The blog is dead?

As you might have noticed the blog IS basically dead. New priorities in life made that happen. I will leave it alive for now if I ever change my mind and resume blogging.

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Sorry for the long break

Sorry about the lack of posts. Ive been busy and blogging haven’t been a priority. Expect new blog posts soon.

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Swedish surnames – Soldiers

Third post about surnames. The other two, which you should read before this one, was about patronyms and priests names. For this post I also very much recommend reading about the general military history of Sweden.

Almost everyone with roots from Sweden will have a soldier among the ancestors. These are identifiable through name often. All non-patronym names should always catch your attention.

Many soldiers names survived through via the ancestors, others are just kept by the soldier and then never passed on. The tradition varies.

Its is a long tradition with soldiers name to separate people with similar names belonging to the same regiment/squadron/rote through out the periods from the 1500s to the 1800s. The system om patronyms meant that a lot of people often had the exakt name in a small area. You could find several people named Johan Ersson belonging to the same military division. And that could cause confusion.

Soldiers where given, or took names voluntarily, that would identify them from others. These names then had to be approved by the officer in charge. Several types of soldiers names existed.

Svenska_dragonuniformer,_Nordisk_familjebok

Various uniforms worn through the ages by Swedish dragoons

Some names identified certain attributes of the specific soldier that the officer in charge found typical of that soldier. Like Rask (meaning fast), Glad (happy), Munter (joyful), Lång (tall). Some names where meant as a compliment, others where down right insulting like Fyllhund (drunken dog, drunkard). It was the officer or regiment who decided the local traditions and possibilities of names.

Others where in line with general military stuff like Hjelm (helmet), Stål (steel), Skjöld (shield). So it is possible that people named stuff like Steel in the US, could have Swedish roots.

Some local military traditions took names according to animals and plant life like Hjort (deer), Örn (eagle), Björk (birch tree) and Ek (oak). Variations of this with suffixes also connected to people or nature could also be names like Ekman, Björkman, Lindkvist, Lindström. Names connected to nature also exist in other naming traditions like those of craftsmen (more on those later), so you cannot be sure there without more information. Also, names like Oak exist in other languages like English and German, so any connections to Scandinavia for an immigrant is uncertain based on that alone.

Some of these names are connected to specific military branches. Soldiers in the navy could get names as Ekman (“Ek” as in Eka, meaning a small rowing boat and “man” as in man), Roddare (rows man). If you understand the language you can sometimes identify the most logical military branch of the soldier, just through the name. Of course, exceptions always exist.

Another popular naming tradition was to connect the soldier to his rote (squadron) or soldiers homestead. Sundby squadron in Dunker, Södermanlands regiment, had names like Sund, Sundqvist, Sundström, Sundin. Names ending in -in, if of Swedish origin often point to a geographic connection. A location plus -in (or a lot more suffixes for that matter) at the end. Often very distorted. I have a soldier who served as a dragoon. His soldiers name “Medin” came from the place of his squadron Melby. Spelled Mälby today. It can take some investigation until you get the connections because of these changes.

cropped-1553457_10151859784807256_29872274_o.jpg

Dragoon Jan Petter Medin. Birth name Jan Peter Jansson. But after his service as a soldier at Melby squadron he keeps his new name. If you back track a soldier it can sometimes become difficult to find his patronym and parents because of the name change. But very often both names are to be found in some record. If not the civil ones, then at least the military ones.

These geographic traditions are also common among priests as I have already shown. I have the name Plantin among my priests. Impossible to separate from a soldiers name if you just go by something like -in at the end. Priests names are often a little bit more fancy and latinized one could say. But that is of course not much to go on and also very subjective.

Sometimes names became new with each new soldier. Sometimes names where passed on to new soldiers of the same squadron. When one soldier died or left the service, regardless of him keeping the new surname or not, the next soldier could get the same name. The local squadron sometimes reused a couple of names, meaning ALL soldiers who belonged to this squadron got the same surnames. Ive personally seen this sometimes with the name Ekman being reused at the same place. 

This is sometimes very confusing for genealogists as you could imagine. People sharing a unique name in a small area, but not being related at all. Sometimes the soldier following the first also shares his first name. And sometimes he even marries the first soldiers widow. I guess you understand what I am getting at here. It is sometimes very tricky to get it right.

 So always examine the naming traditions of your soldiers regiment by examining the military records of that squadron. You can never assume anything.

