Swedish Workshop

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Syllabus for Workshop taught by Geofrey Fröberg Morris, International Patron Services Manager, and Wilma Larson, Research Consultant, both at FamilySearch's Family History Library, presented at the NGS 2010 Conference.


In U.S. research, there is no “one” source to start with. You will need to check many sources, looking for the clues you need. While you are searching, try to identify what the emigrant was known by before coming to the United States. Look for any other family members that also came over. Identify the year of emigration to the United States. Find your ancestor in the U.S. Arrival lists. Look for any Swedish place-names that are mentioned.

GOAL: To find enough clues to follow the ancestor through the emigration records and establish a last place of residence in Sweden.

Key Swedish American Sources

• Certificates, obituaries, diaries, letters, or Bibles that were passed down.
• Swedish Lutheran churches in America (or other denominations)
• Directories
• U.S. censuses
• Inscription on tombstones or Sexton records
• Newspapers (especially the ones in Swedish)
• Biographies
• Information about the year of emigration in U.S. censuses or other sources
• Land records
• Naturalization
See the article “Finding a Place of Origin in Sweden” at https://wiki.familysearch.org

Case Study

The family’s ancestor Carl Olson is a Swede who emigrated and settled in Kansas. Two letters written by the two different grandchildren of Carl include some family history about Carl. From family records, we know his name, a birth date, and where he settled. His marriage license in Saline County offers another look at his name with his spouse’s name. The 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 U.S. Federal Censuses were checked, along with the Kansas 1875, 1885, and 1905 State Censuses, and it was found that Carl Olson was born in Sweden, about 1847, emigrated in 1869 (at about 22 years old), and naturalized before 1900. The Saline County directories of 1882, 1885, and 1902 were checked. His death certificate in Colorado shows an exact date of birth and a father’s name. A death announcement was found in the Lindsborg news of October 1917. During the search we find his name recorded as both Charles or Carl.


The next step is to search U.S. immigration sources to find when and where your Swedish ancestors arrived in the United States. With the exact date of arrival, you can calculate approximately when they left from Sweden. Now that you know the emigrant ancestors names, ages, and approximately when they arrived in the United States, you can search the Swedish departure databases or lists.

GOAL: Follow the emigrant ancestor through the U.S. immigration and Swedish emigration records to maintain the correct identity and establish the last place of residence in Sweden.

Key American Immigration and Swedish Emigration Sources

• U.S. Arrivals Lists (use databases online first)
• Swedish Emigranten Populär Database
• Swedish Emibas Database
• Swedish Emigration County Lists
• Swedish Police Records of Emigration Lists
See the United States Emigration and Immigration and Swedish Emigration Databases and Indexes at https://wiki.familysearch.org

Case Study

In searching the U.S. arrival lists for the port of New York City, a Carl Ohlsen, aged 21, from Sweden, arrived from Glasgow on the steamer United Kingdom on April 17, 1869. In checking the Swedish Police Records of Emigration on the database Emigranten, Carl Olsson is not found. In checking the database Emibas we find a Karl Olsson born September 26, 1847 (U.S. sources had September 21, 1847), leaving the parish on March 15, 1869, from Asphyttan, Färnebo, Värmland, to Nordamerika. This was confirmed in the Emigrantregistret för Värmland, and the county emigration lists leaving Värmland.

Language Tools

Now that you are in Swedish records, here are some tools to help with the language.
See Sweden: Language and Languages, Sweden: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, and the Swedish Word List at https://wiki.familysearch.org

Locality Found!

After you have found your emigrant ancestor in the Swedish emigration records, you should have a “last place of residence.” Once you have a last place of residence, you should become familiar with the location of that place in Sweden and the records associated with that place. Start by using maps and gazetteers to find where the place is in Sweden. Next, identify the parish associated with the last place of residence, and search the “moving out records” or “household examination records” to find your ancestors leaving the parish.

GOAL: Now that you know a place, become familiar with the location and the records of that place.

Access to Swedish Gazetteers

There are many good Swedish gazetteers to help you understand both the actual place your ancestor is from and the associated jurisdictions. The gazetteers are in book, database, CD, and online database form. See the article “Sweden: Gazetteers” at https://wiki.familysearch.org

Case Study

There are many sources available to help you become familiar with Swedish place-names. Some are in book form, others are databases on CD, and still others are databases on the Internet. Whatever the source, keep in mind that some place-names are very straightforward and simple to find, and some require checking multiple sources. Also, the information in a gazetteer might be different according to when the gazetteer was published (according to boundary or jurisdictional changes). In checking the C. M. Rosenberg Geografiskt-statiskt handlexikon öfver Sverige database we find that Färnebo is a parish in Värmland County. With this information we can go search the parish records for Färnebo to find Carl moving out of the parish.


Household Examination (Husförhörslängd)[edit | edit source]

A household examination record (or Husförhörslängd) is a church book kept by the parish minister containing information about all the people who lived in his parish. The parishioners were listed by households and usually identified at least by name, birth date, and place of residence. Sometimes there is also moving in and out information, marriage date, death date, and other items.

