Category Archives: Book Reviews

Cradled in Sweden by Carl-Erik Johansson: Book Review

Cradled in Sweden by Carl-Erik Johansson has been in my reference library for quite some time. Recently, I began reading through it again and realized that, in spite of being written in 2002 and in spite of the author’s stated goal for the book to guide researchers through Swedish records held on microfilm in the FamilySearch Library, this book is a necessary handbook for those researching Swedish roots.

Yes, the book was written during the childhood of the internet, long before ArkivDigital was founded, but it still is invaluable.

Contents

  1. The Language
  2. The Country
  3. Names of Places
  4. Names of Persons
  5. Archives
  6. Fixed and Movable Feast Days
  7. Handwriting
  8. Emigration Records
  9. Parish Registers
  10. Clerical Survey Records
  11. Census Records and Land Records
  12. Court Records
  13. Military Records
  14. Genealogical Associations, Magazines and Printed Books
  15. Chronology
  16. List of Swedish and Finnish Army Units
  17. Swedish Army Units
  18. Swedish Probate Records and Indexes
  19. Mormon Congregations (GRENAR) in Sweden 1852-1950
  20. Some Diseases and Causes of Death
  21. Money, Weight and Measure
  22. Pedigree Chart Numbering
  23. Genealogical Associations in Sweden
  24. Addresses to Local Tax Authorities
  25. Alphabetical Index of All Parishes in Sweden
  26. Word List
    Bibliography

Quite a few years passed from my discovery of a Swedish mother for my 2X great grandfather, Frits Wille Oskar Emil Jensen and learning that my Swedish 3X great grandmother was Johanna Elisabeth Molin from Öved, Sweden.

Once I knew that, my first foray into Swedish records were the church books. If I owned Cradled in Sweden at that time, I would have immediately opened to Chapters 9 and 10.

Chapter 9 gives the history of parish registers vs. civil registration and provides an in-depth look at examples of the many available records, right down to what each column entry means. Chapter 10 covers the clerical survey records (often called the household examination records, which were updated yearly by the minister. These records are even more valuable than a typical census record because of the amount of detail they include. In addition to naming each person in the home plus their exact dates of birth, the minister “examined” each person in terms of their religious knowledge. Not only are the levels of religious knowledge and understanding identified, the marking system used to “grade” the quality of knowledge is explained (e.g. differentiation between knows well” and “also knows by heart.” Social behavior grades are also noted. The chapter ends with some farmer occupational definitions.

Chapter 7 discusses various handwriting styles used through time. My strong point isn’t reading records from the 1700s! This chapter gives examples of various cursive choices for lower and upper case letters along with examples of names written in the old style.

When finding the date an event took place, it isn’t always evident exactly when it happened because some church books identify dates by the church calendar, which includes fixed and movable feast days. When did Jubilate 1777 happen? Well, Jubilate is the 3rd Sunday after Easter. Easy to find in Chapter 6.

Chapter 13 is excellent for those wanting to find a soldier in the family.

The chapter titles provide an excellent overview of many of the types of Swedish records that are available. In 2024, instead of traveling to Salt Lake City and pulling the microfilm out of the drawer, researchers would head to ArkivDigital, the subscription site, and to excellent digital images of the desired records.

It could be argued that Chapters 14 and 22 are outdated. In terms of addresses, I have to agree. However, I sample searched a number of the societies and associations and found almost all are still in existence. Much better than the street addresses in the book are their websites, packed with links and contact information, usually by e-mail.

Other goodies found in this book – list of military surnames, span of years found in each probate district, explanation of all the records kept by the minister, a detailed explanation of the various types of archives in Sweden and, last but not least, Chapter 25 lists every single parish in Sweden.

There is so much handy information in this 2002 book that it is worth purchasing, especially given the reasonable price.

I love, love, love this book! If you have Swedish ancestry, it should be in your personal book collection. New, hardcover 2002 editions of the book can be purchased for as little as $20.00.

The Deerfield Massacre by James L. Swanson: Book Review

A few weeks ago, on American Ancestors, I listened to author James L. Swanson talk about his new book, The Deerfield Massacre.

Although I love books, I generally find that author presentations don’t do much to encourage me to purchase a book. This event required a ticket – $12.50 or $45.00 for a ticket and a signed copy of the book.

I opted for the ticket and the book for one reason only. My ancestors Benjamin Burt (1680-1759)and wife Sarah Belden (1682-after 14 December 1730) not only lived in Deerfield, but were among the 100+ captives taken on the forced march to Canada.

On 29 February 1704, a combined force of French and allied Indian tribes, struck the town, killed many, burned homes and took captives.

Not only did Benjamin and Sarah survive the 300 mile trek north, which was amazing especially for Sarah, who was 7 1/2 months pregnant with her first child, but they and son Christopher, born 14 April 1704 in Montreal, Canada were eventually ransomed.

Their second child, a son named Seaborn who was, of course, born at sea on 4 July 1706 on the way back to Boston, is my ancestor through my maternal grandmother.

My connection to Deerfield is what drew me to attend American Ancestors’ online visit with the author.

To be honest, the interview held my interest for a few minutes and I was really waiting for the book to arrive in a couple of weeks.

Arrive it did and my first reaction was disappointment about the “signed” copy. Yes, the author’s signature is in the front of the book. However, Swanson signed labels which someone else, I’m sure, affixed to the book pages. That’s not really my idea of an author-signed copy because he likely never even held my book and he certainly didn’t inscribe his name on a page of the book.

