Friday, April 24, 2009
RESEARCHING MY SWEDISH GENEALOGY - PART 1 - "Using Maps To Lay A Foundation"
When I started down the road to find my husbands Swedish ancestors, I never dreamed that I would become obsessed with finding these people that we had very little knowledge of and had never known. As I began this journey, I discovered that maps could play a major role in solving some pieces of this mystery and thus using them has become a big part of my quest towards the discovery of these ancestors. One can easily get so engrossed in antique map study that consequently sometimes I must remind myself of the original goal of finding the elusive LARSON and ANDERSON ancestors!
For nearly 50 years now there has been genealogists in my husband's family who have searched for our Swedish relatives. First was Aunt Hazel. She began the research on this family including those who were her Great Grandparents. Nearly all research at that time and for many years forward was strictly hands on and involved a lot of legwork. Aunt Hazel's work has given us some wonderful records to work with. Her sister, Kathleen, who is also my Mother-in-law, picked up the cause and worked hand-in-hand with Hazel through the years. Kathleen worked tirelessly for several years, pouring over records in the Mesa, Arizona Library while she lived there and she now works almost every day at her computer, still doing her research. Over time, many little bits and pieces have been added to our Swedish records but they have come painstakingly slow for a variety of reasons.
Finding good records and especially MAPS was difficult at best. Kathleen was able to copy a few early maps while in Mesa and this helped us to begin to find our way. Two pictures with scant information and a couple of birth records are about all we started out with. Great Grandpa Larson and his wife "Minnie" did not seem to talk a whole lot about their life back in Sweden and as most people, brought only a few personal things with them as they immigrated to the United States. We had places of birth for them so that has been the starting point on my map quest and studies. Floby and Falkoping, Skaraborgs Lan, Sweden.
Our Great Grandfather , Frederick Albert (Gustafson) Larson,was born May 24, 1867 Falkoping, Sweden and emmigrated from Goteborg, Sweden to the United States in 1888. He first arrived and went to the Illinois area where his brother, John(Johann) had come before him. Last names of Gustafson and Larson had been used and to complicate matters, John changed his last name to Hellgren. Already we had confusing usage of different Patronymic names and then Hellgren was added to the mix. Both brothers married Anderson sisters who also had come from Sweden. Frederick Larson married Wilhelmina "Minnie" Anderson who was born July 25, 1869 in Falkoping, Sweden. They married on Dec 2, 1891 in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. John had been born in Floby, Sweden and married Christina Anderson abt. 1886- we believe prior to coming to America. We are lucky enough to have a photo of Gustaf Larson and Clara Edlund who were the parents of Frederick Larson and John (Gustafson) Hellgren. We also have a photo thought to be another sister(with her family) to "Minnie" and Christina Anderson. We believe they probably stayed in Sweden so this quest may eventually lead to many cousins!
As I have now begun the next phase of the search for our elusive Swedish ancestors, I have made an effort to learn all that I can about my ancestors where they came from, language, how they might have lived, why they left their homeland. This ultimately is a quest to find their parents and extended families. Using maps as a starting point has already rewarded me with great new clues and has had the added bonus of imparting more education and exercising the brain cells!
Early Swedish maps are hard to find especially involving specific time periods or dates. A few days ago, a great new website came online. WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY is free, quite different and offers some great digital maps, photos, and documents from around the world. In looking under the Europe>Sweden section, I found a wonderful old map "The Kingdom of Sweden" dating from 1797. This is just the right time frame for covering the approximate dates that I will be primarily researching within. I was able to pinpoint the locations of both of our town sites. This great map also has illustrations of topographical features and shows the locations of established church parishes.You can read more about this great new site at the Genealogy Insider blog for Family Tree Magazine. The study of topography of an area can often help to determine how people moved around or may have interacted. Marriages often involved people from other neighboring communities within a small geographic area and land barriers played important roles that affected the interaction of those communities. Using the topographical features of a map, often helps to solve mysteries of where and why ancestors moved.
Google Earth and Google Maps are both very useful for showing the beautiful topographic features of the land. You can see the awesome land features with great clarity. Rivers and streams usually change course over time so I have been using both old maps and the new technology together to get a better overall perspective.
As I am part of the You Go Genealogy Girls Team and will soon be heading to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I have studied their catalog for listings of maps on Sweden. In preparation I have printed off papers listing all the call numbers and locations of the maps that I want to study while there. Some are in book form and many are on microfilm. This will save several hours of "catalog" time while there, allowing me more time in other search areas.
Knowing much more about the land and the neighboring communities should help me to be more successful in locating hard to find records. If I should be unsuccessful finding records in the locations that I believe are the most likely- I can then easily branch out into the nearest village or parish area. Knowing the geography and topography beforehand may save several hours or even days of precious time trying to figure out where to look next.
As I progress forward with my Swedish family research I will share with you what I hope will be a successful journey to find my husband's GG Grandparents and other ancestors.
Watch for PART 2 of this post: RESEARCHING MY SWEDISH GENEALOGY - "Strategic Plans and Finding the Records".
In PART 2, I will use the knowledge I have gained through the awesome help provided by You Go Genealogy Girl #1 - to show the organized plans that I have for finding my records once I get to the Family History Center.