Our Swedish Background


There is no such thing as a completed genealogy. There are always more sources to check, people to visit and places to go. But there comes a time when the genealogist must say, “Timeout,” and use the material collected to date as the basis for writing the story as it is currently known. As the story unfolds we will see the gaps and think of new places to look, so the search will continue later.

For this reason this website will be subject to continual updating. The stories have been compiled from the information that has come into my possession so far. Most, but not all, of what has been related here has been verified yet. But even the unsubstantiated information has been included because there may be a reader who can either verify it or correct some of these facts. Also, this information should be distributed so that if it is lost in one place it will still exist someplace else. So feel free to download and make copies.

The sources used to write this family history include but are not limited to census data, Swedish records on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Mildred Wilson’s family genealogy book, photographs of tombstones in various cemeteries, probate records, a variety of other original and photocopied records, interviews and correspondence with family members and a variety of references and county histories.

 A note about the Swedish language

There are no “j” sound in the Swedish language. Words spelled with a “j” are pronounced “y” as in “yeah”. The “w” is pronounced “v” and is not a special letter or sound of its own. If “k” comes before an “n” it is sounded. There are three extra letters after Z in the Swedish alphabet - å, ä, and ö. The ö is pronounced similar to our short o (ŏ) but with the mouth a little wider open. Try it with the word “hot”. Now substitute a “y” for “j” and you can say Jöns in Swedish.

The patronymic system of naming was used in Sweden, especially by those living in rural areas and those of the laboring class. This was the practice by which a child’s last name was that of his or her father. A boy named Ole whose father was Swan was Ole, Swan’s son, or Ole Swansson. A girl named Olga was Olga, Swan’s dotter (daughter, in English) or Olga Swansdotter. This birth name was hers for life because women did not change their name at the time of marriage. The practice of taking a permanent surname was not started until 1860, beginning in the urban areas and gradually spreading into the rural areas. Unfortunately for those doing family history research, not everyone in a family chose to take a permanent surname at the same time.

Some persons were identified by their occupation or the place where they lived rather than by who their father was. A boy who lived on a farm called Rosvold might be called Ole Rosvold. Someone who emigrated to the United States from a Scandinavian country might take a permanent name here this way.


Land Divisions in Past and Present Sweden

Where did the Jepsons come from in Sweden? In “The Story of Peter Jepson” written in 1908, Peter told the author he was born in the city of Helsingborg in Skåne. I first heard this word pronounced (Sko’ney), and not seeing it spelled, I could not find Skoney on a map of Sweden. Finally the mystery was solved by the leader of a workshop on Scandinavian research who immediately understood that the word pronounced (skō’-nē) is actually spelled Skåne. It is one of the historic Landskaps or Provinces in Sweden and is located on the southern tip of the country. There are 25 of these provinces which form natural, cultural, geographical divisions of the country but are not political subdivisions.


See Skåne there on the southern tip of the country?

For governmental purposes the country is divided into 24 Läns or Counties. These counties are divided into districts. There are about 300 districts, each made up of from two to twenty parishes.

The country is also divided on a religious basis into thirteen Dioceses which are in turn divided in parishes.

(based on information from Cradled in Sweden by Carl-Erik Johansson, published by The Everton Publishers, Inc., 1981)

Why did they immigrate?

According to scholars who have researched this question, the following are seen as reasons for immigration from Sweden.

1) Economic – Jobs, land. Prospects were fading in Sweden as opportunities arose in the United States.

2) Decline in infant mortality which resulted in the appearance of overpopulation.

3) Technological unemployment.

4) Inheritance patterns – Primogeniture, the eldest inherits all the land, was not followed in Sweden. Landed estates were divided so many times they became too small to provide a living.

5) Religion – The Lutheran Church was very orthodox, conservative and powerful, and it levied a heavy tax. Conservative immigrants formed or joined Augustana Lutheran churches in the United States. More liberal Swedes became Methodists or Mission (Swedish) Covenants.

6) Draft dodging

7) “America Fever”

8) Chain migration – One family member left to be followed by others.

There were several phases of Swedish emigration. During the first phase, from the mid-1840’s to the mid-1850’s, about 15,000 persons come to this country from Sweden. They were religious dissenters and farm families. In the second major phase, from 1863-1873, more than 100,000 Swedes arrived. There were major crop failures in 1867 and 1868. People were attracted by the Homestead Act and by railroad propaganda advertising land. These were mostly people with an agricultural background.

An economic depression in the U. S. followed by drought and grasshoppers in the Midwest caused the flow of Swedish emigrants to slow to a trickle for about six years. Then the third phase began in 1879 and lasted until 1893. In this fourteen-year period nearly 500,000 people came from Sweden for a variety of reasons. There was a crisis in Swedish timber and iron industries. Agricultural competition from this country and Russian grain production adversely affected the Swedish agricultural economy. There was an increase in the number of emigrants from the Swedish industrial sector during this phase. They were attracted by better wages and working conditions here. More individuals as opposed to groups immigrated during this phase.

In the period from the turn of the century to about 1914 there were increasing numbers of urban, young, single adults coming to the United States. They were attracted by the labor market in this country so they settled mostly on the east and west coast. The same was true during the final phase of immigration in the 1920’s.

(Information from lecture, "Swedish Immigration" by Dr. Fred Leubke, history professor (now retired) at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, speaker for the Nebraska Committee for the Humanities, May 26, 1994)