What a satisfaction each time when I have managed to find the right person, the emigrant from Sweden searched for! Especially when the case has been complicated.
Very often clients just have got a name of an immigrant from Swede, sometimes a date of birth as well, but no parish of birth. They just know Sweden. By that we rather soon had got a problem because a lot of Swedes during the emigration period had got exactly the same names. There were thousands of Nils Andersson or Anna Olsson or Olsdotter emigrating.
Today we genealogists have some archives to check in, censuses or emigrant records, but with just common names the chance to find the right man or woman is small. A year of emigration will make a better chance, exact date of birth a still better one.
At the emigrant ships from Europe records had to be kept on the people onboard, and sometimes even notices on the emigrants home parishes. The later during the emigration period the more notes.
Recently I searched for weeks for a woman, let us call her Anna Andersson, born in 1877, December 12, emigrating in 1899. There was no such woman to find neither in the census of 1890 nor in any emigrant record. I almost gave up. But all of a sudden, in a ship record I found a note on the woman.
There I got more information on her and could search on - and find her rather soon. But - her date of birth was not correct, it did not fit with the birth record in Sweden! In her new homeland over there she had reduces her age a bit. Actually she was born in 1876 and not 1877.
I would like to add that this kind of change of birth year was not very uncommon. Who does not want to be younger?
Farmers, crofters and soldiers
Sweden of the past was a farmer’s country and most clients will find farmers among their Swedish ancestors, farmer and more farmers. Very often crofters, too.
In Sweden, however, for centuries we had soldiers enrolled by the State of Sweden, soldiers with special surnames as long as they were serving the State. A lot of us have them among our roots. Sweden’s last war, hopefully for ever, ended in 1809. After that we were involved in as short campaign in 1812. Quite recently I had a client with an ancestor from the very north of Sweden. He was a soldier and as I discovered that he died from a special and very local decease which ran in the area in 1809, connected to the war situation.
If we find soldiers in service before that period of time it is often possible for me to tell if they have been involved in war campaigns.
What a feeling of satisfaction when a difficult case finally has been solved! Some ten years ago I got a e-mail message from a man in Minnesota. His name was Bill Jacobson and he was searching for his grandfather’s background in Sweden. The fact he had was his grandfather’s name – Charles Peter Jacobson, and his possible year of birth (about 1852) . He also had a family tradition that his grandfather had left Sweden because of a family dispute in 1882.
Well, that was ten years ago and in Sweden we had no censuses digitalized yet – or no CD-discs usable for genealogical search at all.
So, ten years ago, what could I do? Almost nothing. By then we had to know the birth parish of an emigrant to have a chance to find him.
Unexpected names on a licence
But Bill and his wife Cheryl did not want to give up. They searched on there the other side of the Atlantic, and suddenly in Iowa they found Charles Peter’s marriage certificate. Very, very strange, because there Charles Peter, who according to his name in America would have been called Karl Peter Jakobsson in Sweden, had given his parents’ names as Kate Thompson and Charles Peter Rund!
That really did not help. On the contrary, it made this case more complicated. Primarily, he had translated their names from Swedish into English. If we leave the question why for a moment, and just look at the names, we had to face the question where the name Jacobson comes from. And – where did the surname Rund come from?
In a census in Iowa they had found the place Kalmar as Karl Peter’s home town, as well. Kalmar is a city in Småland region in the south of Sweden. I tried an archive on people born in the Kalmar area in the 1850’ - but with no progress.
Full stop for a long while.
Then came the CD on the 1890 census. Full of hope, as soon as it had been published, I started searching for Charles Peter or his parents, but with no success. No people by those names. Then the CD on Swedish emigrants came and full of hope - --- but just a negative response. No emigrants by the name of Karl Peter Jakobsson or similar spellings.
They came for a visit
A couple of years later Bill and Sheryl came for a visit all the way from Minnesota to Gotland in Sweden where I live. We drove around on the island and had a great time together, but I could not present them any roots, neither here nor anywhere else in Sweden.
A couple of more years passed. Nothing new to add. So, at last - the 1880 census came out.
Of course, I gave it an immediate check - and was immediately disappointed, because Charles Peter who had left Sweden after 1880, barely had to be found in this CD.
After a while I understood I had to check from another point. I checked for all women called Karin, Katarina or similar first names plus Thomasdotter, Tomsson or similar surnames married to somebody called Karl.
