Swedish Research: Tips for Beginners

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Revision as of 23:32, 19 March 2009 by Manessre (talk | contribs) (Added instruction/warning about using European dating system)

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Step Backward before Stepping Forward

Once you have a goal, look at the associated information to the problem. For example: If your goal is to find the parents of an individual (who is one of the end of lines on your Pedigree Chart), take the time to look at all the associated clues to the known individual. It’s a process of understanding the known before moving to the unknown. If you gather everything you know about that individual, and your information is still very sketchy (meaning you really don’t know much) you should probably move your goal forward in time to where you know enough to build on.

Understand Where You Have Checked

Evaluate what you have already checked. This is a lot easier if you have documented your sources during your research activities.

Think Phonetically

You may have from family or other sources the name(s) of the place(s) in Sweden where your ancestor lived or came from.  However, when you try to find that in a place list such as the parish listing for Sweden, or, a gazetteer, it doesn't show up.  What then?  Remember that an "American language" ear heard what your Swedish ancestor was trying to say in his/her "Americanized Swedish," 

There are letters beyond "z" in the Swedish alphabet, which are also used in the middle of words, and in people and place names. Their sounds must be taken into account when trying to figure out what people and place names really are.  Those letters are Å å  Ä ä, Ö ö, ocurring in both upper and lower case. 

The Å å or two a's together are pronounced with a long english "o" sound. The Ä ä is pronounced like "eh." The Ö ö is pronounced like "oooh." In older usage, the Ä ä might have been replaced by "E e" i.e. Elfsborg County instead of Älvsborg.

If a personal or place name begins with one of these letters, they will be alphabetized totally after "Z" in any indexes or alphabetical listings using the Swedish alphabet.  If one of the above letters is used within a personal or place name listing, it could affect the alphabetical filing order up to three spaces over.  For example:







The above letters' placement in a personal or place name also affects the pronunciation of what is said and consequently, what is heard.

A good case in point follows:  A patron wrote saying their ancestor came from, "Shaista, Jonskoping lane, South Smoland, Sweden.  Neither their "Google" search, nor a Swedish place name search brought satisfaction. 

Given the pronunciation of the above letters, and after rolling the names around on the tongue for a while, the places turn out to be the following:

Skärstad, Jönköping län, South Småland, Sweden.  The "Skär-" would be pronounced as "share-" or could also be heard as "shire.  The-sta is"stad" with a very soft and/or dropped off "d."  Roll those sounds around on your tongue, and you can easily see how the family and/or the American record keeper heard what they did.

The "-kö-" in "Jönköping is pronounced with a "sshh" sound.  Again, rolling that around on the tongue easily comes up with the family spelling.

Län  could sound like "Len" with a little uplift at the end for the "lane" sound.

As indicated, the å (or two "a's" together)is pronounced with a long "o" sound, so "Smoland" is perfect for the phonics listed.

To help you learn a little more about the sounds, go online and find a Swedish/English dictionary, with pronounciation marks.  And, always, always roll names around on your tongue and see what you come up with.  Many times, you'll get it right!

  Watch Those Dates!

Europeans write dates as day/month/year in the time period your Swedish ancestor's records were created.  For example, a date listed as 5/10 1820, would be the 5th of October, 1820.  Get in the habit in all your Swedish and other European country genealogical research, of writing dates with the number of the day, then the 3-4 letter abbreviation for the month, then the full year.  If you do not do this, and are abstracting or extracting information from the records, you will at some point in time transpose the dates. You WILL send yourself off on an incorrect research path as a result.  The names are so common in Sweden you could find someone with your transposed date, and create a whole ancestry - just not yours.