The purpose for the record was to keep track of all parishioners and to examine them for their knowledge of key parts of the Lutheran religion. The parish was organized into “examination groups” that would meet at a designated time and place annually. Although this was an annual event, the minister would usually use the same book for about 5 to 10 years before starting a new one. The minister often entered other happenings in between the examinations, which sometimes look like a continuous census record. Theoretically, a Swedish ancestor can be traced from birth to death through the household examination records.

Access to Swedish Parish record: Household Examinations

• Genline
• Svar
• Arkivdigital
• Family History Library and Centers
• FamilySearch Historical Records

To effectively use the household examination book, you should:

  • Follow an ancestor from birth to death, watching for valuable clues along the way.
  • Since household examinations are organized by farm, village, or rote, there is often an index of small places within the parish at the beginning or end of the book.
  • Pay attention to relationship titles, occupations, and the remarks. Sometimes multiple generations are listed within the same household.
  • If a person is crossed off or disappears from one book to another, they either moved or died. If they moved within the parish, the ancestor can appear on multiple pages for the same set of years.
  • The household examination records should be used in connection with the moving in and out records.
  • Remember that you will need to verify all birth, marriage, and deaths dates found in the household examination records in the actual records for the event.

GOAL: To follow the ancestor through the household examination records from birth to death.

Reading Swedish Household Examination Records

Because the household examination records were never standardized, you will find a wide variance in how they look. The biggest challenges to reading the household examinations are reading the old handwriting, understanding the format of the record, and following the clues from one record to another.

Case Study

The information from the emigration database, Emibas, said that Karl Olsson was residing in Asphyttan, Färnebo parish, and was found on page 35 of the household examination for Färnebo (between 1866 and 1870). On page 35, Karl is listed with his parents and siblings. The parents’ names matched with family knowledge, and it was observed that the rest of the family emigrated the year after Karl, also in agreement with family information and census records. This household examination gives information about where the family was recorded in the previous exam (page 35). In 1861-1865, the family is on page 35 of the same parish. In 1856-1860 the family is on page 31, with the note they came from “St. 219” in 1859. Färnebo is the country parish (landsförsamling), and Filipstad is the city parish (stadsförsamling). The family was found on page 219 of Filipstad 1856-1860. In the 1851-1855 household examination of Färnebo, the family is on 229 with the note that they had come from Lungsund parish in 1853. The moving in records of Filipstad 1853 entry 6 listed the family moving in and going to page 229. The moving out records of Lungsund 1853 said the family came from page 194 of the household examination record and that they were moving to Fernebo. Fernebo was checked for them moving in, but the family was not there and appears to have gone to Filipstad and not Fernebo. The family was then found on page 194 (1851-1855 household examination record of Lungsund) and on page 287 for the 1846-50 and page 180 for the 1841-1845 household examination records. This last household examination recorded that the father, Olof Olsson, had moved into Lungsund in 1841 from Bjurtjärn parish. This appeared to be the time the couple married and completed the household examinations for Karl and his parents as a married couple.

Swedish Church Records: Verify the Births, Marriages, and Deaths[edit | edit source]

The primary sources for names, dates, and places of birth, marriage, and death are the Church records. The Swedish church law of 1686 made it mandatory for the minister to keep a record of all christenings, marriages, and burials that he performed as the parish minister. Dates of birth and death were later also required, and thus the Swedish State Church through its parish offices was the official keeper of vital records for more than 300 years. In 1991 the duty was transferred to Riksskatteverket (the Swedish Tax Authority).

There was no established guide for the keeping of the church records. Each minister developed a record-keeping method which worked for him. Some used columns. Others kept a running chronological account of the ordinances and events. With the passage of time, the church records were kept using printed forms.

The Swedish State Church kept a number of different records, the main three being:

  • Births/Baptisms (Födde, döpte). Usually the christening took place only a day or two after the birth. When it was feared that the child would die before the minister would be able to perform the baptism, any person confirmed in the State Church could perform an emergency baptism (nöddop).

The birth and christening records (födelselängd, doplängd) usually give the infant’s name, christening date, parents’ namesat least the father, the child’s legitimacy status, and names of witnesses and godparents. You may also find the child’s birth date, father’s occupation, and the family’s place of residence.

  • Marriages (Vigde). Before a marriage could take place, a declaration of intention of marriage or banns (lysning) had to be read in the church or published in the papers. This was to be done three weeks in a row. If no objections were raised, the couple was free to be married. It was customary that the husband present his wife with a gift (morgongåva) at their marriage, which was hers to keep forever.

The marriage record (vigsellängden) usually contains the marriage date, names of the bride and groom, and their respective residences. Once in a while the names of their parents and the bride’s sponsor (giftoman), or size of the morning gift, are also recorded.

  • Deaths and Burials (Döde/Begravade). The information in the death and burial records is not always consistent but usually contains name of the deceased, death date, burial date, age, residence within the parish, and the cause of death. The age is not always dependable and may be off by several years.

GOAL: To verify all the birth, marriage, or death information that is found in the household examination records.

