Blog Entries: 1 to 10 of 12
The Value of Genealogy Societies
I think we can all remember when we were starting our personal genealogy journey, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to get help before we found SGSM. In this day and age with online genealogy databases so readily available, as well as family trees posted by others and DNA websites suggesting who you might be related to, do you ever question the value of belonging to a genealogy society? SGSM endeavors to offer that value by providing education, research help, interactions between members with a shared identity, and access to tangible resources such as our library holdings and database subscriptions.
We try to gear SGSM quarterly programs, fall conferences and Fika to members with different interests and levels of experience. For example, at our January program, Jan Carlson shared a wealth of information on travel within Sweden based on her personal travels there. At our March program Eleanor Brinsko, gave us practical advice on how to sift through family items from yesteryear, determine what to part with, and how to organize and preserve the items of genealogical value that are kept. Our June hybrid program -- half of the attendees attended in person and the other half virtually -- provided a virtual tour of the Hoffman Research Library at the Minnesota Genealogy Center, along with an overview of our Swedish resources and how to use them. You can find the link to the recording of this program on the Research Resources page (see SGSM YouTube Channel). The Fall Conference on October 29 will focus on Swedish research skills and resources, featuring Fritz Juengling, Ph.D., AG®.
Fika also provides a forum for SGSM members to gather virtually via Zoom each month to learn from each other on topics such as different regions of Sweden, Swedish language words or phrases, tips on searching various Swedish records, using DNA clusters, etc. Fika topics can be as diverse as our members’ collective knowledge, and the open discussion generates a “grab bag” of topics.
SGSM is much more than the Tidningen and we hope you take advantage of all that SGSM offers. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Honorary Lifetime Member Awards
As I wrote about in my previous Blog, seven volunteers who have been mainstays of our society for many years were recognized with Honorary Lifetime Memberships. One of our original founders 39 years ago, Fran Hillier, also became an Honorary Lifetime Member in 2019. I think the expression “a labor of love” is very fitting for all of these individuals. The inscriptions on their respective awards that were presented at the June 11 quarterly program are as follows:
Jan Carlson - In recognition for your Director and Research Team roles and being a prolific Tidningen contributor, while enthusiastically embodying all things Swedish
John & Joanne Nordale - In recognition of John’s role as a Director from 2005-21, and for breaking down “brick walls” as inseparable partners on the SGSM Research Team
Ron Swanson - In recognition and appreciation for launching and nurturing the SGSM Tidningen as Editor from 1997-2021
Bob Taylor - In recognition of your professional stewardship of SGSM finances and steady hand as Treasurer from 2015-21
Virginia Taylor - In recognition of your astute leadership and wise counsel, and maintaining the highest standards as President from 2009-21
John von Walter - In recognition for contributing ongoing feature articles for the Tidningen, and so generously sharing your Swedish knowledge with others
Honorary Lifetime Members
How has SGSM been able to be successful for 39 years? The answer is “dedicated volunteers”. The handful of original founders had to cover all the bases and probably had a lot of fun doing it. As SGSM’s membership increased, additional volunteers helped lighten the load. Over time, as the society continued to grow and evolve there were more activities to perform and coordinate, such as the Tidningen, a website, virtual programs, program recordings, Fikas and much more. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there is always a core group of volunteers behind the scenes.
When the original SGSM founders were not able to continue in their roles, others stepped in. And then the process repeated itself and has repeated itself once again. As you know, some of our volunteers recently fully or partially retired from their official duties, while others are still going strong. So how and when do we recognize them if they never really retire? The Board of Directors decided to recognize these individuals as Honorary Lifetime Members now, which waives their future membership dues in recognition of their past contributions to the society. These individuals are dedicated contributors and leaders who have been selflessly and enthusiastically volunteering, most of them for twenty years or more. Some have been in the same role for their entire tenure, while others have worn different hats, sometimes at the same time.
Fran Hillier is one of the SGSM founders and was previously recognized with an Honorary Lifetime Membership. The others being recognized at this time are Virginia Taylor, Bob Taylor, John Nordale, Joanne Nordale, Jan Carlson, Ron Swanson and John von Walter.
Please join me in congratulating and thanking each of them for their contributions.
As the new SGSM President, I want to share a little about my background. I grew up on a farm in Wright County that my maternal grandparents settled on. No doubt the rolling hills, wooded pastures, ponds, and of course rocks, were reminiscent of their native Småland. My grandmother lived with us during most of her 101 years, and my family attended a small rural Swedish Lutheran church with members having patronymic names. My paternal great grandparents and maternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden, and I first became interested in my family history as a teenager, when my paternal uncle gave our family a hardcover book with handwritten pedigree charts.
