Searching for a parish of origin in the Kansas church books

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.

Search Method
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:

  1. Look for church books for that town.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Start the ArkivDigital application and click on search archives.
  2. Select new archive search and county.
  3. Select the archive for Kansas (USA).
  4. Search for the Lindsborg Lutheran church archives.
  5. You will find that there are 3 Lutheran churches in Lindsborg:
    1. Lindsborg Lutheran Bethany Church
    2. Lindsborg Freemount Lutheran Church
    3. Lindsborg Messiah Lutheran Church
  6. Select the first in the list: Lindsborg Lutheran Bethany Church.
  7. 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.
  8. 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-index
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.

entry-number-25Lindsborg 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.

entry-number-96Lindsborg 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.

carls-birth-recordLungsund (S) C:5 (1830-1854) Image 29 / page 53 (AID: v7336.b29.s53, NAD: SE/VA/13342) Link.

Click here for more information on Swedish church books.
Click here for examples of birth records.

ArkivDigital

Hands-On ArkivDigital Workshop in “Little Sweden U.S.A.”

leslyeArkivDigital and the McPherson County Old Mill Museum in Lindsborg, Kansas have a partnership whereby the museum sponsors spring and fall ArkivDigital workshops. The workshop offers participants two days filled with presentations and hands-on training using ArkivDigital. The 2016 fall workshop will be held the weekend October 1-2.

The workshops are a great opportunity to learn how to research your Swedish roots using ArkivDigital.  Shari from Kansas who attended the spring 2016 workshop summed up the weekend experience by saying, “This was a very useful weekend for me. I had access to people I could ask questions for two days straight. It was nice to be able to work on my research and have someone to talk a problem over with.”

Lindsborg, Kansas is known as “Little Sweden U.S.A.” because it was settled by Swedish emigrants in 1869 from Värmland. The town is well known for the Svensk Hyllningsfest, and other celebrations promoting its Swedish heritage. The Svensk Hyllningsfest has been held in October of odd-numbered years since 1941.

One of the local attractions is the McPherson County Old Mill Museum with exhibits in 12 buildings showing the lives of early Kansas settlers. One of the buildings is the Swedish Pavilion from the 1904 World’s Fair. The museum receives many visitors exploring their Swedish ancestry and requests for Swedish research.

Attend one of these workshops and discover your Swedish roots as well as meet other participants from across Swedish-America and together celebrate your Swedish heritage. Explore and enjoy the Swedish community of Lindsborg and its small town charm.

Participants in the labWorkshop participants researching in the computer lab – Spring 2016

Click here for detailed information about the program and registration.

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Research in Värnamo, Voxtorp and Tånnö (church books burned)

voxtorpimage1Häradsskrivaren i Östbo fögderi FIa:25 (1850-1851) Image 20 (AID: v299119.b20, NAD: SE/VALA/01961) Link.

It is a great disappointment for a researcher to discover that many of the church books do not exist for the parish his or her ancestor came from. Sometimes there are gaps in the records or an entire series is missing. Sometimes, one knows the reason why the records no longer exist such as a fire but sometimes there is only a note saying the there are no records.

If your ancestors are from Värnamo, Voxtorp and Tånnö parishes in Småland, you will be initially disappointed  because many of the church books were destroyed in a fire in 1869. A story is told that the minister’s maid was in the parsonage cooking pork over the open fireplace. Someone called out for assistance because a cow was calving. The maid ran to help and completely forgot about the pork and the open fire.  While the maid was helping with the calving, the fire spread and the parsonage and the church books burned. By luck a few books and household records from 1861 were preserved as well as the birth, marriage and death books for 1825-1860 for Värnamo parish.

But just because the church books no longer exist does not mean that one cannot research further. One should look for other documents. There may be some tax registers, court records and estate inventories that are available. It may take some time and it is not always easy to research in these documents, but with a little patience one can find some additional information.

Värnamo, Voxtorp and Tånnö parishes are located in Östbo härad or district and it is sometimes said that “an accident seldom comes alone”.  There was a fire at the  Östbo district court in 1834.  This means that there are no estate inventories, court records or other documents in that archive that can be used.  Fortunately  for the court records, there are extracts or duplicate records. The court was required to make  extracts or copies of the original court records and submit it to the Göta Court of Appeals once a year.   In ArkivDigital’s online library, these are available only for the years 1603 to 1750 for Östbo härad (some gaps do exist).

What now remains for that time period are the tax registers/population registers (mantalslängderna). These were produced each year and while they are not as detailed as the household records, one can easily follow a family on a farm year by year. The more recent one comes in time,  the more information one finds in the population registers.

We hope to photograph the population registers and other documents for the parishes where the church books are missing. For some parishes we have already done this. In ArkivDigital population registers for Östbo härad are now available up to and including 1861. Actually, this is the only way one can do family research for Värnamo, Voxtorp and Tånnö parishes.

In ArkivDigital, you can find these populations registers:

  • 1686-1820 (gaps exist) in Jönköping läns landskontor.
  • 1758-1861 (gaps exist) in Häradsskrivaren i Östbo fögderi.

To search in the Jönköping läns landskontor archive using the English interface:

  • Go to ArkivDigital search.
  • Select advance options.
  • Select archive type, country office.
  • Select Jönköping läns landskontor.

To search in the Häradsskrivaren in Östbo fögderi archive using the English interface:

  • Go to ArkivDigital search.
  • Select advance options.
  • Select archive type, district registrar.
  • Select Häradsskrivaren i Östbo fögderi.

voxtorpimage3Häradsskrivaren i Östbo fögderi FIa:25 (1850-1851) Image 2770 (AID: v299119.b2770, NAD: SE/VALA/01961) Link.

The image above is the population register for Värnamo in 1850 showing Alandsryd Skattegård.  Anders Jönsson (born 1800) and his wife (hustru) born 1805 together with Johan (born 1837), Isak (born 1844), Anna (born 1833), Stina (born 1840) and farmhand (dräng) Johan (born 1832) are shown as living in the first section of the farm listing.  Following is the  lodger(inhyses), Jöns (born 1767) and his wife (born 1785). Seeing that Anders last name is Jönsson, it is possible that the lodger, Jöns, and his wife are his parents.

One can’t conclude that this is correct without researching more records. Maybe it’s his father, but Jöns wife is probably not the mother because she would have been only 15 when Anders was born. Maybe Jöns remarried or it may be Anders wife’s parents or even someone completely different. More research is necessary before one can resolve the mystery.

Link to blog in Swedish.

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