
438,587 records

England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Index of Will Registers, 1384-1858

An index of wills proved before the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and other jurisdictions.
979,653 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Ratings’ Service Records, 1853-1928

An index of Royal Navy service records for ratings who entered the service between 1853 and 1928.
803,684 records

United Kingdom, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Navy Reserve Ratings’ Records of Service, 1908-1958

An index of service record cards of Royal Naval Reserves, mainly those who served during the First World War.
129,896 records

United Kingdom, Royal Air Force Officers’ Index, 1918-1919

An index of service records of those who served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the First World War (1914–1918).
101,411 records

United Kingdom, Royal Marines’ Service Records, 1842-1925

An index of service registers of men who joined the Royal Marines between 1842 and 1925.
112,012 records

United Kingdom, Index of Merchant Seamen’s Campaign Medals, 1939-1945

An index of 108,387 records

United Kingdom, Index of Merchant Seamen’s Campaign Medals, 1914-1918

An index of recipients of British War Medals, Mercantile Marine Medals, and Silver War Badges issued to merchant seamen and officers in the First World War.
157,424 records

United Kingdom, Recommendations for Military Honours and Awards, 1935-1990

An index of recommendations for military honors and awards between 1935 and 1990 to British Army personnel and army personnel from British dominions.
78,497 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, 1756-1931

An index of service records for officers who joined the Royal Navy between 1756 and 1931.
66,686 records

United Kingdom, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Index, 1903-1922

An index of First World War service records for officers and ratings of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).
59,784 records

United Kingdom, Index of Death Duty Registers, 1796-1811

An index of 51,146 records

United Kingdom, Admiralty and War Office: Royal Naval Division: Records of Service, 1914-1919

An index of service records of ratings and officers in the Royal Naval Division (RND) during the First World War.
50,017 records

Click here to search for these records at MyHeritage.

 

FamilySearch Records

FamilySearch has also continued to add indexed records. Most are to existing collections, but some are new collections. Here’s what they announced on December 9, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—New, free, historical records were added to FamilySearch.org  from American Samoa, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Venezuela and the United States. Over 800,000 records were added from the Cape Province of Africa (1895-1972.)

American Samoa 

American Samoa, Vital Records, 1850-1972  
3,550 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Brazil

Brazil, Santa Catarina, Civil Registration, 1850-1999  
8,512 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Chile

Chile, Catholic Church Records, 1710-1928  
7,707 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Colombia 

Colombia, Bogotá, Burial Permits, 1960-1991  
79,631 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Croatia

Croatia, Delnice Deanery Catholic Church Books, 1725-1926   
2,870 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Civil Registration, 1823-1975     
151,856 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England

England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898  
599 indexed records 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Huntingdonshire Parish Registers  
52,367 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Oxfordshire Parish Registers 1538-1904
51,159 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Yorkshire Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1613-1887 
2,587 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

England, Cambridge Parish Registers, 1538-1983      
468,063 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

France

France, Vienne, Military Draft Cards, 1867-1921
3,633 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Ireland 

Ireland, James Alexander Henderson, The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory for 1856  
37,363 indexed records 
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Irish Almanac & Official Directory 1868 
103,355 indexed records    
New indexed records collection

Northern Ireland, Tithe Applotment Books, 1822-1837
175,575 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland and Britain, Transatlantic Migration from North America, 1858-1870
42,695 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Official Directory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1894, Irish Section
121,181 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Ireland, Thom’s Official Directory, 1910
131,734 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Italy 

Italy, Trieste, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1924-1944
100 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Netherlands

Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records, 1600-2000
101,765 indexed records (over several weeks)
Added indexed records to an existing collection

New Zealand      

New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998
637 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru

Peru, Amazonas, Civil Registration, 1935-1999
26,959 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Ayacucho, Civil Registration, 1903-1999
1,394 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Huánuco, Civil Registration, 1889-1997
23,227 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Prelature of Yauyos-Cañete-Huarochirí, Catholic Church Records, 1665-2018
1,494 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru, Tacna, Civil Registration, 1850-1998
193,495 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, Civil Registration, 1805-2001
714 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

