Category Archives: Swedish research

Swedish-Americans and ArkivDigital

Do you have Swedish ancestry? About 4% of Americans are estimated to have some Scandinavian family lines, which include Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Frequently, if you discover you have an ancestor from one of these countries, eventually you might find the family tree branches out into a second or even third Scandinavian country.

In my own family, I knew that Grandmother’s mother, Anna Elisabeth Jensen,  was Danish, even though it took a very long time to break through the brick wall. From the 1910 U.S. census, I had a hint of a Swedish line when Anna’s father, Frits, reported that his father was Danish, but his mother was Swedish.

It turned out that my Swedish line was much easier to trace than my Danish family, even though the Danes lived right in Copenhagen for many years.

When I identified my 3X great grandmother, Johanna Elisabeth Molin, born in 1814 in Öved, Sweden, which is in southern Sweden, I became an instant fan of ArkivDigital.

Since most of the Swedish records aren’t indexed, as in searchable in one central search engine, it is necessary to know exactly where the family lived, or at least a good idea of the (small) area so that individual parish registers can be searched without too much difficulty.

ArkivDigital has been very busy expanding their database of records and now includes a growing base of SWEDISH-AMERICAN records. That means if you haven’t yet been able to identify your Swedish ancestral town, you might find just the clue you need in these new record sets.

Here’s an entry for a Lutheran church in Kansas:

A Methodist church in Minnesota:

Two churches in Nebraska:

If you already know the Swedish home town of your family and you haven’t explored ArkivDigital, you are missing out on the absolute best set of records.

ArkivDigital is a subscription site, but it offers memberships ranging from one month to one year. A month is currently less than $40 US and a researcher can tackle a lot of records in one month.

AD’s digital images are NOT taken from the old microfilms. They are created from the original records and documents and are colorized, making them much clearer and sharper, easier to read than the microfilmed versions.

There is a demo version of ArkivDigital:

They pick the records that you are allowed to see for free, but with this demo version you can view the catalog of all the records. That way, if you know the location of your family, you can view all the records available for that place.

If you already know your Swedish home/s, then ArkivDigital should be a “must have” for you. I have traced my Swedish family to a number of towns, all in southern Sweden, using baptism, marriage and burial records in conjunction with household examinations, moving in and out records and a few guild records.

The fact that the records are in Swedish, a language which I don’t speak, hasn’t been much of a hindrance. Names are names and many of the records are set up in columns with date, names, parents, godparents, places and comments. They are also categorized by event until they go back into the 1700s.

I have had help both in Facebook groups and at the Family History Library when I’ve been unable to decipher the handwriting or a record has contained sentences. I never, ever thought I’d even find Frits’s Swedish mother, never mind several more generations back. My current brick wall is Nils Molin and Helena Andersdotter who married in Ystad. Their son, Anders, was baptized there in 1739, but I haven’t yet located their marriage record.

ArkivDigital offers two or three free weekends throughout the year and is also available through the Family History Library and Family History Centers. If your FHC doesn’t include ArkivDigital in their subscriptions, ask a staff person to request it from Salt Lake City.

I rarely recommend subscription websites, but if you have Swedish family, ArkivDigital is essential. The Swedish National Archives recently announced a plan to make its registers free to the viewing public. How this will affect ArkivDigital is unknown. I am hoping they partner up to offer even more than the 76,000,000 images already in the ArkivDigital databases.





52 Documents in 52 Weeks #13: Swedish Probate Records

Swedish genealogical records have a reputation for being quite fabulous. I remember long before I found my Danish and Swedish branch of the family tree thinking that I would love to have some family to trace in those records.

Now I do and I have. Do I speak-read-write Swedish? NO! Are the records indexed? For the most part, NO!

How do I manage to find anything? Don’t let limits of a foreign language stop you from delving into records. I (1) use Google translate (2) get help at the Family History Library (3) find distant cousins on My Heritage and (4) join Facebook groups where there are many native speakers who kindly give tons of help.

Swedish probate records are similar to American records with the exception, in my view, that the deceased is much more likely to have had a probate of estate in Sweden than in the United States.

Today’s document is the probate of my 5X great grandmother, Sara Brita Krook who married Anders Molin. Their life stories have been topics of my writing in the past, but today’s focus is on Sara’s probate.

