After several false starts, I've finally made a serious effort to begin work
on my wife's Swedish lineage. (See also "Starting My Swedish Research"
Church records in the United States indicate the focus person Samuel Otto Johnson
was born in 1867 in Tjarstad, Sweden, the son of Johan Sund and Anna Lisa Erickson.
Based upon what little I knew about Swedish patronymics, I knew that his mother's
name was likely Ericksdotter instead of Erickson ("dotter is typically
appended to the last name of female children and "son" is typically
attended to the last name of male children).
Knowing the Family History Library has a significant amount of Swedish records
in microform, I decided to see if any records for Tjarstad had been microfilmed.
A search of the Library's catalog (www.familysearch.org
) indicated quite a few rolls of records for Tjarstad. Before I start ordering
countless rolls of microfilm, there are some things I need to learn and be aware
While being conversant in Swedish is not necessary in order to research in Swedish
records, I must have a working knowledge of typical genealogy words and have
access to a dictionary to assist me with others. To get me started I visit the
Family History Library's website (www.familysearch.org
) and view their section of Swedish genealogical words. Getting there was easy.
On the main page, I clicked on "Search" and then on "Research
Helps." This took me to a section of research helps on a variety of areas
worldwide. I scanned through the materials for Sweden, focusing on the word
The word list is split into several parts, including a list of key genealogy
words and a larger general word list, broken down alphabetically. The Swedish
language has characters not in the English language. These non-English letters,
which look like some English letters, are alphabetized at the end of the traditional
English alphabet. The genealogy word list helped me to determine the exact records
I wanted to order. (After all, one should know at least what the title of the
record means before one orders it.)
More Than Just Words
The other research guides I used from the Family History site were the Swedish
Research Guide, which explained the basics of Swedish records, and an aid on
the Church Records Clerical Survey (Husförhörslängd). Learning
about these materials was best done before ordering and using microfilm. Even
though I have researched families in other European countries, records and record-keeping
practices differ from one country to the next. And those differences are compounded
by the cultural and linguistic differences. The Family History Library research
guides are a good place to begin learning that information. However, I should
continue to learn even after I have started using the records.
Where to Start?
I knew Samuel's date and place of birth and the names of his parents. The microfilmed
records for Tjarstad extend for several centuries, but it is best to begin with
Samuel and work my way back slowly. It will take some research to determine
exactly how long Samuel's family lived in Tjarstad and ordering several centuries
of film at this point is premature. For now, I'll order the following:
--- Vital records from Tjarstad for twenty years before and after Samuel's
birth, hoping to catch all his siblings.
--- The Husförhörslängd for several years before and after Samuel's
year of birth, hoping to gather additional information on his parents and siblings.
When my film arrives, I will have it for approximately three weeks. I can always
extend the loan on the film if that appears to be necessary.
One day after I ordered the microfilm, I received a call telling me some of
my film had arrived. This seemed highly unusual, but I was assured that some
of my film came on a shipment the day after I had ordered it. Someone else had
ordered the film several weeks before I did. I decided to view these films before
the rest of my order arrived.
Getting at the Actual Film
The Husförhörslängd (Clerical Register) for 1866 through 1872
was where I began my search. Given his birth in 1867, Samuel should be listed
in this volume with his parents.
This record is organized geographically instead of alphabetically. If I had
not known the name of the farm on which Samuel's family resided, I would have
searched the entire register for the correct family. Since I knew that Samuel's
family resided on the lands of the Sonebo farm, I turned to that portion of
the record, using the geographic index at the front of the record. And there
on page 479 was the entry for Samuel's family. Samuel is listed as the youngest
child in the family of Johan Sund and Anna Lisa Eriksdotter. I was on my way.
Those unfamiliar with using this type of record will do well to remember the
naming system in use at the time. In this instance the parents are enumerated
with their first and last name, and the children are enumerated with their given
names only. The wife, Anna Lisa, is enumerated with her maiden name of Ericksdotter,
not the last name of her husband. The entry for Johan and Anna's family provides
a great deal of information about them and their children, including the date
and place of birth for each family member. The headings of the register are
printed and most of the words were easily translated using the Family History
Library's word list.
What Did I Copy?
It was faster to photocopy the record than to transcribe it manually. The fact
that I don't read Swedish photocopies cut down on the number of transcription
errors. I made certain that my copies included all the information, including:
--- Page number
--- Residence of the Johann Sund family
--- The entire entry, even the references on the far right hand side of the
page that I did not understand. Hopefully later, I would learn what they meant.
--- Actual title of the record from the microfilm
Off to Get More
This entry is only the starting point. One of the films that arrived early included
baptismal records for Tjarstad from the 1790s through the early 1860s. As the
entire family was born in Tjarstad, I should be able to locate them in those
records as well. A half an hour later, I had copied baptismal records for the
parents and the first seven children. Wow!
At this point, I sketched out a real quick family tree because I was starting
to get confused. Johan's and Anna Lisa's baptismal records provided the names
of their parents as well. I now had Samuel Otto Johnson's lineage back through
his grandparents. On my quick tree sketch, I included the names along with the
dates and places I had located. It was time to stop and briefly organize.
Johan Sund was the son of Anders Sund and Sara Larsdotter. Anna Lisa Eriksdotter
was the daughter of Erik Jonsson and Carin Andersdotter. Organization was going
to be key in order to not confuse the names and the families.
Here Comes the Bride
Since the marriage records for Tjarstad were also at my disposal, I decided
to locate Johan and Anna Lisa in those records. Given the nature of their family
(children born in 1850, 1852, 1854, 1856, 1858, 1860, 1863, 1865 and 1867),
I decided to begin looking for a marriage in 1847 and go forward. Sure enough,
there was an 1849 reference. A quick look at the marriage record told me that
the bride's and groom's residences were likely listed, along with information
about the marriage banns.
The marriage record indicates that banns for Johan and Anna Lisa were announced
in Tjarstad on 18 and 25 November and again on 2 December 1849. These banns
announced the couple's upcoming marriage and gave those with a reason to oppose
the marriage to publicly do so. A later visit to a perpetual calendar (www.wiskit.com/calendar.html
) indicated these three days were indeed all Sundays.
I had trouble discerning the meaning of one part of the entry. However, I recognized
one word as the cottage name where Johan Sund was listed in the clerical register.
I decided that the other village was possibly Anna Lisa's residence.
The films that had arrived included the church clerical register for 18361840
and 18511855. I decided to locate the families of Johan and Anna Lisa
in these records, and then quit. Anders Sund (Johan's father) was located at
the same residence where Johan later is listed. Anna Lisa's father, Erik Janson,
is listed at the residence indicated for Anna Lisa at the time of her marriage.
These records give two complete generations of ancestry for the immigrant Samuel
Otto Johnson. It is time to stop, so I can gather and organize what I have before
I needed to learn more about the records I was using. I located an excellent
site from a Swedish university that discussed the records and customs in more detail, which helped me in my interpretation of the records. This site, "About Parish Records," is located at www.ddb.umu.se/ddbmaterial/kyrkmat_eng.htm. It provided excellent insight into the records and explained a great deal that
I had originally not understood. Learning and organizing should be a continual
Next week we discuss in more detail what I found and where I'll be going next,
including a few relatives who got "shot" and a few who did not.
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com. 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
and Genealogical Computing. You can email him at: "mjnrootdig @
myfamily.com" or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/
, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Used by the Author on his website with permission.