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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!)

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