Bridge to Sweden
Newsletter no 24
October 2007

Ancient bronze age graves at Öland
Photo: Marie Louise Bratt


No, these are not the graves of your ancestors! They could be, of course, but we'll not be able to find any records of birth or death, and we'll never know any names. Because these graves are about 3000 years old!

Summer is over for this year, another summer of travel across Sweden. Where did we go this year? To Skåne, in the south, then to Värmland, close to the Norwegian border, to Hälsingland  and finally to Öland, that oblong island paradise in the southern Baltic Sea. Another interesting summer, exploring Sweden with several of you. We can't wait to go again,  next summer.


  What is in this newsletter? 

1. Let's talk about ships, those sailing ships and steam ships that took your ancestors across the Atlantic ocean.

2. How to travel by train in Sweden - the environmentally best way to travel, and also fun and relaxing!

3. Lexikon - the Swedish word for 'dictionary. Let's look at websites that can help you translate that old letter your grandma wrote, or one that you just received from a Swedish relative.




1. How did they travel to America?

You might be surprised to know that Swedes emigrated to America already in the 1600s. The well-known ship Kalmar Nyckel left Sweden in 1637 with around 20 people heading for Amerika. They settled in area of present Delaware and New Jersey and started New Sweden. Seventeen years later New Sweden was lost to the Dutch, but many of those early emigrants stayed in America. You might be one of their descendents.

Here is a website about this early emigration, with lots of interesting information, including the names of many of the emigrants.

And so arrived the steam ships, around 1870-1880. Now it was quick and easy (relatively), to travel to North America! Ships left from Göteborg (Gothenburg), Malmö and Copenhagen, for Hull. Then emigrants took the train to Liverpool and continued from there by transatlantic ships to New York, Boston or Quebec.  Others travelled to Germany, leaving from Hamburg or Bremen, while others, especially those from the western provinces (e.g. Dalsland, Värmland), travelled to Norway and left from there. You might want to explore this interesting site, ships leaving from Nowegian ports.

It was on the steamship Orlando that my own great grandparents left Sweden for America in 1883. They returned to Sweden 7 years later - perhaps it was not quite what they had expected... The well-known shipping company, the Wilson Line, handled the traffic between Göteborg and Hull.

Svenska Amerikalinjen
The Swedish American Line, started in 1915. It was now possible to travel directly from Göteborg to New York by huge, modern ships. Suddenly the trip became much easier than before!

What a difference when you consider that first journey, one hundred years earlier!

2. Travel by train

Train travel is not common in North America, where planes and cars have unfortunately taken over. But you might want to consider traveling this way, when you visit Sweden, or Scandinavia, or the rest of Europe! It's fast, environmentally friendly and social - and you leave from and arrive right at the center of cities. 

Like anything else that's unfamiliar, taking on this kind of travel might seem a bit scary. So how do you do it? First you need to buy tickets, which you can most easily do on the Internet. Then you need to find the train station, which is not difficult - everyone knows where it is. Then you have to find the train, and therefore the track it leaves from. Climb on the train, sit down in your comfortable seat, take out your book or your map, and watch the scenery go by. It's fast - traveling from Stockholm to Malmö takes about 4 1/2 hours on the fast and comfortable X2000 trains.

Here are some useful resources:

Statens Järnvägar, SJ, is a good site to visit - preferably long before you leave home. There is an English version with much information that's very useful. This is the place to search for your train. You will realize that there are different kinds of tickets - consider the Just Nu tickets, which are much cheaper than the regular ones.  You have to buy them early though - they are available up to 90 days before travelling. And they do run out (a bit like on planes)!

I suggest that you get to the station early to familiarize yourself with it. Find out what track your train will be leaving from and learn how to get there. There is always a big black board with all the information you need, the destination of the train, the time it leaves, the track it leaves from etc. Here is a website from Stockholms Central  (the main Stockholm railroad station). The website is in Swedish but you can enjoy the pictures. 

Traveling light makes your trip much easier, since you do have to deal with your luggage yourself on the trains. This means get it up some steps into the train and then find a good place to put it. A rather small suitcase with wheels works out well, perhaps with a backpack added to it. And now you are ready to travel, and to enjoy your trip through the Swedish country side!


3. Translating from Swedish to English
(or even learn some Swedish)

Sometimes you probably wish you could understand a Swedish text, a letter from a Swedish relative, a document or even a website. If you have no dictionary  (lexikon in Swedish) and no one to help you, these resources might interest you:

Institutet för språk och folkminnen offer this great dictionary. Try it, it's not hard to use!

University of Phoenix also has a useful dictionary. Do they have that many Swedes in Phoenix?

If you are serious about learning some Swedish, perhaps before leaving for trip to Sweden,
Before you know it can be quite useful. You can download the program and try it out, then decide if you want to buy it or not.