Ortnamnsregistret (Place Name Index)

When researching in Swedish records you will often come upon place names that are unknown to you. You check neighboring parishes, the farms and villages in the parish you are working and nothing. What can you do? Google can be a good start, but some places are so unique that even Google may not point you in the right direction. So where should you turn? Sweden’s Institute for Language and Folklore’s Place Name Index (Institute för språk och folkminnens Ortnamnregistret).

The Place Name Index is a database of 3.7 million (!) identified entries for place names, primarily in Sweden. These are not all unique and many of the names are for places in nature like lakes, hills, forests, tarns, and swamps. Some are landmarks. But many are built locations like farms, cottages, and houses.

The database and search screen is entirely in Swedish but you should have few problems as it is very straightforward and easy to use. You can either search the entire database by selecting “Sök i hela Ortnamnsregistret” or select the county you are working in.

Once you select either the whole database (hela Ortnamnsregistret) or single county (i.e., Värmlands län) the following search box open. Here we have selected the whole database, but this can sometimes result in providing too many results to analyze effectively.

It is often easiest to leave all the settings alone and simple use the Place-name (Ortnamn) search box. Enter the place you are looking for and use the wild card % as necessary. You may use more than one wild card and remember spelling varies greatly. So consider all possible spelling variations.

So let’s say we are trying to figure out the following location in a marriage record in Grangärde, Dalarna, Sweden.

Some of it seems easy the first two letters are Rä or Kä, the middle portion is problematic, is that ndås, mlåf, sdåh, or what. But the last two letters appear to be la or le. Ignoring the middle portion gives us a few variations to try among them Rä%la.

This Rä%la search gives us 32 likely results and we see in the Parish (Socken) and Location (Lokal) columns that most of the results from Grantärde Parish are a village (by) named–Rävåla. An almost perfect match. Note: The extra letter between the å and l is the superfluous h that is often found following å or o. From here it is easy to check to confirm if the individual was actually from this location.

This location database is extremely valuable not only for it vast depth of information but for the simplicity and flexibility of the search function. I use it on almost a daily basis. And if I suspect that you find it useful too.

Best of luck!

Estate Inventory Indexes On ArkivDigital

ArkivDigital is at it again! Now they have added a search capability to help you locate your ancestor’s bouppteckningar (Estate Inventory). For those who have not used bouppteckningar before, they are great for confirming relationships and they give just about the most complete picture of your ancestor’s life-at least from a material perspective. These very detailed inventories are wonderful resources.  The problem has always been that they are in these large collections, which usually need to be searched page-by-page. It can be difficult to locate “your” inventory.  (Yes, some indexes do exist, but they were few and far between.) The problem is exacerbated by the fact that although almost everyone was supposed to have an estate inventory conducted–at least after the law created the requirement in 1734–many people did not have inventories done and even for those who did, it is clear that not all these inventories survive.  Also, while it was common to have the estate inventoried almost immediately after death, in some circumstances it could be many months or I have seen examples of several years before it was done.  And even then, there are possibly multiple courts where the record could exist. Bottom line, they could be difficult to find.

Select “New Index Search” > then select “Inventory of estate” under “Index Source” and you will be given options to enter name, date range for the inventory, and location of the inventory. I would start with a broad search and then narrow it down, as location and dates can be unexpectedly broad.

ArkivDigital released this capability as a work in progress. Currently, indexes are available for Gotlands, Jönköpings, Kalmars, Kronobergs, Stockholms, Uppsalas and Östergötlands Counties. They are planning on continuing to add to these indexes.

Note: In addition to listing every animal, spoon, book, item of clothing, and work-tool the decedent owned, you can frequently find the signatures of surviving relatives at the end of a bouppteckningar! Happy Hunting!

SwedGen Tour 2017

Once again this year, a group of Swedish genealogists will make a trip to the U.S. to present spectacular Swedish genealogical presentations.  This year they are making three stops: on 23 September 2017 at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin; 30 September 2017 at the Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois; and finally 7-8 October 2017 at the Old Mill Museum in Lindsborg, Kansas.

If you are ANYWHERE in the neighborhood you really have to attend.  These are professional Swedish researchers and they provide one-on-one assistance, in addition to lectures. If you plan on attending you must sign up however. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Norwegian Bygdebøker (Farm Books)

One of the most important resources for Norwegian genealogical research are the bygdebøker (Farm Books). They tell the history of the farms and families that owned or lived on them and can be an absolute goldmine for genealogists.  However, these books can vary in quality and availability. Some have been meticulously researched and others are compilations of fairy-tales and guesswork. By-and-large, they are reliable, and you should always check for existing research, but confirm anything you find in the book.

While bygdebøker are more readily available in Norway, there are many great collections of them here in the U.S.

Increasingly, bygdebøker can be found online, and except the Norwegian National Libraries collection, which is mostly available only to Norwegians, the online books are scattered and can be difficult to find. That is why I am adding a new page to this website that lists bygdebøker that can be found online.  I will update this list as I find additional books online.

If you do not read Norwegian the books can take a little while to get used to. They will almost inevitably use a significant number of abbreviations. Usually, you can find a list of explanations at the front of the book.  Also, remember this is more typically a history of the FARM not the families necessarily. When someone sold a farm, or moved, the new family living on the farm would be tracked. So make sure that you are following your family and not someone else!

Happy Hunting!

Danish Research Webinar

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offering a free webinar “Beginning Danish Research” on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time. The presenter Dr. Charles Fritz Juengling, AG is a researcher and Research Consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I am sure this will be an excellent and informative webinar, make sure you click on the link above to register! A recording of the webinar will be available free for a week after the live broadcast, after which you will need to be a Legacy Family Tree Webinars subscriber to watch it. (And considering the vast collection of great webinars available, a Legacy Family Tree subscription is well worth it!)

Free Nordic Genealogy Webinars

I wanted to remind everyone that FamilySearch has some great free webinars on Scandinavian research. Some of the webinars are pre-recorded (they can be found in the Learning Center-But note, they have recently “upgraded” their Learning Center and its search functionality does not work very well and there does not appear to be a browse by Country capability.) Others webinars are in real-time which allows you the opportunity to ask questions of the instructor. For example, over the next two months FamilySearch is offering four live webinars:

  • Tue, 9 May, 11:00 AM MDT, Norwegian Emigration: The Experience
  • Wed, 24 May, 2:00 PM MDT, Databases for Swedish Genealogy
  • Tue, 13 Jun, 1:00 PM MDT, How to Find Ancestors in the Digitalarkivet
  • Wed, 28 Jun, 11:00 AM MDT, Introducing Danish Probates

New webinars are posted monthly, and can be found here. I highly recommend these webinars: they are from some of the top people in the field!