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Using the CDs Dödboken and Sveriges befolkning

One of the best sources to use when searching Swedish ancestry are the databases made by  Sveriges släktforskarförbund, like Sveriges dödbok. I would argue that you cannot do without them if you don’t feel like spending unnecessary months or even years digging through records from the late 1800s and 1900s. Some things aren’t even available to the public, and you need to call or contact the Swedish authorities to get the same information – one person at a time.

So if you are interested in what happened to people in the 1900s. Meaning a LOT of people who was born all the way back to the early 1800s, you should at least get a copy of Sveriges dödsbok.

Most immigrants left Sweden around 1850-1950. That means that their closest relatives back home lived and died during this time that this CD covers. And if you want to know if you have any living relatives in Sweden? Then the answer to the necessity if self explanatory. Here are the two most important ones.

Sveriges dödbok 1901-2009. (The Death book of Sweden). Covers a huge majority of all people who died in Sweden during this time. There are some gaps, and some people you just won’t find there, but nothing that reduce its value. You will have use for it. Period. 

Sveriges befolkning. Comes in several versions covering different periods (1880, 1890, 1900, 1970, 1980, 1990), all equally important depending on what you are searching for and for the 1970s-1990s, extremely difficult to acquire any other way. If you have an ancestor born 1870, he/she is most likely listed as a child in the 1880s CD, and there you can see any relatives living in the same household at that particular time.  Also where they lived and where they where born. All this material on 1880s is of course available in a parish record, but this is a good way to start searching the original records.

Using them comes with some problems. Firstly, they require Microsoft Windows only. So you need access to windows in some way if you are a mac or linux user. Secondly they ARE second hand sources, so they will contains some errors and as I already said, some people are also missing from the records. Actually one million people are missing in the 1901-1946 period according to this article.  But I have personally found most people I tried to find despite this.

Then you must understand how surnames work. Firstly people during this time change their surnames. This is a period of huge change in the naming traditions. Patronyms are often changed to family names. Meaning a Sara Svensdotter suddenly becomes a Sara Andersson just like her husband Johan Andersson. You can also se how older spellings change to new. Ersson becomes Eriksson. And a combination of the phenomenas would be a Sara Ersdotter becoming Sara Eriksson. And then, suddenly, she is Sara Lövgren, when she dies, married and with her name changed to that of her husband. Some females also change their name back to their own family name after their husbands die. Some keep them. You just never know for sure.

Then there is the spelling part… The CDs are unfortunately extremely sensitive to spelling. Get anything wrong and the post will not be listed. Looking for Eric Svensson? Well maybe he is Erik with a K in the database. Looking for Emilia Löfgren? Well maybe she is Emilia Lövgren. And the list goes on for ever… You often have to try several combinations. This IS more easy for Swedes to get, since we are used to see various combinations of our most common names. And since a native speaker also understands the connections between spelling and sound, we can make better guesses. Like understanding that E sometimes sounds like Ä. (Pär, Per). Sorry, but these things you just have to learn by trying. Nothing beats experience.

Also note that a persons name can change in spelling on the CDs. The most common phenomena is most likely K turning to C and the other way around. Making Eric on the 1880s CD -> Erik on the 1890s CD and then back to Eric again in the Death book.

And if you still don’t find what you are looking for. The female perhaps changed her last name to that of her husband (of which you know nothing about) you can still try some things: You have an exact date of birth? Enter that and just a few of the personal names to see what you get. Compare places of birth in the suggestions and there is a good chance you will find your missing person.

You get a long list of suggestions? You can narrow it down by choosing that the CDs only list people with the names provided by you. Otherwise it provides you with suggestions that are often quite pointless. Not alternative spellings, but rather people with a lot of other names. For example:

You are looking for a person called Victor Emmanuel Svensson. Then you are NOT interested in people called Karl Johan Emmanuel Svensson. During the 1800s swedes started to give their children more than one name and this is very helpful for genealogists since even if one name can match, it is less likely that two or three names match in the wrong person.

But if you have only ONE name, like Emmanuel, not knowing if he was given more names at birth, then of course all suggestions matching are worth to explore. Also try using the data you got, like dates and places of birth. Sometimes these things gives you what you are looking for. I have found MANY people in the CDs just using one name and a specific date. It is possible.

But the most tricky part is the spelling problem. Most other things you can handle using experience. But unexpected changes in family names, or variations in spelling is often a problem even for the most seasoned genealogist.

svbefolkning1880

This is how Sveriges Befolkning 1880 looks like when displaying the results of a search. All in Swedish as you can see, so you do need to learn some basic Swedish.