South Africa

South Africa, Cape Province, Civil Deaths, 1895-1972
818,292 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States

Alabama

Alabama, Confederate Pension Applications, ca. 1880-1930’s
168,372 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Alabama, County Birth Registers, 1881-1930 
8,206 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Arkansas

Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929  
96,713 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

California, San Francisco Arrivals

United States, California, List of United States Citizens Arriving at San Francisco, 1930-1949
434,995 indexed records
New indexed records collection

Georgia

Georgia, Chatham, Savannah, Laurel Grove Cemetery Record Keeper’s Book (colored), 1852-1942      
24,094 indexed records   
New indexed records collection

Georgia, Columbus, Linwood and Porterdale Colored Cemeteries, Interment Records, 1866-2000       
28,946 indexed records  
New indexed records collection

Georgia, County Delayed Birth and Death Records, 1870-1960           
202 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Hawaii

Hawaii, Board of Health, Marriage Record Indexes, 1909-1989     
85,716 indexed records          
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Hawaii, Hansen’s Disease Records, Kalaupapa Census Index, 1839-1970                                 
2,336 indexed records    
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana

Louisiana, New Orleans, Interment Registers, 1836-1972   
133,660 indexed records         
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana, Orleans Parish, Birth Records, 1819-1906         
85,840 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Louisiana, New Orleans Index to Passenger Lists, 1853-1952         
151,894 indexed records
New indexed records collection

South Carolina

South Carolina, Charleston County, Charleston, Birth Registers, 1901-1926     
14,132 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Tennessee

Tennessee, Davidson County, Nashville City Cemetery Records, 1843-1962  
18,187 indexed records           
New indexed records collection

Tennessee, Shelby County, Memphis, Board of Health Death Records, 1848-1913  
1,121 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Texas

Texas, Harrison County Delayed Birth Records, 1860-1933          
23 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

U.S. Obituaries

United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815-2011     
8,829,622 indexed records
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Venezuela           

Venezuela, Catholic Church Records, 1577-1995  
109,788 indexed records             
Added indexed records to an existing collection

FamilySearch Update

Also recently announced by FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Adds Ability to Document All Family Relationships 
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (10 December 2019)

“The FamilySearch Family Tree now provides the ability for users to document all family relationships, including same-sex relationships.”

(FamilySearch) “encourages genealogical accuracy based on original source records and contains over a billion user-contributed lineage-linked records. Patrons are now able to document same-sex relationships, including same-sex marriages and same-sex adoptions.”

“When adding a spouse or parent to the FamilySearch Family Tree, the user can now add a spouse or parent of the same sex.  The Family Tree mobile app will also support this new capacity after users install the necessary updates.”

Official Statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Ancestry Record Updates

Here are the latest new and updated historical genealogy records from Ancestry:

Updated:
Australia and New Zealand, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

Updated:
Brazil, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

New:
New York State, Card Index to Supreme Court and Court of Chancery Documents, 1648-1848

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marriages, 1838-1911

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Births, 1839-1911

New:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Deaths, 1854-1911

Updated:
Norway, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Sweden, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Italy, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Updated:
Germany, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current 

Updated:
Mexico, Find A Grave Index, 1800s-Current

New and Updated Genealogy Collections from Around the World

This week, we bring you new and updated record collections from genealogy societies around the world. We are often familiar with the record sets available at FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage, but many more wonderful virtual repositories exist online. Check out these records for New Zealand, Belgium, Israel, Britain, and Ireland.

dig these new record collections

New Zealand – Civil Records

FamilySearch has added a large new collection this week for New Zealand. New Zealand, Civil Records Indexes, 1800-1896 is an index only, but numbers 857,382 records. This index collection contains birth, marriage, and death records between the years of 1800 to 1896. The original records are located with the New Zealand Government, Internal Affairs.
Birth records may contain:
  • First and last name of child
  • Date of birth
  • Location of birth
  • First and last name of father and mother
Marriage records may contain:
  • Date and location of wedding
  • Bride’s first and last name
  • Groom’s first and last name
Death records may contain:
  • Date and location of death
  • First and last name of deceased
  • Date of birth
  • Age at death

