I make good use of the tips that Ancestry provides on people. They can sometimes lead you to a lot of knowledge. But using them I also see what problems people, especially american genealogists, tend to have with Swedish geography. Some times is just a matter of spelling places without Swedish letters (åäö), but very often its completely wrong references.
I get it, living thousands of miles from Sweden makes it very hard knowing the correct geography here. But I would prefer that people who are uncertain rather left out stuff they where uncertain about than include it. Or at least make some note of the uncertainty somewhere. Here is what you should do.
First the easy example.
Let say you know that the ancestor is from a village called Tibble (pronounced teeb-le, not teeb-el btw). He is the first one that has this location in your tree. Learn these steps:
What parish is his descendant from? Is there a Tibble in that parish? Lets say they are from Litslena parish in Uppland. Use google for help now and google Tibble. (Btw, the Swedish word for parish is “socken”. Learn that one now.)
Yes, there IS a Tibble in Litslena parish according to the Swedish wikipedia. As you can see, there are SEVERAL places called Tibble in Sweden. Wikipedia (the swedish one) is an excellent tool for people searching for clues about Swedish geography.
Now, we cannot be sure about Tibble Litslena being the right choice at this point, but it is the most likely one. The reason is experience in genealogy. You tend to know that people in the 17-19th century Sweden didn’t move about that much. They were born and they often died in the same parish. Sometimes in a neighboring one. But only rarely in a distant place. And when that happened, the priests tend to write that down clearly in the parish register.
So now you examine the church register for Litslena and try to find someone in the birth records or in the parish register that match your ancestor.
its simple really. And do not trust software lite Ancestry to know the right Tibble for you. The autofill tend to go with the most famous Tibble it can find, not necessarily your Tibble. Please understand the importance of this. And if you cannot find the right Tibble, then just write down Tibble and nothing more. Do not add parish or province. That will only confuse others. Btw, Tibble is more known as Tibbleby on paper today.
Now the more problematic ones.
Other things you can do besides just use google is using databases of Swedish geography. You have several options here. One simple tool is a ordinary map tool like hitta.se. It can give you hints of possible places in todays geography. Using the map tool also helps you learn the geography you are working with.
The descendant is from Biskopskulla and you have a reference to a place called “Gryta” in the parish register to a person you want to trace. Use hitta.se and enter Gryta. You will get several options. The map shows that one of them is more close than the others. Its up to you to find out which one is more likely. Only number 5 and 7 is really close to Biskopskulla. I would guess that one of them is correct and try to locate the right parish for them. In this case number 5 was the correct one. It used to be a real village, the other one just a small farm. “Vague” references tend to be the most obvious large local one. But not when you find the actual names in the parish books, you can be completely sure. This is just a way for you to find your way.
You can also use databases such as Rosenberg (a CD you must order from Sweden, good luck with that… or a webpage that will be the choice for americans. The CD is better since it gives you a nice list of places to compare.) or Ortsnamnsregistret, a large record of all geographic locations named in Swedish records. Using this one requires some knowledge in Swedish, but it is MASSIVE and can help guide you to what parishes contains what places and not. I use it a lot.
One other thing that can help you is to understand the concept of a “hundred” or “härad” in Swedish. That is a larger geographical concept than a parish, but smaller than a province (landskap). It is more likely that people from the same hundred hang around, marry and relocate the selfs than it perhaps is otherwise. So check out what parishes the specific hundred contains (that information is on Swedish wikipedia), and you might have a helpful connection there.
The really difficult ones.
Then theres that problem we all get in to. A place that you just cannot find in any database. I had one of these last night called Kolsta. After some thinking I realized that this simply was an older spelling of a place. And that place was Kålsta. The letter “o” can often be pronounces as an å in Swedish. And then I solved it. There just happened to be a Kålsta near by my last location and there were the person I was looking for also. So the point here is: You must learn some Swedish to get these things and you must learn how names in general change. Priests in the 18th century spelled things as they heard it or as they thought was best. No standard rules existed. Add to that the fact that many places also DID spelled it differently and you must learn to think outside the confinements of the known word in front of you.
The letters Ee is often used instead of Ää and vice versa (Example: Hesslunda, Hässlunda, Melby, Mälby). The letters Aa and Oo instead of Åå.
Do not think that google or any database will help you on this problem. It most likely won’t. Especially not in those cases were you are not even certain what the places really is called in the parish records. Sometimes the handwriting or quality of the old source is awful. You will have to try until you find a match between that scribble in the parish register and the modern spelling. Otherwise, you WILL get lost in the geography. You can try to compare lists of known villages in certain parishes with the scribble in front of you but this is difficult without the proper tools (like the CD Rosenberg, mentioned above)
The impossible ones.
If you get stuck, theres not much to do for your self. I recommend you ask a Swede for help. I ask for help all the time. There are loads of people who reads handwriting better than me and loads of people with expertise in local geography and knows every name of every hill and house in certain parishes.
Preferably a genealogist who understands the problem and have seen it before. I can help, but the best choice is the group on Facebook called “Släktforskning” thats loaded with Swedish genealogists.
Last but not least:
We also have the concept of “län” or counties in Sweden. And often these are used by genealogists instead of provinces in their documentation for some reason I am not sure of.
That can be really confusing sometimes. And to make things really troublesome many just use the iso-code for that perticular county. Such as the letter U for Västmanlands län or M for Skåne län or AB for Stockholms län. No, theres no logic to the letters. So a reference is sometimes: Tibble, C-län, meaning Tibble in Uppsala län. Borders of län tend to follow borders of provinces, but not all the time.
Check out my “Swedish Geography” in the menu for a list of Län with their iso code. And of course information on much more.