September 24, 2017

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 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.

Right now we have exclusive offers for Genealogy Gems readers:
Save $100 off a 20-Hour Research project with code GG100
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To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website here
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Irish Genealogy Help: DIY and Pro

Irish genealogy help is on the way! Starting your own Irish genealogy research can be intimidating. Lack of records and distance are just two obstacles to overcome. Lisa interviews Kate Eakman, Professional Genealogist specializing in Irish genealogy at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Kate provides the best practices for being an effective do-it-yourselfer, and explains how to hire a pro when you need one.

 

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 196, I’d like to share a few highlights regarding getting started with Irish genealogy. We all know it can be difficult, and there are lots of rumors suggesting records no longer exist. Here are a few key points Kate Eakman shared with me in our interview.

Irish Genealogy Help: A Pro Interview with Kate Eakman

Kate Eakman

Q: Where would you recommend the hobbyist start their Irish search?

A: A huge number of Americans identify as part Irish. One difficulty in Irish research is there are not a lot of Irish records available online for free. There are some, however, and these are important places to start. Top sites for free Irish records include:

– FamilySearch.org (click here for their Ireland landing page),
– National Archives of Ireland,
– Irishgenealogy.ie,
– and Findmypast.com (click here for their Ireland page.)

I particularly like Irishgenealogy.ie. They have some civil and church records available for various counties. Findmypast also has a great selection of Irish records and some are even free!

Q: What does a researcher need to know before ‘crossing the pond’?

A: Before ‘crossing the pond’ (and digging into Irish records), an important piece of information to obtain would be: where was the person born in Ireland? In particular, the county. Next, find out if they were Protestant or Catholic. Click here for an interactive map of Irish counties, including those of Northern Ireland to help you.

By learning the county of birth, you will save yourself time and difficulty. Many of the records you need will be kept on this county level.

Q: Where do you recommend they look for finding which county their ancestor was born in?

A: I would begin with death records, marriage records, church records, passenger lists, and naturalization papers. Keep an eye out for known extended family members who may have come from the same place. You can also school yourself in traditional Irish naming conventions and patterns, as this is always helpful.

Q: At what point in the Irish research process do hobbyists usually get stuck?

A: Common names regularly recycled can often cause researchers to get stuck. It can be tough to sort out who is who. Also, a huge fire at the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922 destroyed the bulk of government records. Click here for a description of what was lost and what surviving fragments are coming soon to Findmypast.com. Remember, there are always ways in which we can overcome these research barriers and get you the Irish genealogy help you need.

Q: Sometimes we need help. You are a professional genealogist at Legacy Tree Genealogists. How does one begin work with a professional genealogist?

A: Our process is easy. Go to our website and begin with a free consultation. A manager calls or emails you, the client, to discuss your needs and parameters. We identify the goals and determine what the client already knows. A goal, the time required, and the research packet needed is settled on (research packet prices). Then, a researcher is assigned to the client. A written report of the research conducted is provided to the client.

And, we have a great starter package. The Legacy Tree Discovery package provides for 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations. It’s a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance.

Exclusive Genealogy Gems Discount Offer

Visit Legacy Tree Genealogists and use coupon code GEMS100 to get $100 off any research package of 20 hours or more! Offer valid through 4/30/17.

(Disclosure: When a purchase is made, we receive compensation from the companies whose products we review and endorse. We carefully evaluate products and only engage with the companies we believe are the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.)

Irish Genealogy Help: DIY

irish genealogy cheat sheetProfessional genealogists like Kate and others at Legacy Tree Genealogists can launch your research or help bust you through a brick wall. However, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the place to start your research is at home. This will help you determine a place in Ireland, as well as details to help differentiate your person from someone of the same name.

Our Irish Research Guide #1 walks you through the process of identifying the right records in the US that provide you with what you need to know to move on to Irish records.

Irish Research Guide #2 will show you how to use the new online Civil Registration records for Ireland, and how to identify the surviving church records for your ancestors.

You can get them as a bundle in either print or digital download from our Genealogy Gems store.