The blog has been quiet this past week. I was in Kearney, Nebraska last weekend attending a genealogy conference. This was the first general-interest genealogy conference I’ve ever attended. It was great! Still trying to get caught up around here, though.
Here is some of what I learned:
- Sweden was the poorest of all of the Scandinavian countries…by far. This widespread poverty had a very direct impact on my ancestors. For example, I had thought that Christian Pearson’s job-hopping from farm to farm during the 1860’s was some sort of reflection on his character. The truth is that he was living in a very poor region in Sweden where hundreds of thousands of young people migrated from farm to farm every fall eking out a living as hired help. Another example is the fairly widespread “late marriages” that I’ve found among my Swedish ancestors. By that I mean that a fair number of them get married only a month or two before the first baby is born*. Again, poverty is the explanation. The church minister charged a fee to marry young couples. If you’re too poor to afford the fee, you begin your married life without the church’s blessing, and then start saving up to get it made “official”. You were charged an even greater fee if a baby was born out of wedlock, so the the young couples made great efforts to save up money to get the marriage blessed by the church before the baby was born.
- In almost every small village in Sweden, certain professionals were provided free room and board in exchange for services. These were typically tailors and shoemakers. They provided free services to their “host” family, and then did work for hire for the other people in the village. Apparently if you look carefully in the records for the whole village, you almost always find them.
- Sweden’s decision to allow the LDS church to come into their country in the 1950’s to microfilm their church records was a direct response to World War II. So many valuable records were lost due to war all across continental Europe. Sweden agreed to have its records microfilmed to ensure the preservation of its history.
- Many Swedes emigrated by way of Gothenburg to Hull (England), then by train from Hull to Liverpool, and then by ship from Liverpool to America. During World War II, the Germans bombed Liverpool, destroying the shipping offices. That’s why we don’t have passenger lists for the departing port for most Swedes. The ship’s arrival record, the manifest, was usually prepared en route to America. My experience is that those records are pretty sloppy.
- We are lucky that so many Rademacher family records survived the war. So far, we have been able to find the Catholic Church records for all of the Kreifels and the Rademachers. We have also been able to find ships passenger lists for them in the departure port (usually Hamburg), and those records are pretty good!
Based on what some of the speakers said about the rapidly improving technology in this area, I’ve decided that I’m living during the “golden age of genealogy”. Right now, you can find a HUGE amount of genealogical information online. It’s a lot of fun to play detective and track down the records and make sense of them, all from the comfort of your own home. I think that before too long – maybe 20 years or so – all genealogical records will be digitized and computer programs will be able to create your family tree for you. Seems to me that will take all the fun out of it…
*A classic example would be the parents of Augusta Rudeen. Gustaf Adolf Carlsson and Clara Fredrika Gustafsdotter, the servants at Nobynäs manor house, were married on June 13, 1856. Augusta was born just a couple of weeks later on June 29.