MyCanvas Guest Blog – A Beginner’s Guide to Swedish Genealogy

Have Swedish family history and not sure how to get started? I share how to get started in this guest blog post for MyCanvas! Learn common Swedish genealogy words, and tricks to untangling Swedish family names.


DNA – learning to expect the unexpected

This is the first part in a multi-part blog series about DNA testing and genealogy.

After 20+ years of genealogical research, I like to think I know my family history pretty well. As an Aussie, I am a big of a genealogical mongrel, or as my nan used to refer to her dog, Cindy, a “bitsa” as in “bits of this and bits of that”. It’s pretty simple, really:
  • Lots of Scots
  • Lots of Irish
  • Lots of English
  • A smattering of Swedes
  • Four convicts

So I was relatively certain of the results of any genealogical DNA test I would do. I imagined it would look something like this:
Source: Ancestry.com
When I decided to try the Ancestry DNA test, I was a bit put off by the fact that I’d need to gob into a test tube. Someone as classy and sophisticated as me simply does not spit, regardless of the scientific results. But for the sake of science, history, genealogy and my own bloody curiosity I built a bridge and got over this particular wave of discomfort. (This is proof that I am actually on my way to becoming a true professional).

To be quite honest, when the test arrived I was soon quite happily gobbing away into the plastic tube.

The influence of Apple of product packaging and presentation has been clear for a number of years. Clean lines, lots of white. Minimalism is key. I was, however, surprised to see that this influence had extended into the realm of genealogical DNA testing.

Photo: Ancestry.com
It’s quite simply a beautiful product. It’s a shame one has to mar it with saliva, but needs must.

Even the website to register the test is squeaky clean. For my web design friends – is this a matter of clean design, or is it a matter of familiarity (from using Apple products) and therefore an increased sense of trust? Answers on a perfectly and ethically designed website, please.

After spitting in the tube, adding the DNA stabilising solution and giving it all a good shake, I slipped it into a bio-hazard bag and into a lovely little postage-paid box that came with the kit. I then sealed it all up and popped it into the post-box.

The lack of immediate gratification was a wee bit disappointing, and the wait until I got my results felt extremely long.

The website provides tracking information from the moment you register the test. I checked the site every day to see if its status had changed from “Activated” to “Arrived” and more importantly “Processing”.

After around a week, the status changed from “Activated” to “Processing” rather quickly. I was then into the longest wait-phase. 6-8 weeks while the testing is done.

I waited impatiently for the test to confirm all my research and particularly looked forward to seeing if Britain, Ireland or Scandinavia came out on top. I expected it to kind of the way Eurovision does, with Scandinavia winning and Britain and Ireland getting a few points somewhere down the line.

I also joked that I hoped something completely obscure would turn up my results and hit us from out of left field. “OMG I HOPE IT SHOWS I’M JEWISH” I thought, knowing my step-father (who is Jewish) would find it hilarious.

I checked the website daily for an update and was growing more and more disappointed as no results were posted. “Maybe your DNA is so weird they’re having difficulty finding anything human in it,” commented one friend. I started to think he may be right.

No results. No results. No results.

As with the proverbial watched pot, as soon as I stopped thinking about it and obsessively checking I got an email. “Your DNA results are available.”

With a sense of immense excitement (and trepidation, perhaps I *am* alien) I logged into the site to see just who I am.

To say the results surprised me would be an understatement.

I was incredibly surprised to see both Scandinavia and Great Britain so far down the list. I was also overjoyed to actually see European Jewish in the list (my step father merely rolled his eyes when I told him).

Looking into the information on the data further, this is what is noted for the different regions in which my DNA has been.
Location
Primarily Located In
Also Found In
Europe West
Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein
England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic
Ireland
Ireland, Wales, Scotland
France, England
European Jewish
Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Israel
Germany, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Estona
Iberian Peninsula
Spain, Portugal
France, Morocco, Algeria, Italy
Scandinavia
Sweden, Denmark, Norway
Great Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, the Baltic States, Finland
Great Britain
England, Scotland, Wales
Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy
Asia South
India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka
Myanmar (Burma)

France seems to be the main connection point between all the regions except for Asia South meaning (in my 100% scientific opinion) my potentially French ancestors got around a bit.

I’m reading as much as possible about DNA testing for genealogy and the impact it can have on research. I shall write a future blog post about how such testing can influence the research one does and the results of research that people not only find but really want to find.

Genea-what-ogy?

Oh look another genealogy blog. What’s different about this one? For the moment, not much, it’s quite empty. Unlike my family tree. A couple of thousand people (including extended family) and counting.

In October I will begin postgraduate studies with the University of Strathclyde in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldry. As I move from being an amateur genealogist to (hopefully) a professional genealogist, I would like to document my experience. While I feel I have a lot of experience in researching family history, as my studies progress I am certain that my methodology and understanding of documents and processes will change.

Hopefully, it will make for interesting reading.

So, why does a customer support manager with 15+ years professional experience decide to change career so extremely?

Well, as with all (good) stories – Once upon a time…

When I was 14 years old, I snuck into my grandmother’s bedroom, rooted around under her bed, and withdrew an old tattered suitcase that contained a stack of papers and a magnifying glass. This suitcase held the entirety of her research into my grandfather’s family history. I recall looking through the barely legible photocopied pages in wonder, marvelling at the old handwriting, and trying to understand the Swedish in which they were written.
I was, of course, caught by my grandmother and told not to go through other people’s belongings, but I was hooked. I asked her to show me how she found all the documents, how she read them and also asked her to teach me Swedish!
From that moment I helped my grandmother with the research, and began learning about genealogy and how to trace my family history.
Fast forward to 1998 and I am now living in France. I’m studying part time with the Open University for a BSc and I am still fascinated by genealogy. I knew my grandfather’s uncle had fought in WWI in France, and I decided to find out more. This was the early stages of online genealogical research, and through message boards, local historical research associations and the Imperial War Graves Commission, I was able to discover not only where my great, great uncle Olaf was buried, but also exactly which battle he was in when he died, and what likely happened between 1916 when he was reported MIA and 1930 when his body was discovered.

Private (Pte) Olaf Milford Johanson, 11th Reinforcements, 12th Battalion, AIF.

I was the first family member to visit his grave in the Somme region of France, a very moving moment for myself and my entire family.
Since I have begun researching I have also managed to find living relatives in Sweden, have visited the home built by my Swedish ancestor and have gotten in touch with distant relatives back in Australia, as well as in the United States and Scotland.
I have helped friends get started with genealogy, coaching them on the best research methods, basic tips and do’s and don’ts. Helping other people discover information about their families is what drives me to continue my own research, and is what makes me want to share this passion with others.

Following my degree completion I moved into working in the computer game industry, and managed to create a successful career for myself. In recent years, however, I have been wanting a change and after much reflection (and encouragement from those close to me), have decided I wish to make my lifelong passion a professional reality.