I worked in Information Technology, so having a technical background I was naturally drawn to genealogy. And when personal computer genealogy applications became available, that was an additional attraction for me. When I was about 30, I decided I would begin documenting my maternal ancestors to complement the paternal line my uncle had provided, so I quizzed my maternal grandmother about her family. That was my first encounter with the Swedish alphabet and Swedish parish names, and her Swenglish didn’t help. I had not progressed enough in my genealogy journey to realize that someday I would want to know about her younger years in Sweden, and also as a new immigrant when she arrived in the US at the age of 18.
My paternal great grandfathers were Augustana Synod pastors. One of them started his ministerial studies in Sweden, and prior to immigrating to the US had considered going to India as a missionary, ultimately emigrating to the US and establishing roots in and around Lindsborg, Kansas. It is hard to imagine how different our family’s legacy might have been. Eventually, I discovered my family tree includes 15 ministers related by blood or marriage. I now realize that in general, my interest in genealogy was triggered by my paternal side, and my cultural heritage by my maternal side.
Where are you in your genealogy journey? Are you digging for stories about your parents and grandparents that are yet to be revealed, or scouring records for distant generations? In either case, we can better understand our ancestor’s lives if we try to relate to what they experienced and endured.
Being a baby-boomer, I was still relatively young when I joined SGSM in 1993. I regularly attended SGSM meetings, but tried to slip out before anyone asked me to volunteer. Then, six years ago I volunteered to become the Membership Chair. If you are “flying under the radar” like I was, there are many interesting volunteer opportunities still available.
At this time, I also want to update you on some plans we are working on for SGSM’s future. We are preparing to conduct “hybrid” quarterly meetings that will consist of in-person and virtual attendees, once conditions permit. The in-person component of these meetings will be held at the Minnesota Genealogy Center in Mendota Heights. We will continue to make meeting recordings available for registered attendees. Also, we will be experimenting with a new interactive meeting format called Fika that will be held on a monthly basis, so we encourage you to watch for the dates listed in the Tidningen and on our website. Another new benefit of your SGSM membership is our recent purchase of the Swedish databases (i.e., census, tax, death, etc.) that will be available soon at the Minnesota Genealogy Center.
Swedish Genealogy Research Books
If you haven't purchased a Swedish genealogy research book in the last 5 years or so, I strongly urge you to consider one of the following books for your ongoing research. They all were published in 2020, and are very up-to-date on how the information you need for research is presented. Using these books will make your research efforts more knowledge based and efficient. They are available for purchase on Amazon through the links below. (When you purchase a book from Amazon through these links, you are benefiting SGSM. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.)
Household Examination Records are the foundation of your Swedish ancestral search. Each chapter is devoted to a specific column in the HH Examination Record, and the history and purpose of the column is explained. The authors examine the abbreviations, symbols, and other markings used by the priests in this record to make your research more complete.
The reader of this book is taken from the very beginning of a person search, and goes through their birth, marriage, household examination, moving in and out and death record. Along the research way, the author gives us the history and reasons for each record. Photos of each of these records from differenct time periods and different counties gives a broad view and explanations of the old script and language used in the records.
This book familiarizes the researcher with the AkivDigital database and the online access to the registers and indexes available on AD.
The Children of Ash and Elm: by Neil Price
This book is the definitive history of the Vikings and their time. The author, Neil Price, has been studying Viking culture for 35 years, and wanted, through this book, to present the story of the Vikings on their own terms, not through the distorted lens of others throughout history.
All Tidningen Issues Now on This Site
We have completed the process of uploading ALL the Tidningen back issues encompassing 1997-2020 on our website. This is available to all of our members and we will add new issues as they are published. Everyone will continue to receive their printed copies in the mail, but if you haven't received your Winter 2020-2021 issue yet, it is already on this site for you to access in the Members Area.
You may have heard about people binge-watching their favorite TV programs, well now you can binge-read your favorite newsletter! A number of members have told me that they have saved all the issues, but if you aren't one of them that have, now you can see all the issues too.
The Tidningen has changed somewhat over time, such as the length of each issue and the use of more color. But one thing is exactly the same in every single issue - they all say "Editor: Ronald Swanson". So, give a shout-out to Ron for publishing 95 issues over the years, and for now digitizing those issues for the website.
