Swedish Research: Tips for Beginners

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Step Backward before Stepping Forward[edit | edit source]

Once you have a goal, look at the associated information to the problem. For example: If your goal is to find the parents of an individual (who is one of the end of lines on your Pedigree Chart), take the time to look at all the associated clues to the known individual. It’s a process of understanding the known before moving to the unknown. If you gather everything you know about that individual, and your information is still very sketchy (meaning you really don’t know much) you should probably move your goal forward in time to where you know enough to build on.

Understand Where You Have Checked[edit | edit source]

Evaluate what you have already checked. This is a lot easier if you have documented your sources during your research activities. Keep a good research log.  List your search objectives i.e. "Find the marriage license application of Magnus Swansson to try and find place of birth in Sweden."   List the types of record searched, the time period the record covers AND the time periods searched in that record, which may be very different from the time span it covers as a whole .  Note any anomalies in the record such as, "pages 10-13 unreadable - ink spilled," or "edges of index pages burned off," "male indexed only," and so forth.  

Record the film number, fiche number, book number, CD number or Web address of the site where informaiton was obtained, along with book, page, and entry number where applicable.  The person following your tracks to get to that same information should need just a few minutes to do that, if you've done a good job of documenting.

Think Phonetically[edit | edit source]

You may have information from family or other sources on the name(s) of the place(s) in Sweden where your ancestor lived or came from.  However, when you try to find that in a place list such as the parish listing for Sweden, or, a gazetteer, it doesn't show up.  What then?  Remember that an "American language" ear heard what your Swedish ancestor was trying to say in his/her "Americanized Swedish," 

There are letters beyond "z" in the Swedish alphabet, which are also used in the middle of words, and in people and place names. Their sounds must be taken into account when trying to figure out what people and place names really are.  Those letters are Å å  Ä ä, Ö ö, ocurring in both upper and lower case. 

The Å å or two a's together are pronounced with a long english "o" sound. The Ä ä is pronounced like "eh." The Ö ö is pronounced like "oooh." In older usage, the Ä ä might have been replaced by "E e" i.e. Elfsborg County instead of Älvsborg.

If a personal or place name begins with one of these letters, they will be alphabetized totally after "Z" in any indexes or alphabetical listings using the Swedish alphabet.

The above letters' placement in a personal or place name also affects the pronunciation of what is said and consequently, what is heard.

A good case in point follows:  A patron wrote saying their ancestor came from, "Shaista, Jonskoping lane, South Smoland, Sweden.  Neither their "Google" search, nor a Swedish place name search brought satisfaction. 

Given the pronunciation of the above letters, and after rolling the names around on the tongue for a while, the places turn out to be the following:

Skärstad, Jönköping län, South Småland, Sweden.  The "Skär-" would be pronounced as "share-" or could also be heard as "shire.  The-sta is"stad" with a very soft and/or dropped off "d."  Roll those sounds around on your tongue, and you can easily see how the family and/or the American record keeper heard what they did.

The "-kö-" in "Jönköping is pronounced with a "sshh" sound.  Again, rolling that around on the tongue easily comes up with the family spelling.

Län  could sound like "Len" with a little uplift at the end for the "lane" sound.

As indicated, the å (or two "a's" together)is pronounced with a long "o" sound, so "Smoland" is perfect for the phonics listed.

To help you learn a little more about the sounds, go online and find a Swedish/English dictionary, with pronounciation marks.  And, always, always roll names of people and places around on your tongue and see what you come up with.  Many times, you'll get it right!

Watch Those Dates![edit | edit source]

Dates are written in Sweden in the order of day/month/year. For example, a date listed as 5/10 1820, would be the 5th of October, 1820, NOT the 10th of May, 1820. This may be tricky if you are used to the date written in a different order. And it may lead to mistakes in your research. Get in the habit in all your Swedish research of writing dates with the number of the day, then the 3-4 letter abbreviation for the month, then the full year. This easily fits the order the dates are written in Swedish records. Otherwise at some point you might transpose the dates. You might send yourself off on an incorrect research path as a result. The names are so common in Sweden you could possibly find someone with your transposed date even in the same parish, and take off researching a whole new line of ancestry - just not yours!