Hunt for your Swedish roots
My great-grandfather, Charles Johnson, emigrated from Sweden. How do I find out where in Sweden he came from and more about his family?
For many North Americans with Swedish heritage, jumping the pond seems insurmountable. The two biggest challenges include discovering an ancestor's original Swedish name and finding the place in Sweden where that ancestor lived. During the past few years, however, many new resources and tools have become available that have assisted many people in overcoming these obstacles. Even if your only information is your great-grandfather’s name and that he emigrated from Sweden, success may be possible.
To begin your research, it is good to become familiar with a Swedish genealogy reference guide and study the common challenges within Swedish research: Swedish naming conventions, Swedish geography and the Swedish alphabet.

"Your Swedish Roots"
An excellent Swedish genealogy guide is the book, "Your Swedish Roots" by Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson. "Your Swedish Roots" can be found in many libraries and is available for purchase on Amazon. Another great book is "Cradled in Sweden" by Carl-Erik Johansson. For the serious Swedish researcher, these are the two key English language Swedish genealogy books.


The first step in your hunt is to begin with yourself and your family.

1. Interview family members—especially the older ones—to see if anyone has memories or stories about your emigrant ancestor. Be sure to contact cousins or relatives with whom you don't have regular contact. If you are second or third generation Swedish-American, create a generation-by-generation family tree that traces back to your emigrant ancestor.

2. Search within your family for old letters, diaries, post cards or photos that can provide some clues. Many families have old photos that were taken in Sweden, and sometimes names and locations, including those of photographers are printed on the backs of the photos. This may be very helpful information.

3. Many immigrants brought their family Bible to the new country. The Bible was a very common place to keep track of family names and dates. Check to see if anyone in your family has an old Bible.

4. If you find Swedish documents, don’t despair if you don’t read Swedish. Find someone who can, and determine if it is an important document. One document that many emigrants had was a Moving Out Certificate, or "flyttningsbetyg." This document is a goldmine because it would have been given to the emigrant by his parish minister. The document shows the parish where the person lived at time of emigration and also birth date and birth parish. With that document, one can immediately go to the Swedish records to research one’s heritage.

After you have exhausted your family's personal resources, record what you found. If you weren't lucky enough to find all the information you hoped for, don’t give up. The next article in this series will explain where you can find public records and what type of information you can secure from these records to assist you in your hunt.