Before you start jump across the pond to any of the Scandinavian archives, find the home parish of your ancestor to make your search just that much easier!
One key to being able to further research your ancestor in Scandinavia is to know what parish he or she came from before emigrating. It’s not always an easy thing to find out, but it can be done, if you know where to look. Here are the top 5 best places to look for that all-important clue:
1. Naturalization Documents
If your ancestor ever applied to citizenship in a new country, you will most likely find the clue you are looking for in the naturalization documents. In the US, the application for naturalization includes a biography section where the applicant must fill in all personal details, such as place of birth, and date of immigration. This can be a goldmine of information!
Ancestry.com has the U.S. naturalization records index 1794-1995 available here, and original records 1795-1972 available here.
Scour the newspapers for an obituary with your ancestor’s name on it. In most cases, it will include a brief biography with the year of birth, place of birth, and even the year of immigration. In the event that the closest living relative was still living somewhere in Scandinavia, you might be able to trace that person to find the exact home parish as well. If you don’t find any obituary in the city where you ancestor lived, look for obituaries in the places where all the relatives lived; it could be that they ran an obituary in their local newspaper instead.
Ancestry has two great collection of obituaries here and here. You can also check obitaries.com, and newspapers.com. The Swenson Center also many Swedish-American newspapers on microfilm that you can borrow from any library in the United States – see the index here.
3. Personal Correspondence
Did you ancestor ever write home? If so, you may be in luck. See if you can find a return address or a post office stamp on the envelope. You can also look for postcards, or any other writing materials that you ancestor might have had, such as a journal. In many cases, a bit of sleuthing will result in finding at least one major city to narrow down the search area.
4. Family Photos
If you have inherited a box of family photos, take a closer look at them. Many portraits will have the imprint of the photography studio on the lower right corner, or on the back of the print. If you can find one, that’s a valuable clue as to where the photo was taken. It might not necessarily reveal the exact location of your ancestor’s home because most studios were located in the larger cities, but it could give you an indication as to the closest major town, and if so, that would be a great place to start looking for clues.
Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum) has a wonderful database of Photographers in Sweden dating back to the 1840s, and another database of Photographers in Norway. There is also a wonderful PDF available here of all Professional Photographers active in Sweden between the years of 1899-1911, based on information published by the Swedish Photographer’s Association (compiled by Lennart Snabb). The Federation of Swedish Genealogical Societies has a list of books that related to specific photography studios here.
5. Passenger Lists
Passenger lists are amazing when you find them, but they end up at the #5 spot because they are generally not that easy for a beginner to find, they usually only reveal the country of origin for the passenger, and it’s often difficult to determine beyond reasonable doubt that you have found the correct person. Still, with a bit of luck on your side, you might just find a home parish listed, or at least a landscape or county that could be of interest. Just keep in mind that the location listed may not be the home parish, but instead the point of departure. You can read more about how to find your ancestor in passenger lists in this blog post.
Ancestry.com has a very comprehensive database of passenger lists, as does the U.S. National Archives. You can also find a comprehensive lists of links that may apply to your ancestor over on Cyndi’s List.
In the Swedish records, you will want to start by looking at Emihamn, which is a database available on the CD Emigranten Populär. This database includes passengers leaving from major Swedish ports, such as Malmö, Helsingborg, Kalmar, Norrköping, and Stockholm. You can purchase this database CD (in Swedish) through Sveriges Släktforskarförbund (Federation of Swedish Genealogical Societies), or have me do a lookup for you. For those looking for Norwegian passenger lists, Norway Heritage is a great site to visit.
How did you find your ancestor’s home parish? or are you still searching? Let me know in the comments!