Discover your Swedish roots

Start digging into your Swedish heritage. If you have Swedish roots, you may not need to dig very deep to find details about your ancestors.

I grew up knowing I had family in Sweden, and that my grandfather had sailed to the United States just prior to World War I. I’ve always thought of myself as Swedish. When I hear good news from Sweden or see a new book by a Swedish author, I feel proud. That’s my heritage—those are my people!

I only began researching my family history and building my family tree in the last couple of years. Luckily for me (and for others of Swedish descent), Sweden has some of the most comprehensive genealogy records in the world. Starting in 1686, every birth and christening was recorded by the local parish and all infants were required to be christened within eight days of birth. There was even an emergency christening for infants who might not survive to make it to the church. That translates into a lot of birth records.

“Sweden kept a record that most other countries did not – The Household Examination Record,” director of the Old Mill Museum Lorna Nelson said. “This record actually provides a year by year census of individuals and families. This allows you to follow people from birth to death over generations. It is a dream come true for many genealogists.”

Nelson also notes that Swedish records are tied to place as well as name.

“Research in Swedish records is actually easier than research in many other countries because you use names with  birthdates and places,” Nelson said. “These things together provide a very unique set of information for your ancestors.”

If you’re ready to find your Swedish roots, start by gathering information you have available. Gather personal documents such as letters and immigration permits, and take notes of names and dates from pictures and family stories. The more information you have when you start your search, the easier it will be to track down the details. Nelson reminds researchers to start with your ancestor who moved to the United States.

“Always research your emigrant ancestor here in the U.S. first and use local records from the place they lived, not just online sources,” Nelson said. “As you begin exploring your emigrant remember that there were a lot of people with similar names so use their birth and other information to make sure you are following the right ‘John Johnson’ or ‘Olof Olsson.'”

Our genealogy team can show you how to access records online at the library through Ancestry.com, or from any computer using FamilySearch.org. You can also check out books about Swedish genealogy, history, cooking, art and more from your library.  See the lists below to get started, or visit the Baker Genealogy Center to chat with a librarian.

Celebrate Swedish heritage through dance, music and displays, and get more tips on connecting with your history at our Swedish Heritage Celebration Sat, Oct 28 from 2-5 pm.


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Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop, Great Writers Right Here author fair, and Community Novel Project. Miranda is also a member of the library's Genealogy Team and Fiction Team, facilitates TALK book discussions, and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group.