That wasn’t the end of the world and I eagerly started reading the account of the Deerfield attack. I learned a lot from the first half of the book – Parts I – A History of Superstition, Violence, and Massacre and II – The Aftermath: Captivity and a Test of Faith.

It told the story of the complete shock of the colonists, living on the Massachusetts frontier, being attacked in the dead of winter, which they never expected.

Many of the captives, unable to keep up in the march to Canada, were killed by the Indians along the way.

Those who survived had a mixed experience in Canada, with some held by Indian families and some kept as servants in French families.

Some chose to remain in Canada even when given the opportunity to return home, but many most definitely wanted to return to New England. The latter group included my Burt ancestors.

The Burts were mentioned in passing by the author, mostly, I believe, because it was memorable that Sarah gave birth to Seaborn on the voyage home.

Part III – Memory, Myth, and Legend, which is the second half of the book, discusses how Deerfield reacted to the attack and then delves into a review of all the commemorations, programs, pageants and other activities/products that have been created through the centuries.

That half of the book was not very interesting and I would have preferred a summary of those activities in the Epilogue.

This was my first experience paying for an author talk and receiving a signed book. I don’t think I’d do it again. For $45.00, it was a bit disappointing.

However, if you are interested in the 1704 Deerfield Massacre or, perhaps like me are descended from residents who experienced that awful night, our favorite online website has this book priced at $22.17 for hardcover or $14.99 on Kindle. I’m a bit sorry I didn’t just go the Kindle route, which is a great price for a well researched explanation of the attack.

Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns & Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi: Book Review

Our People, Second Edition, 2023

I am always on the lookout for books to add to my knowledge of my Rusyn heritage. The earlier editions of this particular book have been out of stock for quite a while, aside from exorbitant secondhand prices online. However, I was aware that the 5th revised edition was due out in 2023 and decided to purchase a copy.

Paul Robert Magocsi is very well-known in the Rusyn world. is an He is American, but is a professor of history, political science, and Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is more or less a Rusyn rock star, having published more than 30 books in English with more translated into other Slavic languages.

The cover photo tells the story of the beginnings of almost all Rusyn-Americans, when our ancestors walked out of Ellis Island into a new life.

Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction
Note on Names

Chapter
1. Origins
2. Migration
3. Settlement Patterns and Economic Life
4. Religious Life
5. Organizational Life
6. Culture
7. Politics
8. Carpatho-Rusyns in Canada
9. Group Maintenance

Appendix: Root Seeker’s Guide to the Homeland
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgements
Photograph Credits

Chapter 1 begins with the current thinking on the origins of the Carpatho-Rusyn people in Europe and their history up to the latter part of the 19th century.

Chapter 2 immediately places the focus on Rusyn emigration to America, which began in the 1880s and wound down with more restrictive U.S. immigration laws in the early 1920s.

Professor Magocsi describes in detail what the emigrants had to endure just to leave Europe – for most, it meant walking to Hamburg or another departure point. Just as a point of reference, my grandmother made this journey. It’s 675 miles from Udol, Slovakia to Hamburg, Germany!

About 250,000 Rusyns, or Ruthenians as they were also called, arrived in America between 1900 and 1914, the start of World War I. Most men were poor peasants with about 40% farmers, 20% daily laborers and another 20% working as servants. The remainder of these immigrants were women and children, most of whom sought jobs in the factories and mills.

The remaining chapters in the book discuss the assimilation of Rusyns into American life or, for a number of them, the pattern of short term working in the United States, followed by the return to the “old country.”

Regardless of a temporary or permanent move to America, Rusyns lived and worked near other Rusyns. They belonged to Greek Catholic or Orthodox Churches and established social organizations. Cultural traditions crossed the pond with the immigrant population. Professor Magocsi provides a detailed history of areas where most Rusyns settled and how they lived their new lives, eventually venturing into politics, both American and speaking out on behalf of political changes happening in Europe.

It’s sad to note that Rusyns have never had a unified homeland within the borders of a single country to call their own. In spite of the lack of a homeland, Carpatho-Rusyns have a rich history and heritage.

The book closes with what is called “Group Maintenance,” which discusses the factors impacting the Rusyn identity and culture.

The Root Seeker’s guide at the back of the book will help beginning researchers to identify their places of origin in the 21st century. That can be a daunting task, given the name changes placed on villages throughout time. Some name changes are easy to figure out, such as Hajtovka, one of my grandmother’s villages, to an alternate spelling of Haitivka. Others are not so easy. Who would believe that Hajasd an Volosianka were the same place? Or Sirma and Drotyntsi? This guide also gives the name of the former Hungarian county or Galician district where the town is, the present administrative subdivision and the present country where the town is located. All very important pieces of information to know if one doesn’t know much about the family origins.

Fun Fact: There are a handful of Rusyn-Americans whose names most people would recognize, like Andrew Warhola, Alexandra Zuk, Margaret Maria Hyra and Robert Michael Urich. However, they are better known as artist Andy Warhol, actor Robert Urich and actresses Sandra Dee and Meg Ryan!

This is an excellent book on immigrant Rusyn life in America and worth every penny of the $39.00 price.

Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi is published by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Centre, P.O. Box 163, Goldens Bridge, New York 10526-0163.

Here’s a tip if you are thinking of buying this book. That mega-company that sells items online has the book listed for $48.00 plus a $4.49 shipping charge.

Instead, write a check and mail it to the Centre at the address above. The price will be $39.00 with no extra shipping charge if mailed inside the United States. That’s a huge savings!

With the book will come a list of the extensive offerings of Rusyn publications available, both in English and other Slavic languages.

Professor Magocsi’s book now has pride of place on my Carpatho-Rusyn book shelf. 🙂