Right from the beginning, you need to know that Sara and Anders at least separated by 1786 when she was living in southern Sweden and he was in Marstrand, about 200 miles away. I have been unable to find where he went after that. Sara is called “widow” in 1812 when she died. I suspect that Anders probably did predecease her since the males in the Molin family seemed to live into their 50s or early 60s and Anders was born in 1739.

However, the end of their marriage brought a huge change in living style for Sara, born into a solid upper middle class family with social status. Anders was a master mason, so he was an appropriate match in status to Sara. After they split up, Sara is recorded sneaking into the poor house to have not one, but two, illegitimate sons and that was after the birth of her first illegitimate son soon after Sara and Anders went their separate ways.

Back to the probate records! From this background, you can surmise that Sara left little in the way of an estate when she died and you would be correct.

Sara Brita’s Probate 1812, Page 1

Sara Brita’s Probate, Page 2

Sara Brita’s Probate, Page 3

Sara Brita’s oldest son, Hans (Nicholas), the only one of her children who was a child of Anders Molin, filed the probate report. Pages 1 and 2 are the inventory of her possessions with the values. The total value of her estate was only 16 of whatever the currency was at the time. (The modern krona was adopted until 1873.) However, 16 of anything isn’t going to be worth a whole lot.

The important page for me is page 3, which lists her heirs – sons J.P. (Johan Peter), Jöns Abraham, Johan Jacob and Hans Molin. Note that they are all using the Molin surname, even though the fathers of Johan Peter, Jöns Abraham and Johan Jacob are unknown.

This list of her sons is the latest record I have of her son Jöns Abraham, born in 1786. I have been able to track the other children, but Jöns has remained elusive. This is proof that he was still living in April 1812, so the search for him will go on.

Many thanks to my Swedish cousin, Krister, who doggedly read through probate indexes in southern Sweden until he located Sara Brita who had been living in Andrarum.

Remember, don’t be afraid to tackle records just because you don’t speak the language in which they are written. There are many kind genealogy souls out there ready to give a helping hand.

Researching Swedish Ancestors in ArchivDigital

If you have a Swedish branch on your family tree, there are two things you need to know. First, you need to know at least the town from where your immigrant ancestor/s came. That’s because Swedish records were kept at the local parish church level until 1950. There are a number of ways you can look for that information if you don’t already know it. However, in this post, I will assume that you already know the ancestral village, town or city.

Second, where do you go next to look at Swedish records? There are few free resources available. FamilySearch has a limited number of records in its database. The two main choices, Ancestry – world, and Arkiv Digital, are both subscription sites.

I have but one Swedish branch on my tree, beginning with 3x great grandmother, Johanna Elisabeth Molin. When I needed to make a choice between Ancestry and ArkivDigital, I chose ArkivDigital. I don’t often recommend products or sites, but I have to make an exception for ArkivDigital. I’ll share both the reasons why and give you a glimpse of ArkivDigital and how it works.

First, why would I choose ArkivDigital over Ancestry? There used to be another company with digitized Swedish records. That was Genline, which was bought out in 2010 by Ancestry. Genline’s images are not near the quality of those on ArkivDigital. That is because Genline digitized microfilmed records. Some of those records weren’t of the best quality either, having been filmed years ago. ArkivDigital produces digital images from original records. Technology has improved so much that most of the images are excellent – they couldn’t be any better.

Second, Ancestry’s World Explorer subscription  offers access for a month for $34.99 or $149 for six months. ArkivDigital offers subscriptions for one week, one month, three months, six months, one year or two years. To compare apples to apples, a one month subscription is 225SEK, which at today’s rate equals $26.47. A six month subscription is $91.17.

If you only need world access to search in Sweden, ArkivDigital is much better value for money. By the way, one week for ArkivDigital is the equivalent of just $10.00. That’s an even better value if you are unsure of how much information you might find about your family. If the week is devoted to genealogy, you can search a LOT of records in that time.

Not only is the image quality much better, but ArkivDigital has a much wider range of Swedish records. They have even expanded to the United States and are beginning to digitize records of Swedish immigrants.

Are you convinced ArkivDigital is the way to go? Here is how it works. The website displays the subscription time period and cost on the right hand side of its home page:

A free trial is offered on the home page, but it’s more like a free demo. Although the software is downloaded, it is set up so that you can only search for the name they give you in the place they say. However, if you click on Image Database on the right, you can see all of the  counties. Click on a county link and a page will open with all the records they currently have available. The lists are quite extensive for every county in Sweden.

