Bridge to Sweden

Newsletter no 35
March 2014

Summer in Småland

Photo: Marie Louise Bratt

Svensk sommar
There is nothing like summer in Sweden! After a dark and chilly winter we are all ready for warmth and sun. Swedes are starting to make plans for summer activities - and so are we at Bridge to Sweden, planning trips to those areas from where your ancestors emigrated. It might have been one hundred years, or more, since your grandmother left Sweden. None of her children or grandchildren has been back to that farm or little cottage she left behind. Isn't it time for someone in your family (perhaps you) to return? Has this even been a dream for a long time? Then maybe this is the year!

As you already know from my January newsletter, we are again doing trips during this spring, summer and fall. We'll wait for the snow to melt and flowers to appear, and for the sun to again warm our frozen bodies. But in the beautiful month of May, or any time during this coming summer, join us and visit your ancestor's village.

Unlike most tour groups ours will be small, no more than 7 people. This permits us to make these groups intimate and quite flexible. We plan the trips in detail, of course, so that we'll be able to visit everything you want to see. But we can also stop our vehicle along the road when spotting ancient burial grounds, runestones or churches from the 12th century. Not to talk about "loppis", Swedish garage sales, which are plentiful and quite interesting to explore during the summer months. We'll even be able to stop for a picnic next to one of Sweden's many lakes, when our stomachs start to rumble.

Maybe you are an experienced traveler, who visited Europe, or even Sweden, before. You feel confident that you could find your way on your own, be able to navigate with detailed maps (no, GPS often does not work on small backroads unfortunately), and even manage to communicate in that strange language which is Swedish (at least to some people). If so, I'll be happy to give you some advice, if you need it. And then - off to Sweden. Just don't forget to have me do the research necessary in order to find your Swedish cousins, so that you can visit them!  

Do you not feel comfortable to take off on your own to a country you don't really know? Do you feel that you are too old to do this trip alone? Or perhaps you hesitate because of some physical problems? Then consider joining one of our groups! Some of those who participated in our trips were over 90 years old, others had difficulty walking and climbing stairs, but did fine and enjoyed their trips. We make sure that people in the group can take part of most activities.

Do you rather want to experience your trip to Sweden with your family? Perhaps your sisters want to come along or your parents? Then we can organize a trip just for your family, so that you can visit together the farm where grandma grew up. 

The price depends upon the number of people in the group - a larger group will share certain expenses, such as car rental and charges for our time and work, and therefore be less expensive per person.

This is what happens during our trips:

  • We recommend that you fly into Stockholm, our beautiful capital city, and spend a couple of days before the beginning of our trip. This way you can get over your jet lag - or just spend time exploring the city. 
  • Lonny, my husband, and I will meet you at your hotel and together we'll take a train or bus to a city or town in "your" area. There we'll make ourselves comfortable in a hotel, where we'll stay throughout our time in the area.
  • We'll have a vehicle available to us, so you will not have to worry about any long walks. We'll usually travel the backroads, which we are very familiar with, using detailed maps to travel from the hotel to the village or villages.
  • We always contact local historians, already before the trip, very knowledgable people who are extremely interested in their area. They often have information we can never find any other way, about the local farms, about the parish church, and even about the people who once lived in the parish.
  • Of course, we'll visit the farm or the house where your family lived. If it's no longer there, which is possible, we'll certainly find the place where it once stood. Often there is still a foundation, some apple trees or a root cellar that belonged to the farm.
  • We'll visit the church where grandfather or grandmother was baptized or married, and where his/her parents were buried. We'll try to find the grave, but unfortunately, in Sweden, most graves are no longer there after a number of years! You might also want to visit the school that your grandmother attended when she was a little girl.
  • Often there are runestones, ancient graves, churches, museums - all reasons to stop our vehicle to explore.
  • If you want to find those relatives who might still live in the area, let's get started with the research needed to find them, so that we can visit them! They might not speak English, many Swedes in the rural areas don't, but we can help as interpreters. Swedish is my native language, and even my husband, Lonny, has learned quite a bit during the 10 years he has spent in Sweden. Your relatives might not speak English, but they will probably be thrilled to meet you!
  • We are hoping to do two trips this summer, one in beautiful May-June, and another one in September. We'll concentrate on southern Sweden, Götaland. 
  • Trip one will go to Västergötland, Dalsland, Östergötland, Halland or Bohuslän (not all of them, just the ones that our group members are interested in), all located within a few hours by car. This is a very interesting area, quite varied. Many emigrated from this part of Sweden, to the USA and Canada, but also to Australia and to New Zealand.
  • Trip two will take us to Öland, one of two bigger islands located in the Baltic Sea. Again we hope to include some of the provinces close to Öland: Småland, Halland, Blekinge and perhaps Östergötland. You might have heard about the emigration from Småland - every fourth person left Småland for North America!
  • One day trips are also available, but only for the area close to Stockholm. The capital can be difficult to deal with, since it has changed considerably since the time when your ancestors lived there. You might want start with a day in Stockholm, with us, and then explore other parts of Sweden on your own.
  • If you would like to visit other provinces, let me know. It might be possible to arrange a trip to those places also.
  • Whatever area and time you are interested in, please send me an email with your ideas.


