Finding My Swedes

Detail of the Baptismal Record of Nils Svensson (Nels Johnson)
Detail of the Baptismal Record of Nils Svensson (Nels Johnson)

In general, Swedish records are easy to find and use. The Swedes started keeping detailes records of vital records, but also of migration and emigration, from a very early date. And they have had a long-standing tradition of pacifism, meaning that comparatively few records have been burned.

My elusive Swedes, however…. They told everyone — in my great grandfather Nels Johnson’s family Bible, in the history of the family by the eldest daughter (Lena Johnson) of the eldest daughter (Bothilda Johnson) of the immigrants — that they emigrated from Viby in 1868. (Viby was small then, and is still small now: In 1995 population was 936.) There is such a parish, and they were not lying, they were from there.

They just didn’t think to mention that it had changed its name a couple of times:

  • After the Gustav IV Adolph ascended to the throne of Norway and Sweden in 1792, the name of the parish was changed to  Gustav Adolf in his honor.
  • Another wrinkle: from 1681–1856, Viby was associated with Rinkaby, and apparently also with Åhus.
  • After 1856, Gustav Adolf and Rinkaby become parishes of the Villand Hundred.

Clear as mud? Just as one is told commonly in genealogy to look to the next county over, I am searching Viby, Gustav Adolph, Rinkaby, and Åhus for my Swedish ancestors.

I am having great success. I am still mainly in the Gustav Adolph papers. (One of the leading Swedish firms for genealogical records, Arkiv Digital is providing free access for a couple of days, ending on December 30th.)

There is a lot to like about AD: The images are gorgeous new, color images, downloadable as PNGs. (They are also supposed to be downloadable as JPGs, but it does not seem to save the files when I ask for a JPG.) The documents are not indexed by name, but AD provides some handy ways into the documents based on locale and timeframe, and the images load very quickly.

I have been able to locate 8 records of birth or birth and baptism, and one marriage certificate. The births include:

  • Nils Svensson (my great grandfather, known in America as Nels Johnson), b. 24 October 1863, #7 Viby, [Kristianstad län, Sweden]; bapt. 31 October 1863, Viby, [Kristianstad län, Sweden]; son of Sven Jönsson and Kerstin Jönsdotter, The godparents were Nils Andersson of #8 (next door) and Karna Jönsdotter of #7. (Karna is mentioned in the family history as Kerstin’s sister, who they later helped immigrate to the U.S.).
  • Kerstina Jönsdotter (my great-great grandmother, known in America as Kjerstin Johnson), b. 6 November 1834, in Wiby, [Kristianstad län, Sweden]; daugher of Jöns Westassons [family documents say “Vesterson” or “Wyscelius”]

I have also found the record of the marriage of Kjerstin and Sven, in 1853, and the birth records of

  • Bothilda (in America Thilda) (1854)
  • Petr (in America, Peter) with a separate baptismal record (1857)
  • Jöns (in America, John) (1860)
  • Ingrid (in America, Ida) (1865), and
  • Erik (in America, Eric) (1868).

That’s just a highlight. There’s more for me to do, even with the records I found, but it is exciting to be working with such well preserved and well presented records. (Thanks Arkiv Digital!)