There was just one such couple: Katarina Thomasdotter married to a man called Karl Karlsson. This man was a farmer on Gotland - of all places in Sweden!
They had a son born in 1852, noted as a sailor, but he was called Jacob Petter, not Karl Petter.
A new check in the census of 1890. Jacob Peter was still noted there, but noted as “Obefintlig” meaning that nobody could tell his address. All emigrants who did not report to the minister of his of her parish were noted as Obefintlig.
I had found the missing man after some ten years of searching. I had got all pieces of the puzzle to fit together:
A man called Jacob Peter Karlsson, born in 1852, a sailor and a farmer’s son on Gotland, left his home for America probably because of a row with his parents. He left Sweden as a sailor, and he left from Kalmar.
In his now country, as a resident in Iowa, of any reason he mixed his names a bit. Jacob Peter Karlsson became Charles Peter Jacobson. He translated his mother’s names into English and created a new name for his father. Maybe he was very angry with him. Instead he took a bit of his brother in law’s surname Rundlund and invented Charles Petter Rund as his father.
Quite easily I could trace a great grandchild of Charles Peter’s sister, married to Jacob Rundlund. A what a family party she gave, Britta Lindström in Etelhem parish! A number of relatives of Bill were there to see him. I was invited to meet them all as well.
It took ten years, but we managed!
It is late autumn in central Sweden. It was still summer weather when I attended the annual genealogy conference in Falköping in the end of August, so I took the opportunity to join a tour in that part of the Västergötland region as well. It was an interesting experience to walk around in the area, which has the densest presence of megalith graves, also called chambered tumuli, in Sweden. The megalith graves are remarkable, large stone creations, which were built some four thousand years ago. The tumuli were probably used not only as burial places, but also as cult places. I would have given a lot just to get a glimpse of that cult or hearing just a little of spoken language at the time.
It is a very nice, but quite stressful, experience to attend a genealogy conference, since you want to learn and experience as much as possible. If you have been a recurring attendee for many years, like me, you tend to run into a lot of old friends, and also make new ones.
Of course the genealogy conference gave rise to a lot of promising news. Several new databases are soon to be released, both on CD-ROM and on the Internet. The most promising one is huge database, where all Swedes will be searchable. By writing a name, one can find his or her place of birth or place of living. A great source to have, when you are searching for emigrants and do not have very much information! However, the excerption has only started, so you will have to wait for the complete version.
Some months ago I got a different, but interesting assignment. The married couple Villy and Gerd Herrey contacted me. These very nice people are members of the Mormon Church, and are partly living in the state of Utah in the United States and partly on the island of Gotland in Sweden. The Herrey’s were interested in the emigration of Mormons from Gotland to the United States. In the past, I have studied emigrants from the so-called free churches in the southern parts of Gotland. Now, I travelled around together with the Herrey’s and visited the farms from where the Mormon emigrants came during the emigration period. Now Villy and Gerd’s daughter will try to discover what happened to the descendants of these emigrants. A very interesting project!
On the trivia account, one can add that the Herrey name is quite famous in Sweden. Villy and Gerd’s three sons Per, Richard and Louis won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1984 and were very popular at that time.
For many years, our family has been searching for descendants of my great aunt Agnes, who emigrated from Sweden to America in the 1920’s. Over there, she settled down in New York and married. For as long as she lived she stayed in touch with my mother, but then the contact was lost. My niece Linnéa, aged 17, thought of a new way to search for them. She had in an old letter seen a photo of Agnes’ granddaughter Donna. That said, Linnéa tried to search for the granddaughter on Facebook and there she found her – Donna Englund. Now they have established a very good contact through Facebook.
There are always unsolved cases, which are annoying me. For instance, there is the case of a man who is searching for his Swedish mother. She gave birth to him in New York, left him to foster parents and was never heard from again. The man has only got his birth certificate with her name and her age. I struggle to find a way to solve this mystery and I am running out of ideas, which bothers me. I think, it must be every man’s right to know at least who his mother is. As we genealogists are too well aware of, the question of knowing the fathers is quite a different story.
Kerstin M. Jonmyren
Oh, dear how fast time is passing. I have been so busy with research for my clients that I have not gotten the time to update my home page, and that does not look well at all.