Belgium – Civil Registrations

Though FamilySearch has only added to these collections, it is a good idea to check back in to see what’s new. This week, four Belgium collections regarding civil registrations have been added to.
Belgium new and updated genealogical collections
You will notice in the chart above, some of these record sets are indexed records only. Belgium, Antwerp, Civil Registration, 1588-1913; Belgium, East Flanders, Civil Registration, 1541-1914; and Belgium, Liège, Civil Registration, 1621-1914 are the index only collections. Belgium, Limburg, Civil Registration, 1798-1906 is the only one that contains digital images.
Each of these civil registration collections contain birth, marriage, and death records for the town locations and time periods listed. The records for Limburg are written in Dutch or Flemish depending on the timeframe. You will find names, dates of events, and sometimes details such as residence, marital status, and names of parents in any of these civil record sets.

Israel – Misc. Records

Societies around the world bring a wealth of information to our research. A Gem’s reader, Elena, shared with us this next record collection set for Israel. The Israel Genealogy Research Association has over 730,000 records from over 260 databases on their website. You can search in English or Hebrew and for free, though you are required to register.
new and updated collections for Israel
The IGRA adds or updates their record collections about every two months. In particular, record collections cover:
They also have miscellaneous records from various parts of the world, such as a list of Russian Jewish POW’s in World War I and a list of Jewish soldiers in the International Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Britain – Registers

Findmypast has released the new Britain, Registers of Licences to pass beyond the seas 1573-1677 collection which records the details of early travelers who left Britain for Ireland, continental Europe, New England, Barbados, Bermuda and other overseas colonies.

The collection includes over 27,000 fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of original documents. It includes lists of soldiers who signed a statutory oath of allegiance before serving in the “Low Countries” between 1613 and 1633, licences for individuals traveling to Europe between 1573 and 1677, and registers of individuals traveling to America between 1634 and 1639.

The records showing passengers licensed to sail to the Americas are very rare, making this collection quite significant. They record groups headed for colonies in New England, Maryland, Virginia, Barbados, Bermuda, St Kitt’s, and the Providence Island colony during the 1630s. Very few original records from this early period of American history are available online. Registers record the details of some of earliest English settlers to arrive on the continent.

After 1609, all travelers over the age of 18 had to swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before the Clerk of the Passes could issue them with a licence to leave the country. The dates shown in these records are the date the oath was taken or the date the licence was issued – not the date of actual departure.

Ireland – Indexes

Societies around the world continue to amaze us, as does The Irish Genealogical Research Society with three recent updates. These updated collections include new birth, marriage, and death confirmations of citizen of Ireland.

In particular, the birth index was most recently updated to reflect information gathered from several thousand records taken from Index of Nuns, a CD publication in 2015 by the Catholic Family History Society. which notes biographical information for about 14,000 nuns, many of them from Ireland.

Also, there are entries from a census-substitute dated 1887 recording the Roman Catholic residents of the parish of Kirkinriola, Co. Antrim and entries taken from Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852.

genealogy societies around the world records

IGRS is another genealogy society around the world containing Irish records.

The full database is available only to Members. However, a restricted but free surname-only search of the database can be made by non-members. A search will tell you how many entries in the database match your search criteria. It will not provide all the details of those matched records. You can however become a member with all access by visiting their subscription page here.

Genealogy Societies Around the Worldthanks for sharing ancestor

You may never have considered joining a genealogical society outside of your country, but may find it is just what you need to break through that brick wall. Do you know of a genealogy society that has an extensive collection of records? If you do, would you share it with us? We would love to hear about it in the comments below. Be sure to leave a link so that we can check it out!

