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Acquisition by Ancestry.com Significant to Search for Swedish Kin

Article Date: 
25 June, 2010 - 06:00

This last week, Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, acquired Genline.com.  If you have Swedish ancestry, this could be significant.  
Genline.com is a commercial company with about 17,000 subscribers and about 26 million pages of Swedish church records.  It is a free service and is available to use at family history centers worldwide, including the family history center here in Morgan.
Swedish church records have a wealth of information.  Sometimes called the “Clerical Survey” and sometimes called “Household Examination Records,” they serve as a type of census for Sweden.  
In the past, the Lutheran Church in Sweden had responsibility to keep track of the residents in Sweden and to ensure that they received the necessary religious education.  Once a year, the priest would schedule to meet with individual members of their congregation.   
Then, they would interview them on their knowledge of doctrines and educate them on religion. They would record this interview, including:
•The Date of the Interview
•The Name of the Farm, Village, or Rote (Registration District)
•Names of Household Members
•Birth Place
•Birth Date
•Information about Their Religious Knowledge
•Any Disciplinary Action Taken
•Military Service Information
The records will also normally make note of marriages, deaths, and when a member moved out of the area of the local church.
It is essential to determine the exact area where your ancestor lived when doing Swedish genealogical research because of the patronymic naming patterns that were used for naming children.  
When a child was born and given a first name, they were also given a last name which was their father’s first name with either “son” or “dotter,” for daughter, attached at the end.
For example, a son (named John) of a father named Albert would be known as John Albertson.  When John has a son, his son would be known by their first given name and have the last name of Johnson.  The pattern was also followed for daughters.  A daughter of Albert would be known by her first given name with Albertsdotter (daughter is spelled dotter) as her last name until she was married.   
As I’m sure you can see, all of this adds to the challenge of the search when tracking down your Swedish kin.  To narrow the search and find the correct person you are looking for, you will need include where they lived as a part of your search.  
When doing the genealogy of my Swedish ancestors, having the last name of Anderson is not a very helpful identifying characteristic…given the number of Anders there are in Sweden.  Pinpointing where the person you are searching for lived, right down to the level of the farm on which they lived is extremely important in doing Swedish research.  
This is where the Household Examination Records will be of great assistance to you.  These records allow you to research from the local farming community level where they lived.
It is a wonderful resource for research.  It is like having a full census of the population every year.  These records of individuals were kept from around the end of the 1600s to the late 1800s.  After that, the records begin to focus more on tracking the population statistics rather than recording information about individuals.
The inclusion of information about individual farms is essential to good research in Sweden, but it can also make the records more difficult to search.  SVAR (National Archives of Sweden) has partnered with FamilySearch to digitize their genealogical record holdings and index these records.  
The Genline.com records are currently not indexed, so the individual record images must be searched.  The images are organized by parish and by date.  The user interface can also be a little complicated to use and requires some practice.  You will need to know at least some Swedish.  You can learn more about relevant Swedish genealogical words at wiki.FamilySearch.org where there are Swedish word lists to use.  
The acquisition of Genline.com by Ancestry.com will likely reduce the number of subscriptions required to do research.  It will also, hopefully, provide a better user interface that is simpler to use.  It may be that Ancestry.com will index the records as well.
This acquisition is good news for Genline.com whose business has been increasingly threatened by the digital publication of records by the Swedish Archives.  I had the opportunity to meet with the president of Genline.com last year at the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) conference, and he told me about the future of the organization.  
He showed me a very interesting indexing tool for subscribers to index the records while viewing them.  This indexing method is inexpensive and is easy and natural to use.  However, where one record is indexed and the records on either side are not, it can create a Swiss cheese outcome where one record may be indexed, but the records on either side are not.
Nearly every community in Sweden has a small historical society, and the president of Genline.com showed me a very engaging site formed in partnership with these local historical societies.   Genline.com partnered with these historical societies to provide information about each area of Sweden.  
The information includes pictures of historical buildings and information about prominent people and noteworthy events.  This type of information can help to provide color and depth about our ancestor’s life that we would otherwise not have.  It will be interesting to see whether Ancestry.com will maintain the relationship with these small historical societies going forward with Genline.com.
This acquisition of Genline.com will add significantly to the resources on Ancestry.com’s website to help find one’s Swedish ancestry.  It compliments another recent addition to Ancestry.com of the Gothenburg Passenger lists containing more than 1.2 million Swedish records.
Genealogical research in the Nordic countries has been steadily moving towards having all records available online.  This latest acquisition will continue that trend and, with the possibility of further investments by Ancestry.com, will likely increase the speed of the records availability.