Find the information
you need to get started
Ready to get going with your
research? You know the name your mormor used, in Canada, and you
know that she came from Sweden (your mother told you). You also
believe that she was born around 1900. That's it! Now what do you
do? Let's start to consider what her name might have been while she
lived in Sweden, before she emigrated. It's quite likely that she
changed her name when she arrived in Quebec or Toronto, realizing
that her Swedish name was too difficult for most Canadians to deal
very often changed their names after emigration. Many of the name
changes were minor. For example, the Swedish letters å, ä and ö lost
their dots and circles and became a and o. This way the name
Källström became Kallstrom. But sometimes the changes
were greater. The name Holmgren, for example, perhaps became
Holmgrain, and Bengtsson changed into Benson.
Some immigrants translated their names into English. The name
Sjöstrand thus became Seashore. Others took entirely new names, even
names such as Smith or Wilson. That is when it gets really
you see, you'll sometimes need great ingenuity in order to find the
names used in Sweden. Why not ask your parent, uncle, aunts or
If no result there, start looking for any Swedish documents that
might be around.
Finally check with me! I work with emigration research daily and
might have some thoughts as to what the Swedish name was. This
newsletter has information about names and name changes and
could also be helpful.
Date of birth
You know that your great grandfather used
the name Charles Peterson in New Zealand. In Sweden his name might
have been Karl Pettersson or maybe Karl August or Karl Johan
Pettersson - all common names in Sweden. You need to know
great-grandfather's date of birth, in order to make sure you have
not found the wrong Karl Pettersson.
How do you find the date of
birth? As always, start by
asking family members. If that leads nowhere, get a copy of your
great-grandfather's death certificate. Hopefully you know when and
where he died. You might find the age when he died, not the date of
birth, but even that is helpful. Now you know the approximate year
Here are some places
where you can find the death certificate?
National Library of Australia
Online Searchable Death
Indexes and Records
In New Zealand:
Department of Internal Affairs
Online Death Indexes & Records for
The National Archives
site. Enter your great-grandfather's name and year of death, and see
what you can find.
I entered my great-grandfather's name,
Sven Iwan Bratt. I knew he died in 1916. This is what I found:
- his year of birth
- the names of his parents
- the name of his wife and the
year of marriage
- how many children
Great progress: I know my
great-grandfather's year of birth (not the date)! But I still don't
know where he was born, so let's try to find the parish of birth.
The Swedish parish of birth
Swedish records are organized by parish,
so in order to find the birth records, you will need the name of the
parish. Note that, in Sweden, a parish (in Swedish: församling
or socken) is a geographical place, somewhat like a township.
It has nothing to do with a specific church or religion.
If you are lucky, the name of birth
parish could be on the death certificate, or on the marriage
certificate, but more likely you will find only Sweden.
So what do you do then?
Swedish American Church records
The Swedish churches in other countries maintained wonderful
records, very much like the Swedish husförhörslängd. They
include the parish of birth in Sweden. The records are available at
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center in Rock Island,
Illinois. Here is their
email address. Not every Swedish emigrant is included in these
records, but many are, so it's worth exploring this route.
Here are the churches that the Swedes
often joined, in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. I suggest that
you try to find a church in the area where your ancestor lived for
some time, e.g. where she or he married and had children.
2. Naturalization records are
very useful for you to find the parish (or city, or town) in Sweden,
where your emigrant was born. Immigrants had to, in order to become
citizens, apply for citizenship, and this application includes lots
of interesting information, including the place of birth. This is
where you can find out more:
So why can't you find your
grandmother's naturalization documents?
This article explains why. Basically women, especially married
women, bacame naturalized, and therefore citizens, automatically
when their husbands were. So you might have to find the documents
that relate to her husband instead, and hopfully that way manage to
find grandma and where she came from. Fortunately things have
3. Databases - This is where I
might be able to help. If you can find the name and the date of
birth, I will try to find your ancestor in one of the databases that
I have available to me. Emibas, Emigranten and Sveriges
befolkning (Swedish census) - all very useful.
So now, with a name, the year of
birth, perhaps the parish of birth, and the year and place of death,
I'll be happy to try to help you! Just
the information you have (even if you don't have all of the
above) and I'll see what I can do. If you also have the approximate
time of emigration and the place where he or she settled, it would
be helpful and even more likely that I'll be able to find the family
here in Sweden.