From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 2/18/2004

Arming Myself to Find a Swedish Name

Previous columns in the Ancestry Daily News have focused on Anders Sund, my wife's ancestor from Ostergotland, Sweden. This week we continue our search for more information on Anders and his lineage.

Family history research in Sweden is like family history research in many areas, because the more you know about the records and the region, the more effectively you can search those records and the more likely you are to know which records you should search first. The following links refer to earlier articles from this column and research helps and guidance from the Family History Library and other sources.

Starting My Swedish Search

Ander's Son and Erik's Daughter: Part I

Ander's Son and Erik's Daughter: Part II

Swedish Research Guide from the Family History Library (Click the “search” tab, then click “research helps,” then choose the letter “s” from the list.)

The Family History Library website contains many helps on Swedish research, including the Swedish Research Outline, several guides to civil and church records, and a Swedish genealogical word list. All are written by experts in the field and are an excellent resource for those starting or continuing their Swedish ancestral research.

Johansson, Carl-Erik. Cradled in Sweden. Sandy, Utah: Family History Network, 2002.

Back to Anders
Swedish records are excellent, but one must usually have a fairly specific location in order to start a search of the records. Generally organized at the parish level, church records vital events are generally excellent and fairly detailed. A source of information unique to Sweden is the Church Records Clerical Survey (Husförhörslängd). This survey includes genealogical information on each member of the household, but requires fairly specific knowledge of the family's residence in order to locate the entry.

How Did I Start?
I actually began with Anders' son Johann, born in Tjarstad in 1822, the direct ancestral line. Husförhörslängd entries for Johann and his family provided Johann's date and place of birth. This information allowed me to locate the christening record for Johann. This record indicated the farm on which Johann's parents were living at the time of his birth. It was at this point that I decided to search the Husförhörslängd for Johann's parents, instead of paging through christening records for Johann's siblings. Searches of the Husförhörslängd require that the name of the family's farm be known. Otherwise the entire parish would have to be searched. I wanted to locate the names of Anders' other children by using the clerical register. It would be faster to use the Husförhörslängd entries for Anders as a steppingstone to the actual christening records.

Based upon information in the Husförhörslängd for the years 1816-31 and 1836-40, Anders Sund and and his wife Sara Larsdotter were the parents of the following children all born in the Tjarstad parish:

Lovina, born 1814
Carolina, born 1816
Sophia, born 1819
Johan, born 1822
Gustava, born 1824
Maria, born 1827
Charlotta, born 1830
Adolph, born 1832
Johanna, born 1838

With the names and dates I was ready to search the christening records to locate these entries for each of the children.

Each clerical register covers a five-year period. I was able to locate Anders' entries in four clerical registers and each one gave the same names and dates of birth for the children. I located the children's baptismal entries and started to get confused. I was well aware of Swedish patronymics and expected the children to not necessarily have the same last name as the father. However, there was a problem: the differences in the father's name appeared to have nothing to do with patronymics.

I knew spellings of first names could vary slightly and that handwriting could make alternate spellings where none really existed. Cradled in Sweden listed alternate first names for Anders, but it appeared that my problem was larger than that as well.

I knew I had the entries for the right children. The name of the child, the date of birth, and the name of the mother all matched and were consistent with the entries in the household clerical register. However, the name of the father varied.

Several records listed him as Anders Sund, one listed him as just Sund, and some as Carl Anders. Schef. In one record his first name appears to be Rotr? and in others it appears to be Lifgr. One man can only have so many names.

Here is where looking at the other records on the same page is helpful. I noticed that in the other entries, many of the fathers have one letter in front of their name with a period after the letter. Sometimes there are two letters in front of their name with a period. It turns out that in front of each father's name is an abbreviation indicating his occupation. Most of the abbreviations in this parish appear to be for sharecroppers or farmers, but it appears that Anders has a slightly different abbreviation in front of his name and probably a slightly different occupation.

Looking at the Records Again
I then reviewed the entries for Anders in the clerical registers. In my hurry to obtain genealogy information, I had looked too quickly at the columns on the right hand side of the page where religious information was recorded. One clue had been overlooked. In the Husförhörslängd for the 1846 time frame, Anders is listed as a gratialist. Cradled in Sweden indicates that a gratialist is someone receiving an army pension. And now I think I know why Anders is listed under more than one surname.

Names in Sweden can present problems for the genealogist. Many families practiced patronymics, where a child's last name was derived from the father's first name. This explains why the children of a Lars Jonson will have last names of Larson and Larsdottor. But there is a slightly different problem with Anders.

As a soldier in the Swedish army in the early 1800s, Anders likely changed his name upon his enlistment. This explains why his surname changes from one of his child's christening records to the next. One name chosen by men in the army was Sund, meaning healthy. Now I know where the name came from and why Anders changed it.

In future columns, we'll continue our work on Anders and his family. Now that I know somewhat more about him and the records, there are additional sources to utilize.

One of the unique sources I used was a website that contains online images of many Swedish church records. Parishes from all of Sweden are currently being added to this site. Genline contains online images of church records from a significant proportion of Swedish parishes. I was able to view the records from my own computer, a definite advantage. In future columns we will explore this resource even more.

- Records of siblings provided clues that might have been missed had just the ancestral line been followed.

- Viewing other records of the same type and time period to establish the pattern of the clerk was important.

- Learning about naming practices was extremely important.

- Learning history was a significant help.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2004,


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