Of course, there have been many other contributers of articles and stories, some of whom contribute to almost every issue and others less frequently. As you look thru the Tidningen issues you will see many familiar names in the bylines, but you will also notice some articles contributed by members too humble to attach their names. All of these contributers have provided the grist for Ron to work with. Contributing your articles will help keep the Tidningen vital as well as memorialize your family stories.
On the "Tidningen Online Resources" page in each issue, you can click on the hyperlinks to take you to the respective website rather than typing the long URLs. Links from the "Online Resources" page can also be found on the Tid Resource Links page.
Sweden Epidemics & Famines (Hans Högman)
Sweden has had its share of epidemics and famine which both severely affected the country's population. Go to Hans Högman's website to find information regarding the various famines that occurred and epidemics that spread throughout the country. You may want to look back at your research to find which of your ancestors were victims of any of the events that Högman mentions.
My great, great grandmoher lost her husband and four of her five children within a week from a particularly severe outbreak of cholera in 1834. Eighty people in her parish died in October 1834 from that epidemic. Half of the 25,000 people in Sweden who contracted it died.
If I hadn't found my great, great grandmother though research, the people in that parish might have felt abstract to me if I had just looked at the totality of that event. But looking at this epidemic through the lens of how it affected my ancestor's family gave it much greater impact on me. This ancestor and her family were not just names of some people living in Sweden during a 19th century epidemic. I'm carrying their genes. I am part of their narrative, as they are a part of my family narrative.
Members Vignettes | Medlemmars Vinjetter
By now you probably have noticed that we've added a new a new page to our website and we want you to be a part of it. This is a fun and personal way you can be involved with our society, by sending us a story (and I know you all have at least one) you'd love to share with us. Given the many facets of genealogy, the topics are endless: surprises, problems solved, customs observed, skeletons in the closet, travel, a funny incident, a sad story - genealogy has them all! We'd love to hear from you so we can add you to Members Vignettes | Medlemmars Vinjetter!
Headstones and Genealogy
If you have never visited any of your relative's or family grave sites, or haven't done so in a long, long time, I encourage you to go, or go back and take another look. When my grandchildren were young (before their teen years), I would take several of them, who were interested, and make the tour of all the cemeteries where my relatives, family, and close family friends were buried. These people were all a part of my history, so this activity bacame a way of passing down stories connected with the person named on the headstone
Armed with a bucket filled with brushes, grass shears, gloves and a spray cleaner, off we'd mindfully trek through the cemetery, with site maps in hand to find the spot where the "x" marked the gravesites. The care I give a headstone is to cut the grass arouond the stone, and pull up any headstrong weed that threatens to sprout up the minute I leave. I brush the dirt and sand from the indented letttering, and then give it a splash of water or lightly spray it with a gentle cleaner. I do not go after the mold or other hard to remove debris, as I do not want to damage whatever is left of the stone finish. As long as I can read the lettering and it is free of overgrown grass and dirt, I am content with that.
When I have taken care of the relative or close family friend, I take a quick look around the immediate vicinity, and if I spot a headstone that has only a couple of square inches left showing through a grass overlay, I immediately do the 'neighborly' thing and start clipping away. A neglected grave site has a particular sadness about it: "gone but not forgotten" too often becomes "gone and forgotten." Taking care of neighbors is a good thing, even in cemeteries.
These last few years I have not been as vigilant in my care taking, but I will never regret making the decision one day to clean the family headstones. The following years of 'cleaning' gave me an heightened awareness of the genealogical information that is available only 'on location', so to speak. By that I mean, particular types of inscriptions on the headstones, who did not get a headstone, the unknown child in the family plot. This type of information and more may not be found anywhere else, and is there to be discovered from a mindful and purposeful visit to a family gravesite.
Have you visited any digital libraries recently? If not, I invite you to go to http://runeberg.org/ to view an impressive published collection of free electronic editions of classic Nordic literature. This project contains books and sheet music significant to the culture and history of the Nordic countries. Project Runeberg was started at Linköping University in 1992, and as of 2013 1.49 milion pages have been scanned that include 33,000 authors. The books are in English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, Finnish and Icelandic.
The Runeberg Project website has a lot of interesting information on it besides its catalog of books; there is a link to other digital libraries around the world, and you can find out how to be a volunteer to help on this project as it relies heavily on volunteers, who are, by the way, worldwide.
Wondering about the name Runeberg? It was named after Finland's national poet, Johan Runeberg, with the further allusion to Rune ("letter") and berg ("mountain"), giving the loose translation of "mountain of letters." Enjoy your visit to the library!