''Case Study

Since the mother, Cajsa Olsdotter, was from Lungsund, the marriages of Lungsund were searched but no information was found. The husband had come from Bjurtjärn parish in 1841. The marriage was found in this parish 30 August 1840. Next the births of all children were verified. The first four children—Carl, Olof, Carl, and Maja Lisa—were all born in Lungsund. The last two children, Cajsa and Johan, were born in Filipstad parish. The death of the first child, named Carl, was verified. The births of the parents of the family were next verified. The mother, Kajsa Olsdotter, was born in Lungsund, and the husband, Olof Olsson, was born in Kroppa parish. All dates were verified as being correct in the household examination records with only minor spelling variations of names, such as Cajsa instead of Kajsa and Maja Lisa instead of Maria Lisa.

Next Step, Next Generation

Now that you have gone through the process of using the household examination records and verifying the birth, marriage, and death information, your next step is to repeat the process. You can use this strategy to search out the descendants of an ancestor or search further back to a previous generation. As you continue further back to a previous generation, you will find new challenges. Generally the further back you go, the sparser the genealogical information becomes. You may find the household examinations are occasionally missing, or simply stop. The handwriting might become even harder to read with fewer clues to follow.

Case Study

According to the birth record of Olof Olsson, he was born 18 May 1803 in Lunden, Kroppa parish, to parents Olof Carlsson and Catrina Carlsdotter. Using the village indexes, since the village of Lunden was known, Olof (and his parents’ family) were traced from his birth in 1803 to 1830. At this time, Olof moved within the parish of Kroppa to another village named Edsberg. In 1835 he moved out of the parish to Lungsund. By using the moving in records of Lungsund, the place where he resided was identified as Släbråten. In 1835 Olof moved back to Kroppa parish, and the moving in records of Kroppa identified Edsberg as the place within the parish. In 1839 Olof moved to Bjurtjärn. Moving in records of Bjurtjärn show that he moved to page 34 of the household examination records, but page 34 is blank. An error had been made. Moving out records were examined, and Olof and his wife, Kajsa, were found moving out in 1841. Their information had come from page 92. The moving out record said they were going to Varnum in 1841, but the household examination said they were moving to Lungsund in 1841. A moving in certificate was found for Olof and wife Kajsa in Lungsund. This connected Olof to the previous household examination findings as a married couple.

Verify the Births, Marriages, and Deaths

The process of verifying all births of children, deaths, marriages, and births of parents is repeated as shown above for Karl Olsson and his parents’ family. Before doing this, it is recommended that researchers complete the household examination search for the parents of Olof Olsson by following wife Catrina Carlsdotter to her death and also the parents from the time of Olof’s birth in 1803 back to when they were married.

GOAL: To successfully follow the family back one more generation using the strategies of household examination and by verifying the birth, marriage, and death information.

Swedish Databases[edit | edit source]

Family history research is hugely popular in Sweden. Combine this with a high percentage of population who use computers and the Internet daily, and you end up with a lot of data sources for family history research. Some databases are on CD only and have to be purchased. Others are on the Internet as a free resource, while others require a subscription. Whatever the case, it is worth your time to become familiar with the databases available and get access to the ones you need. Here is a good introductory list of databases for Swedish research:


Cost: Subscription membership required. Available for free at the FHL. Web address: http://www.svar.ra.se/

2. Arkiv Digital – Church records online, and other records too.

Cost: Subscription membership required. Web address: http://www.arkivdigital.se/

3. Genline – Church records online

Cost: Subscription membership required. Access is available through the FHL, FHC system. Web address: http://www.genline.com/

4. FamilySearch Historical Records

Cost: Free. Web address: http://familysearch.org

5. Lantmäteriet – Swedish Surveying Office, maps, historical maps

Cost: Free. Web address: http://www.lantmateriet.se/

6. DISByt – DIS Genealogical Society, the DISByt database

Cost: Subscription membership required (about $20.00 per year). Web address: http://www.dis.se/denindex.htm

7. Svensk-engelsk lexicon – Swedish-English and English-Swedish dictionary

Cost: Free. Web address: http://lexin2.nada.kth.se/sve-eng.html

8. Ortnamnsregistret - place-–name databases

Cost: Free. Web address: http://www2.sofi.se/SOFIU/topo1951/_cdweb/index.htm

9. Stockholm Stadsarkiv – databases for research in Stockholm city

Cost: Free. Web address: http://www.ssa.stockholm.se/sv/hem/

10. FamilySearch Research Wiki Sweden – articles, research tools, Web links

Cost: Free. Web address: Search at FamilySearch Wiki for Sweden

11. Demographic Database of Southern Sweden – population databases for southern Sweden

Cost: Free. Web address: http://www.ddss.nu/

12. Rötter, Nättidningen Rötter utgiven av Sveriges Släktforskarförbund – Swedish Genealogical Societies, articles, links.

Cost: Searching the Web site is free. Web address: http://www.genealogi.se/index.htm

13. Släktdata – Population databases

Cost: Membership to support, access to databases free. Web address: http://www.slaktdata.org/