Standing in Judgment of Our Ancestors

Standing in judgement of our ancestors may be unavoidable. Genealogists dig up the good, the bad, and the ugly. We cannot pick and choose what we find, but we might be able to pick what and how we share it with others.

download backblaze

Recently, I received a letter from a Gem’s reader which included a very delicate and sensitive matter. She writes:

Hi Lisa!

I love your blog and podcast. Thank you for all you do getting gems together for us!  I have a question for you and would love to know your opinion (or the opinion of anyone else as well!)

I was recently at a family wedding. I printed out all the family and ancestor’s paper trails and documents and was passing them around to my aunt, uncles, and cousins. My mom’s eldest brother brought up a memory he had of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, a German immigrant. My uncle whispered it to me because the saying my great-grandfather often said is very prejudice. I won’t tell you what the quote is but it’s prejudice against Jewish, Irish, and Dutch people. Here’s my question – should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? As genealogists we are always trying to get a full view of the person we are researching – past the census records, military service paperwork, and wills – and into the real person and personality. So, I now have a more broad view of my great-grandfather, but it’s negative. Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? I’m conflicted about what to do. Maybe if this was a further distanced relative I would have an easier time brushing aside this prejudice but I’m having a hard time with the “right thing to do.” Any advice would be wonderful!

As a side note I will tell you that in the following generations this mans’ children and grandchildren have married Irish and Jewish spouses. Haha. I guess the “saying” was never echoed by his descendants!

Thanks,
Jennifer

Judgement of Our Ancestors

This is a great question and I applaud you for thoughtfully taking a moment to really think it through and ask for advice before moving forward on recording what you were told.

 
You asked – Should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? My opinion is, no. Mother Lisa says this is gossip and you didn’t hear it straight from your great-grandfather. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else attributing a negative comment to me without having the chance to review or rebuke it. It’s a slippery slope.
 
judgement of our ancestors

Little Tea & Gossip by Robert Payton Reid, Source: http:⁄⁄www.liveinternet.ru⁄users⁄pmos_nmos⁄post357791815⁄

 

You also asked – Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? And there’s the slippery slope. I believe that we, in modern times, should avoid sitting in judgement of ancestors who are not here to defend themselves. We don’t want to presume that we are in a position to decide how wrong “the crime” is. We certainly don’t want to be negatively prejudiced against others ourselves, but it is impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes in a differing time and circumstance. We know nothing about what the person really said. Perhaps they were joking (even though in extremely bad taste!) Maybe the person who heard this, and passed it on, had an ax to grind and part or none of it is true. Or, maybe there was an experience that our ancestor suffered that could have given him a reason to gripe based on his personal experience. You just don’t know.

In my book, I would chalk this up to gossip and either prove it with substantiated evidence or move on. What goes around comes around so let’s hope it will prevent an occurrence of someone gossiping about you and your future descendant spreading it into the ages.

 

Deciding to Write the Whole Story

In cases where you have secured substantial evidence that a negative story is true, you still have a choice to make. When I come across particularly sensitive or negative information about an ancestor, and before I make it public, I ask myself, “who will this help, and who will it hurt?” Does adding it to the family history enrich it? Is there anyone living today who might be hurt? If someone stands to be injured, but you’re set on capturing the story, I encourage you to do so privately for your own records and of course, cite all of your sources.

 
If you do decide to write and publish sensitive stories, I know that you will want to do so in as gentle and fair a way as possible. Here are some things to consider when writing about delicate stories of our ancestors:
  • Be sure to cite your source – who told you the story and when. The reader can decide whether to take the story with a grain of salt or believe it.
  • Let your readers know your reason for sharing the story in the first place. Genealogy Gems blogger Amie Tennant recently read a family history that included a horrible childhood memory. The writer stated it was important to put the family dynamics in full view so that other stories would be seen in the “right light.”
  • If naming everyone in the story will cause hurt or embarrassment, consider documenting the essence of the story without naming names.

Whatever you decide, writing a family history, though difficult at times, can be a rewarding experience.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU