Bridge to Sweden
Newsletter no 22
January 2007
Malsta church, located right outside Norrtälje, is one of many ancient churches in Sweden.
This one was built around 1200.

Photo: Marie Louise Bratt


Gott Nytt År!
(Happy New Year)
Of course, the year is no longer quite new, and the days are already visibly longer here in Norrtälje, Sweden. The sun is rising higher in the sky every day and is no longer hanging sleepily right above the horizon. Snow finally covers the ground after a slow beginning of the winter. 

What's in this newsletter? 
1. Let's talk about research in Stockholm!
because it is quite different to research in other parts of Sweden.

2. Why did they leave Sweden?
I have heard this question over and over, from many of you, while visiting this beautiful country. It was not easy to leave, I'm sure, but there were usually good reasons.

3. Our trips in 2007
Our trips will be different this year than they have been in the past: They are shorter and more focused on your own family, i.e. the place or places where your ancestors lived and the relatives who now live in Sweden.

About Stockholm
The Swedish capital is where I grew up and is one of my favorite places in this world... perhaps this site, about the Stockholm, will make you understand why!

This map of Stockholm might also be helpful in orienting yourself to the city. You can zoom into the different regions of Stockholm as I tell you about each one.    

Many Swedes, in the late 1800s, moved to Stockholm when life in the small villages where they lived became too hard. They probably hoped for an easier life in the big city, but were met by a place quite different from the welcoming city of today. There were few jobs and few places to live. Your great-grandmother probably had to share her room  with people she did not even know. Food was scarce as well. Many decided, after some time, to leave the misery behind and emigrate to Nord-Amerika, Australien or Nya Zeeland (North America, Australia or New Zealand).

If your your ancestor lived in Stockholm for some time, you will be interested in the excellent records available at  Stockholm Stadsarkiv, perched high up on a hill at Kungsholmen in Stockholm. Much of their material is available on CDs, which I'll tell you about below.

(Stockholm City Archives)
Their website is unfortunately only in Swedish. If you have difficulty understanding the information, either contact me or send an email to And if you get to Stockholm, visit their beautiful archives at Kungsklippan 6, 104 22 Stockholm!

Even without understanding Swedish, you can access their impressive list of archives, which includes schools, children's homes, homes for the elderly, organizations etc. Perhaps most interesting is Rotemansarkivet,  which includes over half a million people who lived in Stockholm: name, date and place of birth, moves, occupation, other members of the household, and more.

This sure is a gold mine! I used it to find my grandmother's family. I entered her last name Jolin and found her whole family, including their dates and parishes of birth, with references to the original documents. What is a "rote", you might wonder?  A century ago Stockholm was divided in "rotar" (districts). Each "rote" had a "roteman" in charge of keeping records of those who lived in his "rote".

On this website you will also find Register till mantalsuppgifter, somewhat like a census. The most extensive one is from 1855, but you can also try the information from 1800 to 1879.

Databases on CD
There are now many CDs with databases, for different parts of Stockholm. Let's look at them:

Gamla Stan (Old Town)
This is a CD with an extensive database of inhabitants of Gamla Stan, the central island of Stockholm, where the city began in the 13 century. There are posts from 1878 to 1926, of 126 000 people who lived in Gamla Stan. 

Södermalm (the parishes of Maria and Katarina) is another island located south of Gamla Stan. Most of the very poor  settled here, hoping to find a place where they could make a living. Many gave up, because of awful conditions, and decided to leave their country, usually forever. This CD includes about half a million people who lived at Södermalm during the years 1878 to 1926. 

This district is located just north of Gamla Stan. Here, in the 1960s, large areas were unfortunately destroyed in order to build a subway and modern buildings. The old buildings from years ago, where your ancestors might have lived, are mostly gone. But the records remain and are now on a CD, about 380 000 postings, covering the years 1878 to 1926.

Another island, one of many in Stockholm, is Kungsholmen, meaning 'the king's island'. It was also sometimes called .Svältholmen, 'the starvation island' (you can probably guess why)! -  Many industries were built here, one of them being Bolinders verkstäder, which employed many of those who moved to Stockholm from rural Sweden.  

The CD includes postings for years 1878 to 1926, for around 200 000 people, with information about the household, the address and any moves.  

Why not send me your information about those ancestors who might have lived in Stockholm, for many years or for just a short time. I'll consult these CDs to see what I can find out about them. Note that there are not CDs for all parts of Stockholm.

If you would like to buy the CDs, or one of them, please contact Sveriges släktforksarförbund.


Why did they leave?
About every fifth Swede left their country, usually forever, for North America, Australia and New Zealand. Many also went to Denmark, Germany and even Russia. Whole families left, and huge numbers of young people, often only 15 or 16 years old, leaving parents, homes and friends. They took their few belongings, boarded a carriage or train, and ltook off,  usually for Göteborg (Gothenburg), where they boarded a ship for Hull, England, continued by train to Liverpool, on England's west coast, from where they took an ocean liner across the ocean. Only well into the 20th century there were ships that took Swedish emigrants directly from Göteborg to North America.

"But how could they leave this beautiful country?" you told me as we traveled through Småland or Västergötland past red houses and gorgeous flower gardens. There were many reasons, but mostly hunger, lack of work and miserable living conditions. When crop failures occurred, especially during the 1860s and 1870s, hunger was everywhere. Even when harvests were good, life became increasingly difficult when the population grew. Many children died in infancy, but an increasing number survived, with improved food, hygiene, and the vaccination against smallpox.

The oldest son of the family usually took over the farm, while younger ones had to find work and a place to live elsewhere. A small cottage, torp, with a garden for growing a few potatoes made survival possible, but difficult. Many families decided to sell what they had and emigrated, most often to America.

Others moved to Stockholm to find work, usually poorly paid. Then booklets arrived from America, with promises of work, money and food, followed by dreams of a better life. The information, from the shipping companies, was not always truthful, but believed by those who wanted to believe it. "In Minnesota the weather is never too hot and never too cold" and  "In Amerika there are no rocks" made Amerika sound like a paradise it was not necessarily.

Religion played a role for some, who were dissatisfied with the obligatory Lutheran belief. Household examinations, husförhör,  of your reading and writing skills and your knowledge of cathechism were not popular and another reason to leave Sweden.  

Military service was obligatory for men, and many disliked the strict discipline of the miltary. So many left Sweden for other countries - but were forced to participate in harsher military excercises in their new country, and sometimes even war. 

Our trips 2007
As many of you already know, we have changed the format of our trips: Instead of longer trips (two full weeks), where you would visit many places with others in your group, the trips are now shorter, only 4 to 5 days. We travel only to the region where your family lived, where we'll visit the place where your ancestors lived, the church they attended and the cemetery where some of them were buried. And, of course, we'll visit your Swedish relatives, assuming that you, or I, have found where they live. 

You might consider doing this trip with others in your family, perhaps your brothers or sisters, your parents, or even your children if they are old enough, making possible a real reunion of this family that was broken up so long ago! Because many Swedes, especially older ones, don't speak English, we'll be available to translate during your stay. My American husband, Lonny, is picking up the Swedish language. Since I grew up in Sweden, but lived in the US for many years, both languages are familiar to me. 

The research has to start early in order to find out where your grandparent or great grandparent lived. Not only do we need to find the area and the village, but also the farm or homestead. The house might not be there after all these years, but you probably still want to stand where it was, and see the old stone wall and the apple trees that are still there. Your relatives might live in the area, perhaps even still on the same farm, but they might also now live in the closest town, or even in a big city. Make sure to find them well before your planned trip. Remember that research takes a lot of time.

I hope you have found this newsletter interesting and useful. If so, please send it to family and friends. If you no longer would like to receive it, please let me know and I'll immediately take your name off my list of subscribers.

I wish you an invigorating winter, perhaps with snow, but at least with weather for walking, bicycling and other fun activites. I'll get back with you again in the spring, when buds and flowers appear.

Marie Louise Bratt

Merkuriusvägen 14

76164 Norrtälje


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