  1. The results from searching for Anders Andersson born in the province Gotland. Two results for that was given by the database.
  2. The family of the household selected in number 1. Mor (mother), Far (father) and Barn (children)
  3. Information on a selected individual.
  4. Extra people living in the household. Marked as “Ensam”, meaning alone. That is: Not married to anyone. Most likely not family at all but workers living there at the same adress (but sometimes brothers and sisters to the family is also listed here). Anders is a “hemmansägare” and a “kyrkvärd” according to the information in 3, meaning he owns his own house, and therefor most likely some land for farming and also has the job of managing the local church. A hemmansägare is often a farmer. A most likely respected person of basic income in Sweden of that time. They could afford to employ some workers at their home (males: Dräng, abbreviated to Dr sometimes and females: Piga, abbreviated to Pig. sometimes).
  5. These older people are also marked as “mother and father”. They are most likely Anders Anderssons mother and father. Living with their son. You sometimes see this. Original parish records will provide you with the certain answer to who they are.

Where to find these discs? You can access these databases for free from many public Swedish libraries. You can also just ask people who have them to look something up for you. A great way to to this is by joining a Swedish genealogy-group online. Like this one on Facebook.

You can also of course buy the disc. In the long run if you intend to use them, thats the better choice. Webpage for that.

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Swedish surnames – Priests

The second guide to Swedish surnames. Read the one on patronyms first. 

Very often a Swedish surname is identifiable as a surname originating from a priest in your family tree. Those surnames often became inherited both by the female and male offspring of the priest and used instead or together with a patronymic.

The tradition with priests names originates from the tradition of priest to correspond in latin with their colleagues. Educated people of the past knew latin and it was quite common for wealthy and educated people to latinize their names.

There are several types of typical priest names. Latinization of their Swedish birth name and patronymic arguably most common.

Abraham Eriksson  = Abrahamus Erici
Erik Steffansson  = Ericus Stephani
Lars Johansson  = Laurentius Johannis
Anders Henriksson  = Andreas Henrici
Olof  Karlsson = Olaus Caroli

They can also add latinized locations to the name. For example:

Andreas Pauli Helsingus From Hälsingland
Abrahamus Angermannus From Ångermanland
Laurentius Andreæ Gevaliensis From Gävle
 

Examples taken from this Swedish guide to surnames.

In my own family tree I have several examples of this. There are also several more aspects of this to consider. Females for example are usually dead ends with their priest name. But there are exceptions where the female was from a family considered of higher social rang than the husband. Then the family name of the female could be given to the offspring. But almost always then also with the patronymic of the male.

Almost always the children inherit their fathers name as you most likely know if you read my first guide on patronymic traditions. But there are exceptions sometimes when it comes to “better” names.

Note that females don’t always have the same form of surname. In my tree the best example is the descendants of the priest Johannes Erici Cloverus. The males use the same surname, but the females instead use the form Cloveri. Thus following the grammatical rules of latin. However this is far from the case in most examples Ive seen where females and males inherit the same name. Johannes Erici Cloverus gets his name from his fathers farm. He was one of four sons from Klöfs gård (The farm of Klöf -> Clov -> Cloverus).

Tracing a name to a specific place is sometimes easy. Its the obvious place in the neighborhood where the priest was born. But sometimes the roots of the priest surname is forever lost.

Thirdly, not all latinized names are from priests, many of them also come from bourgeois of the cities. I have several examples of this in my own tree.

We have seen examples of names ending with -erus, -sis, -us, -aeus. Another version of priest names is also names ending with -ander. In my tree I have the priest Nicolaus Heslenander that follow this tradition.

When tracing a priest you should always keep in mind that he doesn’t necessarily use the latinized name all the time, not even in formal situations. Sometimes a Johannis suddenly is referred to as “Jöns”, a traditional Swedish first name and you can become confused. So always remember that priests can be referred to both their given “simple” name and their more fancy taken latinized name in the sources.

And thirdly, not all priests have latin names. Especially not in more modern times. But also not always in the earlier ones either Some actually keep their ordinary patronymic  names, or if they already had a more distinct inherited family name, a nobility name or a foreign name like my ancestors of the family Kemner had (a german bourgeois traders name most likely connected to legality). They kept that instead.

In more modern times, from the 1800s and forward, the priest names become more indistinct from other names. But if a name looks latinized, it is always a good advice to assume a connection to a priest from the 16 or 1700s when exploring it further.

