Genealogical Research at the Swenson Center
The Swenson Center has extensive resources for genealogical research. The most important include church records from denominations founded by Swedish immigrants in North America, passenger indexes from American and Scandinavian ports, records of different organizations founded by Swedish immigrants in North America, Swedish-language newspapers published in the United States and Canada, City Directories and census materials from many urban areas with strong concentrations of Swedish-Americans, and several other types of indexes.
Our records are primarily Swedish-American, which means that they were generated by Swedish immigrants in the United States. Still, we have access to many records from Sweden, primarily parish records. Our extensive library includes many books useful for genealogical research, in particular the Nils William Olsson collection.
The Center publishes Swedish American Genealogist, the only journal of its kind devoted to Swedish-American genealogy and personal history. Every fall we also arrange a week-long research trip to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, where participants can use the extensive resources under the leadership of skilled and experienced professional genealogists.
The majority of our records go up to approximately 1930, and usually do not contain information about people who are still living today. Most of our records are on microfilm and computer databases--not online, and most of our library books are available to borrow via interlibrary loan. We encourage you to visit the Swenson Center or to contact us via e-mail or regular mail. Our staff is proficient in Swedish genealogical research and has helped countless people learn about their families. We would love to help you do the same! If you would like us to perform any searches for you in our records, please see the Research Services page for instructions. If you would like to perform the research yourself (with our guidance), please see the Visiting the Swenson Center page to see how best to prepare for your research appointment.
Below are some of our most popular sources.
Swedish-American and Swedish-Canadian church records are used frequently for family history research. We have microfilm records of congregations from the following denominations. Please see our listing for specific churches.
- Augustana Lutheran
- Mission Covenant
- Evangelical Free
- Swedish Methodist
- Swedish Baptist
- Swedish Episcopal
Researchers should keep in mind that the quality of the individual church records varies. If the church books were complete and accurately kept, the following information can often be gained about members:
- date and place of birth and baptism
- year of arrival in America
- date of confirmation, marriage, death
- previous and subsequent residences in the United States
- date received as a church member
To search the church records, one must know where one's immigrant settled in North America. In the case of a city with a large Swedish population like Chicago or Minneapolis, the name of a specific church, a street address, or even a neighborhood of residence is essential for search purposes. If your immigrant ancestors settled in an area that was not well populated with Swedish immigrants, it is possible that there was no Swedish church there. Go to our church record listing to see if we have church records for the area you need.
Swedish Passenger Indexes on microfilm and a Swedish CD-ROM (CD-Emigranten). Usually provides passenger's age, last parish of residence, ultimate destination, and a contract number that can be used to find the name of the ship of departure. We have records for the following ports of emigration:
- Göteborg (1869-1951)
- Malmö (1874-1939)
- Kalmar (1880-1893)
- Stockholm (1869-1940)
- Norrköping (1859-1922)
- Helsingborg (1929-1950)
- Hamburg (1850-1891)
- Norwegian port indexes
- Danish port indexes
Index of emigrants from Sweden (CD-ROM called Emibas): Contains nearly 1.1 million emigrants from more than 2,300 parishes (roughly three fourths of all emigrants from Sweden).
U.S. Passenger Arrival Indexes:
- Olsson, Nils William. Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States, 1820-1850. Stockholm, Sweden: Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, 1995.
- Paper printout index of Swedes arriving in New York (1851-1860) - does not give person's origin in Sweden.
- Microfilm index of Swedes arriving in New York (1861-1869) - does not give person's origin in Sweden.
- CD-ROM index of New York port arrivals (1850-1891).
- Castle Garden Records (New York) are searchable (1830-1892). Incomplete.
- Ellis Island Records (New York) are searchable (1892-1924). You will be asked to register as a free user on the ellisislandrecords.org web page before it will allow you to use the database.
Swedish-American and Swedish-Canadian Newspapers on microfilm:
If you are interested in obituaries, sometimes the Swedish-American and Swedish-Canadian newspapers listed deaths. To search them, one must know the date and place of death. Often there is a little more than the person's name and date of death. These newspaper microfilms are also available via interlibrary loan. Please see our online listing for specific dates and titles.
City Directories on Microfilm and CD-ROM (to locate a residential address, especially in large cities like Chicago and the Twin Cities). Similar to a telephone book, but without telephone numbers.
- Chicago, Illinois (1839-1929 --with gaps)
- Minneapolis, Minnesota (1861-1901)
- St. Paul, Minnesota (1856-1901)
- Moline, Illinois (1855-1860, 1882-1901)
- Rock Island, Illinois (1855-1860, 1882-1901)
- New England States (1881-1902)
- Pennsylvania (1887-1893)
- Massachusetts (1885-1897)
- New York (1886-1894)
- Northern Midwest (1884-1898)
- Southern Midwest (1882-1898)
Swedish-American Lodge Records on microfilm:
Includes minutes of meetings and some membership records from fraternal orders formed by Swedish immigrants in the United States. Orders include Independent Order of Svithiod (IOS), Independent Order of Vikings (IOV), Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT), Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), and Scandinavian Fraternity of America. See our Swedish-American lodge listing.
CD-ROMs from the United States:
- 1920 United States Federal Census indexes: from most U.S. states where groups of Swedes settled.
Other CD-ROMs from Sweden:
- Sveriges Befolkning 1880. 1880 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Befolkning 1890. 1890 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Befolkning 1900. 1900 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Befolkning 1970. 1970 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Befolkning 1980. 1980 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Befolkning 1990. 1990 Census of Sweden.
- Sveriges Dödbok 1901-2009. Deaths in Sweden 1901-2009.
- Begravda i Stockholm. 480,000 people buried in Stockholm, Sweden.
- Inhabitants of four parts of Stockholm City: Södermalm, Klara, Gamla Stan, and Kungsholmen 1878-1926.
- Begravda i Sverige. 5,300,000 people buried in Sweden. Most as recent as November 2008; a very few back dating back to 1500s.
- Sjöfolk. Ca. 700,000 Swedish sailors registered in ten of Sweden's seaman's homes in Sweden.
Subscription to SVAR web site:
- 1900 Census of Sweden database. Complete.
- 1890 Census of Sweden database. Complete.
- 1880 Census of Sweden database. Complete.
- 1870 Census of Sweden database. In progress.
- 1860 Census of Sweden database. In progress.
- Scanned images of Swedish parish records.
- You can also subscribe from home at SVAR's web site.
Subscription to ArkivDigital (AD) web site:
Scanned color images of Swedish parish records, as well as other types of records. You can also subscribe from home at AD's web site. Members of the Swenson Center can subscribe to AD at a discount. See our membership page.
Important note! Our subscriptions to AD and SVAR are available for public use by special appointment. If you know the name of the parish that your ancestors came from in Sweden, you have the potential to trace them in Swedish parish records throughout their lives and back into the 1700s. Learn how you can use AD and SVAR at the Swenson Center.
Our Genealogy FAQ page provides tips about other ways to find Swedish parish records and how to look for living relatives in Sweden.
- For an efficient and productive search please collect as much information as possible before you contact us.
- Talk to older relatives; ask them where the immigrants' children were baptized and confirmed (denomination and location of church).
- If possible, obtain copies of marriage licenses, death certificates, and listings in City Directories.
- A pastor's name on an official church document can be very helpful.
- If you do not know the year of immigration, try to locate the person in the Census records. For the years 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 there is a column that lists the approximate year of immigration.
If you would like us to perform any searches for you in our records, please see the Research Services page for instructions.
Date last modified: 2013-09-26