Summer in Småland
Photo: Marie Louise Bratt
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
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
- 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
- We are hoping to do two
trips this summer, one in beautiful May-June, and
another one in September. We'll concentrate on southern
- 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.
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
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!
... 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.
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.
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
Here are some nature words,
which you might recognize in your own name:
grove of trees
Kvist (quist or qvist)
Dal (dahl) valley
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
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.
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.
immigrants translated their names into English, so that the
name Sjöstrand became Seashore and others took entirely new
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!