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Swedish history / Swedish Documentation in the latter 1800s
« skrivet: 2018-08-27, 02:47 »
How inclusive or complete were Swedish records of birth, marriage, residence, or emigration prior to 1900?

I have two Swedish ancestors who came to the USA.  One had a more or less "normal" origin.  But her emigration obviously involved a quest that entailed a difficult separation from her origins.  The other ancestor likely had a distressed or difficult childhood.  Both had fairly common surnames.  It is not easy to find a database "match" for either.

My question is whether Swedish records from the mid to late 19th century were any better or worse than those in the USA.  Could there be thousands, or even millions, of Swedes whose birth, marriage, residence, or emigration occurred without any official documentation, or whose documentation has yet to be indexed digitally?

In the USA, some church records date back to the 1600s.  However, they reflect only a small subset of total residents and settlers.  Some cities started municipal records of birth, marriage, and death in the late 1700s, but they may have omitted many events.  Small towns or farms had no records at all, except perhaps for gravestones, which many could not afford.

Here a Federal Census has been conducted since 1790.  However, until 1850, the data affirmed only the name of the male head of household.  Children, boarders, or slaves were identified only by number.  From 1850 onward, the information improved.  One major exception: records for 1890 were destroyed in a fire.  Also, as late as 1880, some pioneer farmers seem to have been omitted.  Perhaps the census clerks saw no purpose in a journey to visit wild and remote places whose few inhabitants would not significantly alter the population totals enough to affect apportionment of legislative seats.

The omissions in the USA records appear to have been particularly acute between 1870 and 1880.  That was precisely when my two Swedish great grandmothers came to the USA.  For one of these women, any scarcity of documents is vastly offset by my (now deceased) mother's recollections and (even color!) photos.  The other great grandma passed away in 1912 and no there were no memories, other than a terse obituary, or records other than USA census and live birth records from the 1890s and early 1900s.

Tentatively, it appears that several "Amanda Peterson" (or Persdotter) records have the Nov. 18, 1872 birthdate reported for that great grandmother.  However, they all involve multiple given names (not just "Amanda"), and there are circumstantial factors that frustrate easy linkage to the person who was my relative.

My basic question is whether a significant quotient of Swedes, born in the 1870s, or who emigrated to the USA in the 1880s, possibly obtained no official documentation whatever.  The USA continues to have residents without documents, as well as census data base only on speculative estimates.  I would not fault 19th century records for being any less challenged.  But can anyone, please, confide whether Sweden, in the late 19th century, had records that were 99%, 80%, or maybe below 70% inclusive or reliable?

If I fail to find a strong match for either ancestor, is that uncommon?

Many thanks for any comments or guidance.

General questions / Amanda Peterson, born November 18, 1872
« skrivet: 2018-08-24, 22:28 »
I have two Swedish ancestors about whose origins I know very little. One of them was my father's maternal grandmother. Her name was Amanda Peterson and she was born November 18, 1872, according to an 1912 obituary in a Sac County, Iowa, USA newspaper. Concerning her origins, is says only that she came from Sweden to the USA at age 15 and resided for a time with and uncle, Gustav Long.  That person's name does not seem to appear in any local census records.

Based on these few clues, I used the site to deduce that she might be the 14 year-old Amanda Peterson who reached New York, via Copenhagen and Christiana, aboard the "Thingvalla" on June 3, 1885.  The NY record lists her as Swedish, but gives no indication of which adult (if any) was supervising her.

The Ancestry search engine also identified a "female" Amanda Peterson who went from Tranemo, Elfsbg Län to Gothenburgand boarded the ship "Martha" on April 1, 1885. Neither does that record indicate the minor was  accompanied by any relative or guardian.  However, upon consultation, that Amanda turned out to be a male Amandus.  I toyed with the idea that perhaps an adolescent girl had to feign she were a boy to be allowed alone aboard the ship.  Even today I don't people would want any 13-15 year-old to emigrate alone and amidst strangers.

A person at ArkivDigital shed doubt on my theory, pointing out that Amanda's last name would probably appear as Persdotter or Petersdotter.  That person urged that I find more information in order to trace my great grandmother's origins.  Unfortunately, the rest of the documents available through English language archives reveal nothing at all.  JPEG images of the US birth record of a grand-uncle have fields to identify their grandparents by name, but those fields are blank in the case of the mother (Amanda Peterson).  I cannot find JPEG images for my grandma's birth certificate, but my guess is that they do not name Amanda's parents either.

Could she have been an orphan or have been fleeing an unhappy situation?  Perhaps.  In any case, it would be wonderful to learn if there is any digital compilation of Amanda's, with the approximate surnames, who were born on November 18, 1872 and who migrated to the USA approximately in the spring of 1885.

In the USA, civil records of birth or marriage did not become universal until the 1880s.  Earlier church registries covered only a segment of the population, and many of those records are lost or in hand-script form only.  Was that constraint also the case in Sweden?  If so, then I can imagine my questions will be impossible to answer.

Many thanks for any help or guidance.

John M Koch
West Orange, NJ, USA

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