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Swedish surnames – patronyms

There are several kinds of typical Swedish surnames in genealogy and you can most likely identify a Swedish (or at least Scandinavian) root to a surname among your ancestors. It is very important to understand how names work, since this will help you greatly in your research. This first post is about patronyms, but there are several more, which will get their own posts soon.

The most typical Swedish family name today and through out history one is a patronym ending with -son. Son means just that. Son of. Names like Svensson means son of Sven and so on. A genitive name. But four things complicate this. 

Firstly that the patronyms in general have been americanized in to “sen” and often also altered even further. Svensson then can become Swansen for example.

Secondly a -son and -sen only shows a connection to typical Scandinavian patronyms, not a single specifik country. However -son is much more common in Sweden and -sen or -søn is much more common in Denmark and Norway (but also found in places such as Germany). A typical Norwegian equivalent to Svensson is Svensen. Swedes also tend to use two S and not just one. That to mark out possession grammatically (genitive) as is also common in English. So if you see a patronym written with two S and son, you should focus your research on Sweden.

Thirdly, not all patronyms are easily self explanatory. Take the name Eric for example. Son of Eric is of course Ericsson. Or you might assume that at least since that name is common. However it is most often written as Ersson instead if you look at texts from 1600-1800s. The same for many other names. Son of Olle becomes Olsson, but so does son of Oscar also. You can NEVER be completely sure and you must always assume a change somewhere. Different priests write things differently.

Fourthly, The patronym was generally used as a last name although a third name, a so-called byname (more on those in a later post) based on location or personal characteristic, was often added to differentiate people and could eventually develop into a kind of family name. Some examples of the latter practice, where the patronymic was placed after the given name and was followed by the surname, are Norwegian Peder Claussøn Friis, the son of Nicolas Thorolfsen Friis (Claus in Claussøn being short for Nicolas as an example of patronyms not always being easy to identify) and Danish Thomas Hansen Kingo, the son of Hans Thomsen Kingo.

Genealogists both love and hate patronyms. They give you a clear hint of who the father is, and this is most helpful in many cases. But they can also become a huge big mess to grasp. Jön Jansson son Jöns, becomes Jöns Jönsson, but then, some priest decides to simplify his name to Jansson. Now you don’t know any longer if the fathers real name was Jöns or Jan. And it is also easy to get things wrong in some families, where names are used, over and over again, generation after generation. Which Jan Jansson are we talking about again? Without good documentation and a focused mind, you will make mistakes.

Females also of course inherit their fathers name, but with -dotter at the end. Meaning daughter of course. Svens daughter becomes Svensdotter. In general they never past on their surname. Matronyms were used exceptionally if the child was born out of wedlock or if the mother was much more high-born or well known than the father, a historical example being Sweyn Estridsson.

In the 1860s laws changed it so that patronyms started to disappear. Surnames with -dotter disappeared completely in newborns after this and families living in these times generally started to adopt a family name instead – often the last used patronym. Svensson became the family name if that was the last one used. So after 1860, a new born child named Eric with a father named Olle Svensson became Eric Svensson and so also for a daughter named Anna, becoming Anna Svensson. Females who was born before this sometimes kept their patronym also. You can therefor find matronymic names in later records. Also, some places adopted to this law sooner or later also. You can never be to sure. So when doing research on Swedes born between 1840 and 1910, look out for all logical options. At this time females also tend to take on their husbands names. So Anna Svensson born 1850 with the surname Anna Olsdotter, later changing it to Svensson as her father, can sometimes no longer be found in the records as Svensson, but rather her husbands surname. This was very unusual before the 1800s.

Now you hopefully understand why a basic knowledge of patronymic traditions in Sweden is essential for a genealogist.

birth record
Birth record from 14th of april 1797 in Skogs-Tibble parish of Jan Peter Jansson. An ancestor of mine. Son of the farmer (swe “bonde”) Jan Jansson and his wife Greta Persdotter. Typical example from the late 1700s.  An easy example imo. The fathers name tend to stand first in the text, then the mothers. Sometimes the childs name stands out like this, sometimes its mor hidden inside an unreadable text. But it gets worse. Sometimes no mentioning of the mother at all, and sometimes not even the childs name(!). I will use Jan Peter (later called Jan Petter Jansson Medin) in more examples to follow. 

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Swedish geography for genealogists

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.)

tibble

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.

Gryta

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.

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