Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Everyone Should Wish They Had Swedish Roots

I just looked at my lecture page and counted that I have given my “book talk” 20 times since July 1 (this is not counting lectures on related topics). Twenty times in a little over four months! It ought to be the most polished, well-put-together lecture ever now (notice I said "ought to be"). I have lots of different versions of it: there’s the genealogy version, the general audience version, the German version, and now this weekend for the first time there will also be the Swedish version. (There’s also the version I gave to eight fourth grade classes. That was exciting!)

So, I’ve spent some time in the last couple of days adjusting my lecture to focus on the Swedish section on my book – and on Swedish immigration. As I’ve been doing this, I’m reminded at how fun Swedish research is – and how many great resources there are available to people who want to trace their Swedish roots.

In my book lecture, I often tell people that if they have Swedish ancestors, they should do the little genealogy happy dance. Here are a few reasons why everyone should wish they had Swedish roots:

1) Clerical survey records. These records are found with the parish records. They were created when the parish pastor visited the homes of people within his parish, quizzing them on their knowledge of Luther’s catechisms. They also function kind of like census records. They record names, and often birth dates and places, dates of when people moved in or out or married, occupations, and death dates (if the person died during that period). The exact structures vary, but they may be kept every five or so years.

2) Genline. A huge amount of parish records are available online through this website. You can choose from a variety of subscriptions, and aren’t forced to commit to a year membership or anything like that. Of course, when I was doing the research for The Journey Takers, genline didn’t exist and I had to order the microfilms to my local family history center. (When will there be a genline for German parish records??)

3) Swedish Emigration Databases. Swedes kept great records of emigrants after 1868. You can read the details of the different databases available at the FamilySearch wiki here.

Notice I didn’t mention the patronymic naming system. That is definitely not part of the happy dance. You can read an article I wrote several years ago for Ancestry Magazine about using patronymics here.

While I’m putting together lists, I’ve thought of another one. My husband comes back tonight after being gone for five days. I’m ecstatic. No, it’s not because I miss him so much (who has time to miss him when I’m chasing four kids by myself?). So, here’s my second list.

How to survive five days with four children and no husband:

1) Always put children to bed on time.

2) Never stay up late working unless the world will end if it doesn’t get done (finishing blogging posts doesn’t qualify). Sleep is more important than most deadlines.

3) Remember that waffles and fruit are a completely acceptable, and even relatively healthy, dinner.

4) And this one is the key: When all children are in bed and there is not one sound in the house, take a deep breath, enjoy the silence, and eat a little bit of chocolate.

When my husband is going to be out of town a lot, he buys me some chocolate before he leaves. I’ve found that chocolate in small amounts can calm nerves after almost any stressful day. You should try it.


  1. Good advice on surviving without a husband. Your so busy all the time, I'm not sure how you handle it all.

  2. I just finished your book, which I picked up a flyer for at the Sandy Expo center, and wanted to tell you how amazing it is! I loved how you wove together your own story with your ancestral quest, and made all the details come alive. I hope you do several more volumes on the other lines! I also appreciate the tips on the Swedish search, since I'm working on that right now.