I have used ArkivDigital off and on for the past five years. It is very easy to use and to navigate the records – you don’t need to be able to read Swedish. To read the actual records, Swedish isn’t always needed either. For example, birth, marriage and death records follow given patterns with names, dates, parents and so on. If you are looking at probate records, understanding Swedish is a big plus, but again not necessary. I don’t speak any Swedish, but have found Swedish genealogy groups on Facebook have been fabulous. If you are in the Family History Library, the Scandinavian staff will translate for you. I imagine if you live in an area where there were many Swedish settlers, you would have local library staffs that could also translate for you.

What do the records look like? My Johanne Elisabeth Molin was born in Öved, which was in Malmöhus County at the time. Here are some of the Öved records.

First, I subscribed and then downloaded and installed programs on my computer. Then I opened ArkivDigital. Because I’ve used it before, a box opens on top of the search screen, asking if I wish to return to the image I was last at:

Because I want to search Öved’s records, I will close that box. The screen totally changes to an alphabetical place listing.

Search for Öved

Notice that there are letters representing county codes (there are some villages with the same name in Sweden so knowing the county is important) and the Archive Type list is in English.

I will scroll down to Öved records. Handy hint needed here: The Swedish alphabet has some letters that we don’t have. If you are looking for words that begin with å, ä or ö, those letters are found at the end of the alphabet after the letter z. Öved will be near the end of the record list because ö is the last letter in the Swedish alphabet.

I scrolled down as far as the bar would let me and Öved is third down from the top. County is M for Malmöhus and the record type is Parish/Congregation, which is what I am looking for. I click on Öved and I now have two view screens:

Öved’s Record List on Right

Records for Öved are numerous. I can’t capture the list in one shot, but they include Household Records 1799-1899, Congregation Records 1896-1941, Moving In and Moving Out records from 1773-1929, Birth and Christening 1708-1929, Banns and Marriage 1709-1949, Death and Burial 1708-1941, General Muster Rolls 1818-1885, Estate Inventories 1723-?, Population Register (a tax list of sorts) 1941, and Catechetical Records 1683-1894.

Not all of these records are inclusive of all years shown in the span, as some of these records are divided into sub-groups of years. This sampling of Öved’s records is typical of ArkivDigital holdings. There are parishes with records well back into the 1600’s and, like with some of U.S. county courthouses, there were a few fires and/or loss of parish registers.

I am just going to share one sample of a record so you can see for yourself what they look like. I chose “Birth and Christening Records” to share Johanne Elisabeth’s baptismal record. First, a screen like this comes up:

Index, of sorts

Some of the cities have started developing a name index to go with their records, but most of the time, this is the only index you get. It’s a general breakdown of pages in this record set. Google translate will tell you that VIGDA is marriages, FÖDDA is births and DÖDA is just like it sounds – dead.

Births/baptisms (sometimes both dates are given in the record, but sometimes only a baptismal date is included) in 1814 are found on BILD 51-BILD 55, which are images 51-55. Öved is a tiny place so there aren’t many pages per year. Johanna was born in November, so I am going to jump to Bild 54, which is near the end of the year.

Johanna Elisabeth, top right

There she is on the top right. The image in AD, as it is called, can be enlarged or reduced on your computer screen.

Can I read all of this on my own? No, but I can understand that on 12 November 1814 Johanna Elisabeth was born and baptized. She was the daughter of Hans Molin and his wife Anna Christina Sandberg of Öved. The witnesses/sponsors at the church are the names listed afterwards. The words before their names are occupation titles, which I learned from the staff at the Family History Library.

Like with any records, sometimes the writer’s script is quite clear, as in this record, but other times, especially in records from the 1600s and 1700s, old German script was used. That is a separate issue from the quality of AD images. The image is excellent.

That’s all there is to it. When I close AD, it saves where I was and the next time I open to use it, the prompt box will ask if I wish to return to this record in Öved.

One more thing – I happened to find an old Genline image of the same record:

Genline Image, now Ancestry

This is the difference between AD filming original records in color and Genline/Ancestry offering black and white images made from microfilms.

If Swedish records are a necessary part of your research, go directly to the ArkivDigital website and check out all that they have to offer. Then sign up and subscribe!

DISCLAIMER: I do not work for or represent ArkivDigital in any way. I have received no compensation of any kind from them and this opinion is strictly my own.