I have had interesting cases to solve during this period of time. One case concerns an America heritage, a will written in favour of a rather famous Swedish man. He is dead now and since he had got ten children from three marriages there has been a bit of work to locate all heirs. Such cases are rather laborious with all documents, which I have to achieve, but very interesting. You really feel satisfied when the puzzle pieces fit in, so to say.
Different laws of inheritance in different countries.
I have had similar cases regarding Britain as well. The British courts are more exacting than the American ones. That means still more documents to prove relationship. I often feel that they are overdoing the cases.
We have different systems and different laws in Sweden compared to the Anglo-Saxon countries. If you are a child you have your legal right to inherit half of your parent’s estate, no matter what the parent has written in his will. All heirs have to be mentioned in the probate of a deceased person, too, which means that the probates are very important as a proof of relationship here. It seems to be different in the Anglo-Saxon countries, where birth, marriage and death certificates are important documents. We have not got them here.
An unsolved complicated case
I have got an unsolved and very complicated case, which I am trying to attack from a new angle now and then. A man in USA was born over there in the 1960’s, but left to foster parents rather immediately. His mother was noted as a Swedish citizen in his birth certificate. Her name and age were noted as well. How to find her, in the case. She might have stayed on in the USA, and she might have returned to Sweden. The man has a great wish to see his mother once in life, and I certainly feel for him. When I have managed to find her I can tell that I will write about it here with a lot of hurrahs.
Recently in Malmö, in the south of Sweden, we had a big conference with the Swedish Genealogy Association, and “everybody” was there. As usual you have to rush around to hear and see as much as possible of the speeches and the exhibitions. I met a lot of interesting people and made new acquaintances, all useful for my task as a professional genealogist.
I got a very interesting task from a lawyer in New York some weeks ago. He wanted me to search for the heirs of a rather wealthy man, who died in New York last year. This man had immigrated to the USA during the 1940’s and had had quite a progress in his profession, as a masseur. He never married and I was to find his heirs.
I found that the man had had 12(!) half siblings, some of them now deceased. The man was born by an unwed mother, who later had married and got 12 children of her marriage. I had quite a job to find all of them, and the children of the deceased ones, and assemble all documents. Now all is prepared, and hopefully the heirs will get their heritage rather soon. The family involved originally was very poor: the family father was a poor farm labourer. You may wonder how they were able to manage with such a large family in the former part of the 20th century.
I have had another interesting task, too. During the research of a farmer family I found that a man of the family had been killed -“beaten to death” in 1837. I was asked to order a copy of the court record of the case. The record told about a fight starting at a bar and ending with a man beaten to death outdoors by a bunch of violent men. Well, he was a fighter and a drinker, but still it was like an assault. His family with small children had to suffer by the loss of their father, and their farm had to be sold. I really felt unpleasant when translating and summarizing the court record.
All of a sudden it may happen. You start with an ordinary farm family, and suddenly you find a vicar or a nobleman further back. By that you find lots and lots of ancestors, about whom you can find interested information in printed records. It does not happen often, maybe once per one hundred clients. Just now, however, I have come into such a case.
On the other hand rather often I meet hopeful clients who tell fascinating family traditions about ladies in waiting and illegitimate children of the Swedish royal family. It is not always nice to crash such stories and tell about ordinary farm labourers, who never were in the near of Stockholm or other places with royal palaces.
News from Kerstin
On the 26th I attended a very interesting conference on Swedish genealogy in Stockholm. It was on emigration to the USA and on immigration to Sweden. About 1.5 million Swedes emigrated to America during a period of some sixty years and some 400 000 of them returned to Sweden. In the meantime and after that period of time we had a certain amount of immigrants from other countries into Sweden. Many of them stayed here and some of them went on to other countries later on, just passed through so to say.
Our genealogy association is busy compiling registers on emigrants, based on voluntary work from everybody, and all registers are a great help in our effort to assist Americans who are looking for their roots.
I have an interesting but very complicated case with a man searching for his Swedish mother who abandoned him in New York in the 1960’s. I got a piece of advice on the conference of what register I have to search for her passport application of those years.
Then I have my long-lasting and extremely puzzling case – about seven years old - with Charles Peter Jacobson, which quite surely was not his Swedish surname. But who was he in Sweden? On the conference I got an advice or a suggesting of another archive to search on for him. One day I will find the answer of that case, too, I hope.