One of the biggest challenges for many Swedish Americans is to discover the parish of origin for their Swedish ancestor. When one attends a presentation about how to get started with Swedish research, the Swedish American church books are mentioned as one source that might provide some clues. (Click here for beginning Swedish genealogy research tips.)
Many Swedes who immigrated to North America joined a Swedish American church. While most of these congregations were Lutheran, there were also Swedish Covenant, Swedish Methodist, Swedish Baptist, Swedish Mission and other free churches. Many of these churches kept detailed records as they did in Sweden.
ArkivDigital’s online library includes many Swedish American church books from Kansas and a few from Missouri and Oklahoma. If one’s Swedish’s ancestor settled in these areas, these books can be helpful in determining where your ancestor came from in Sweden.
One can search in the Swedish American church records to discover where in Sweden a person came from or to discover more about the person’s life in North America. The detail and content in the Swedish American church books do vary by time, minister and religious denomination. The Lutheran church books tend to have some standardization and more detail than other denominations but again that will vary by congregation.
To begin your search, you will need a name and a location. If you have a name and town location, but don’t know the person’s religious denomination:
- Look for church books for that town.
- If there are several denominations, begin with the Lutheran church books since most were Lutherans, then proceed to Covenant, Methodist, Baptist or other church book denominations in that order.
- If you don’t find the person in the church books, you may want to search in the church books in a nearby town that is in the same county or nearby county.
Case Study – Begin in Congregation Book (Church Register)
We want to discover the parish of origin in Sweden for Carl Carlson who lived in Lindsborg, Kansas and was Lutheran. We have been told that he was born around 1835 and that his wife’s name was Emma and one of his children was named David.
- Start the ArkivDigital application and click on search archives.
- Select new archive search and county.
- Select the archive for Kansas (USA).
- Search for the Lindsborg Lutheran church archives.
- You will find that there are 3 Lutheran churches in Lindsborg:
- Lindsborg Lutheran Bethany Church
- Lindsborg Freemount Lutheran Church
- Lindsborg Messiah Lutheran Church
- Select the first in the list: Lindsborg Lutheran Bethany Church.
- The info box above the archive list names the county where Lindsborg is located which is McPherson. On the right side is a list of volumes available for this congregation. For this parish, there are four congregation books all beginning in the year 1869 with different end years.
- Search for congregation books and click on each congregation book and see if there is a name register in the book. In the info box above the volume list, the name index will be noted with the entry “med personregister”. You will notice that one appears for the volume, Lindsborg Bethany Lutheran Church, Kansas, USA Vol: 2 (1869-1886). Not all congregation books have name registers. In those cases, where there is none, you will need to browse through the book page by page.
Open the book and you will see an indexed name register. Search for Carl Carlson. See image below.
Lindsborg Bethany Lutheran Church, Kansas, USA (KS) Vol:2 (1869-1886) Image 9 (AID: v812465a.b9, NAD: ) Link.
While there are no Carl Carlson’s, there are the following entries in the list:
- Carlson C. J. 25
- Carlson C (Sec 28) 96
- ” (Sec 30) 83
The numbers: 25, 96 and 83 to the right of the names in this case represent an entry number in the church register. Sometimes the number represents a page number. The minister did not repeat the name on the third line but only indicated that it was the same name by a ditto mark.
Go to entry #25 to see if the information matches. In this case, the record does not match the given information. Below is the image for entry #25.
Lindsborg Bethany Lutheran Church, Kansas, USA (KS) Vol:2 (1869-1886) Image 37 / page 7 (AID: v812465a.b37.s7, NAD: ) Link.
Next, go to entry #96. See image below.
Lindsborg Bethany Lutheran Church, Kansas, USA (KS) Vol:2 (1869-1886) Image 50 / page 20 (AID: v812465a.b50.s20, NAD: ) Link.
This is the correct person. The record shows Carl Carlson born on the 12th of June 1835 in Lungsund, Värmland. You will notice that Värmland is abbreviated as Werm. Also, Carl has a child named David and his wife is Emma Olsdotter born on the 23rd of July 1840 in Färnebo, Värmland. This record shows that they were received in this parish in October of 1869. Carl and Emma arrived in America from Sweden in 1869 and came to Lindsborg in 1869. The record also shows three children all born in Lindsborg:
- Emma was born on the 28th of June 1870.
- David was born on the 21st of December 1875.
- Hannah was born on the 2nd of February 1880 and she died on the 17th of July 1880.
Now you have enough information to research Carl and Emma further in the Swedish church books. Below is an image of Carl’s birth record in Lungsund, Värmland.
Lungsund (S) C:5 (1830-1854) Image 29 / page 53 (AID: v7336.b29.s53, NAD: SE/VA/13342) Link.