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The Practical Archivist
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Posted by Diane
My grandfather Carl August Petersson (he later went by Charles) was born in 1863 in Sweden, and died in America in 1927. I've spent years searching unsuccessfully for his birth parish. He came immigrated around the mid-1800's and spent most of his life in northern California. Records I've found list his birthplace as only "Sweden."
—QueenBea, on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls Forum
Have you tried church records? David Fryxell, who wrote our guide to Swedish research in the
Family Tree Magazine
, says many Swedish-American churches kept records as thorough as those of their counterparts in Sweden.
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
has a broad church records collection, including several in California. The Swenson center is in Illinois, but you can request a $25-per-hour search by a staff member.
Search for Carl in immigration records (such as those for New York City arrivals indexed at
) and check the book
Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States, 1820-1850
by Nils William Olsson (Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, out of print). Look for it at large genealogy libraries including the
Family History Library
in Salt Lake City.
Since you don't know Carl's parish, Fryxell recommends a searchable CD such as
, compiled from Swedish church records (available from
). You can enter as much as you know about your ancestor to narrow your search results to likely candidates.
Two subscription databases,
(click English), offer digitized Swedish church records. Both sites offer a variety of subscription options.
Family Tree Magazine
reviewed Genline in the
June 2005 issue
and SVAR in the
June 2006 issue
Post your suggestions for QueenBea—or pose your own questions.
Thursday, April 26, 2007 4:08:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Friday, May 25, 2007 1:37:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Don't lose heart!! You have a challenge which would frustrate anyone.
I had a similar problem and the typical searches weren't helping me. I looked 30 years for my great-grandfather's birthplace. Last year (when our family reunion was fast approaching), I was very determined to find him. I basically started over -- as if I had never seen this ancestor before.
Going through my files, I looked at his death record again and saw that there was a birth date with the year 1864. The date came from his hospital records at the University of Minnesota and I surmised that he had provided the date himself.
I also noted the immigration years on applicable census records.
I then looked at the letters which a brother and a sister had written from Sweden to my great-grandfather in Minnesota. Years ago, the letters had been translated by native Swedes but there wasn't really much in them. Then I noticed that the letters from the brother and the sister had the names of their villages at the top of the letter. After investigating a bit these villages both showed up in Ostergotland.
When I mentioned these two facts to an experienced Swedish researcher, she told me that all the birth records for Ostergotland in 1864 were together on a microfilm. (Beginning about 1860 the provinces compiled annual records for birth, marriages, and deaths. This is helpful if dates and provinces are known but not villages.)
I ordered the 1864 records for Ostergotland from the Family History Library and then looked for my great-grandfather and the correct birth date. It took several different viewings of the microfilm but I found everyone with the correct name and wrote down their birth dates.
Eventually I found a likely candidate (with the same birthdate as on the death record) and then ordered the clerical survey records for that parish and time period. I was looking for the brother and sister to confirm it was the correct person and family. Everything started to fall into place -- my great-grandfather was there with his brother and sister, plus the father's first name was correct (patronymics are important to understand).
I followed my great-grandfather through the clerical surveys for the parish and anytime he went to another village I followed it. I wanted to be sure he was the proper one. Much to my delight he emigrated from Sweden to America in the correct year.
Then I did the same thing with the brother and the sister. I wanted to determine if they ended up in the same villages as recorded on the letters. They did.
During the past year my Swedish ancestors have been quite cooperative! It has been great to finally put the families together.
Since QueenBea's ancestor is born in 1863, this is a good thing because that means the birth should be recorded in those annual compilations of births for each province.
Also, remember that Charles is the English form of Carl so he didn't really change his name -- just Americanized it. His father's first name was probably "Peter" (or a form of it) which is why the last name is Peterson.
Sometimes a whole family approach to genealogy will open doors. I would never have found my great-grandfather except for those two letters from his siblings.
Just keep working on the challenge and be willing to open any door for clues. Keep a good research log so you will remember what records have been searched and what information was found. This will eventually help you determine a solid understanding of your grandfather and his history.
Good Luck!! Let us know when you find him.
Mary S Scott
Thursday, November 06, 2008 10:36:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I am a Swedish National, and the best resource available for someone like you is the web-magazine "Roots" ("Rotter" in Swedish). Go to http://www.genealogi.se/
Click "In English" and you will be guided further. There is a forum called "Anbytarforum" where you can post the information about your ancestor. There are so many helpful people who can help you. Someone will find him. The church records in Sweden are preserved, so it shouldn't be very hard to locate the correct person. With the help of the Swedish records, I have tracked my family back to the Viking age. 1863 should not pose a problem. Good luck!
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