Resources for Swedish-American Genealogy
The Swenson Center has extensive resources for genealogical research.
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 majority of our records go 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.
Below are some of our most-used sources.
Swedish-American and Swedish-Canadian church records are used frequently for family history research. Please see our indexes for specific microfilmed church records held at the Swenson Center:
We have records of congregations from the following denominations:
- 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 (not place of burial)
- 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.
Swedish Passenger Indexes
Swedish passenger indexes are available on microfilm and a Swedish CD-ROM (CD-Emigranten). These indexes usually provide 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 of 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)
We also use these websites to access other ports from which Swedes emigrated:
Index of Emigrants from Sweden
The Emibas CD-ROM 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
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 available via interlibrary loan.
See our Collections page for more information on newspapers held here.
City Directories are available on microfilm and CD-ROM. These are helpful 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)
Swedish-American lodge records often include 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 Collections page for more information on lodge records held here.
Other CD-ROMs from Sweden
- Sveriges Befolkning 1880 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1890 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1900 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1910 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1970 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1980 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Befolkning 1990 (Census of Sweden)
- Sveriges Dödbok 1860-2016 (deaths in Sweden 1860-2016)
- 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, very few dating back to 1500s)
Swedish National Archives' records
The Swedish National Archives' website includes a wealth of information and can be used completely free of charge. Click on "Other languages" for English.
- Scanned images of Swedish parish records
- Many other images and databases
Subscription to ArkivDigital
This website includes scanned color images of original Swedish parish record books, as well as other types of records. You can also subscribe from home at ArkivDigital.
Subscription to EmiWeb
EmiWeb contains multiple Swedish emigration and immigration databases, index to Swedish-American newspaper obituaries (selected titles), and other very useful indexes. See the EmiWeb page for a list of databases.
Using Parish Records Subscriptions
Our subscriptions to ArkivDigital and SVAR, which include parish record databases and images, are available for public use by special appointment only on Tuesday & Wednesday mornings.
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.
We have one computer dedicated to parish record subscriptions and it is available for the public to use only by appointment at least a day in advance. Appointments are available for an hour at a time, a whole morning (3 hours), a whole afternoon (3½ hours), or a whole day (6½ hours).
Using Databases & Assistance
It is important that you know the name of the parish and county (län) or province (landskap) in which you plan to do research before you come.
Because the Swedish parish records are in the pastor’s original handwriting and all in Swedish, they can be time-consuming to use and especially to learn to use. One cannot type in the ancestor’s name and have his birth record appear on the screen. Using the online parish records is similar to turning pages in a book or scrolling through a microfilm.
If you are a beginner to Swedish parish records, appointments will be available to you on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings when our volunteers are available to assist you in using the parish records. Our capable volunteers will give you free assistance and show you how to use the records and software, and we hope that you will then have the confidence to continue using the parish records on your own in the afternoon. Otherwise, you are welcome to continue scheduling time on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings to work with a volunteer instead.
If you have experience with any form of Swedish parish records, you may schedule an appointment for any other time during our open hours Monday through Friday.
If you are new to the Swedish parish records, we recommend that you try to read a bit about them before coming, using one of the books Cradled in Sweden by Carl-Erik Johansson or Your Swedish Roots by Per Clemensson & Kjell Andersson, or by finding a web page that explains parish records.
We cannot guarantee that we will be able to read all of the handwriting for you, especially in the older records, but we will give it the very best try. We are not responsible for time lost if the Internet happens to go down when you are here.
To help us defray the expense of the subscriptions, we charge an hourly fee for the use of these databases: $10/hour; $5/hour for Swenson Center members. Consider becoming a member today!
In addition, our fee for conducting genealogy research at the Swenson Center is $10 per day ($5 per half day). This fee is waived for members.
You will find that becoming a member can easily pay for itself in one visit.
Make an Appointment
Contact us now to make your appointment.
Questions we will ask you on the phone or via e-mail:
- Have you used AD or SVAR before?
- Have you used Swedish parish records before in some other format?
- Are you aware of our parish record usage fees? Our daily entrance fee?
- Are you a Swenson Center annual supporter?
We can also be hired to do research for you in parish records and other records. See our Genealogy Research Services page.
- 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, 1930, and 1940 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 Genealogy Research Services page for instructions.
For interesting and useful links to other genealogical resources (Swedish, Scandinavian, and general), see our Links page.