Swedish names  
In this newsletter I will also discuss the important topic of naming practices, quite different from those used in most other countries. Not only that - but many of those who emigrated from Sweden changed their names, either before leaving Sweden, or when they arrived at the ship, or of course when they arrived in North America or in Australia or New Zealand. Upon arriving in this new country the emigrant realized that their Swedish names, which had dots and circles above some of the letters, such as Sjöström or Åberg, were foreign to their new neighbors. So they changed their names - and there we are, their grandchildren, lost and confused!

There was a time when, in small Swedish villages, everybody knew each other and a last name was simply not needed. Occasionally the name of the farm was added so that Anna was called Anna på Godegården (Anna on the Good Farm). You’ll sometimes encounter this custom even today, in rural areas. Also, Swedes, like people from other countries, often use nicknames, so don’t get confused if grandma Charlotta signed her letters Lotta. Here are a few common nicknames: Nisse (nickname for Nils), Olle (Olof), Kalle (Karl), Stina (Kristina) and Lasse (Lars). But there are many more!

 Patronymic naming system
... worked like this:  Anders Karlsson and Anna Pettersdotter gave birth to a daughter named Kristina. Kristina's last name was  Andersdotter, Anders from her father’s first name and dotter meaning daughter. They also had a son named Magnus Andersson, the son of Anders. Note that the women kept their names even after marriage. 

Late in the 1800’s the last name became fixed and both girls and boys increasingly used their father’s last name. Kristina Andersdotter, whom you met above, then used the name Kristina Karlsson. 

Name changes
Anders was a very common first name, so there were lots of Andersson children in Sweden. Petter, Johan, Erik and other names were also common, and so were therefore the names Pettersson, Johansson and Eriksson and many other names ending with -son. Swedish authorities then, in order to avoid confusion, encouraged people to change their names. Many people chose names taken from nature: trees, flowers etc (see below). 

These name changes, of course, might cause big problems for those of you who want to find your Swedish relatives. I once searched for my great-grandfather (mormorsfar) and assumed that his name would be the same as my grandmother’s, Landquist. Not so! On grandma’s birth certificate her father was Johan Magnusson (Magnus was his father's first name), his patronymic name that he later changed to Landquist. 

Names from nature
Swedes’ love of nature is reflected in names such as Ask (ash tree), Björk (birch tree), Berg (mountain) and composite names such as Sjöstrand (lake shore), Blomkvist (flower twig) and Ekström (oak stream). 

Here are some nature words, which you might recognize in your own name:

Hassel  hazel 
inden tree
grove of tree
Löv (löf)
Kvist (quist or qvist) 
Landscape etc. 
Dal (dahl) 
Äng (eng)
Nord, norr

Blomma (Blom-) 


Other nature words
Grön  green
Järn (jern) 
Malm  ore
Stjärna (stjerna)
Bäck  brook
Holme  small island
Källa  spring
Mosse  bog
Ström  stream
Sund  sound, channel
Udde  point
Vik  bay 
Ö island 
Soldiers’ names  
Soldiers were often given new names, in part because of the risk of confusing one Johansson with another one. So the military gave names to the soldiers such as  Skjöld (shield), Tapper (courageous) and Hjelm (helmet), and also Dolk, Flink, Hurtig, Munter, Sträng. Even the soldier children often used these new names.  If you believe your name might be a soldier's name, and you have questions, just send me an email and I'll try to help. 

Name changes of emigrants
When Swedes emigrated to the U.S., Canada or Australia, many changed their names. Some of these changes were minor, e.g. the Swedish letters å, ä and ö lost their dots and circles and became a and o. This way the name Källström, for example, became Kallstrom. 

Sometimes the changes were greater and the name therefore more difficult to recognize. An example would be the name Holmgren, which might become Holmgrain. I have often seen the Swedish name Bengtsson change into Benson, or a variation of it, in the US or in Canada. 

Certain immigrants translated their names into English, so that the name Sjöstrand became Seashore and others took entirely new names. 

As you see, you'll often need great ingenuity in order to find the names used in Sweden. However, knowing the Swedish name is important for your continued research.



So welcome to Sweden this summer! We'll take good care of you, and certainly have an interesting and fun time together. Come by yourself or come with your relatives, in either case your are very welcome!

Just let me hear your thoughts and ideas!

Marie Louise Bratt