Monday, January 19, 2009

Family Tree - Genealogy (Update)


A year ago I wrote a post about having discovered a new web site ( where you can build your family tree. After having gone through all available family documents, including deceased relatives' research, I have come as far back in time as possible without doing more extensive, genuine research in Sweden. I have selected a few interesting facts to blog about.


One of my great grandfathers married four times because three of the wives died prematurely. *My* great grandmother died of pneumonia shortly before her 25th birthday. She had by then given birth to my grandmother and her older brother, who himself died at the age of 18 in 1909. He was in the merchant navy and worked below deck as a stoker. He caught pneumonia in the winter from moving up and down between deck and the hot fire he was stoking in the belly of the ship. The four wives gave birth to a total of six children. Only three survived into adulthood; one of the wives lost her two infants in some epidemic.

Even worse was the situation for another couple (he was born in 1827). They had nine children, and when the youngest one was still a baby all the other eight children died within a short period of time. Epidemics, which we today can prevent, swept the country regularly. Can you imagine losing eight children, more or less in one go? This is Thérèse, the only surviving child, as a young woman.


Then we have the the person at the top of the tree, as far as known birth date goes. He was a soldier called Elg, which means elk or moose, a typical name given to a soldier in those days. Since everybody was either "son of" or "daughter of" the father, they had names like Persson or Persdotter. This naming convention lasted into the late 19th century, and Icelandic women still have names ending with "-dottir". These short soldiers' names were intended to make it easier for the officers to shout and also differentiate between men with the same father's name. So when you joined the army you were simply given a name, and that was that! Many of these names live on in Sweden to this day, and are quite easy to recognise; they are often mono-syllabic and/or with a military connection.

So when was soldier Elg born? In 1688! He fought, I assume, with the famous (or infamous) Swedish warrior king Karl XII, whose soldiers were called Carolines, and did battle with the Russians, the Danes, the Norwegians and many more. Karl XII, just like Napoleon later, was stopped just outside Moscow and had to retreat in freezing winter conditions losing most of his men. He later died in Norway, possibly from "friendly fire", or not so friendly, because the debate still goes on whether the bullet that killed him was fired from the Norwegian side or from his own. Many were tired of all the fighting and had reason to get rid of the monarch. There have been conspiracy theories ever since.

Something else which has emerged from the documents, is spelling problems. In 1794 a priest misheard/misspelt Lönberg, and wrote Lundberg, which still today is the family name for some of my relatives. Oops, sorry, from now on you are Lundberg!

Also within the same family, the name was sometimes spelt differently. In 1907 my grandfather and his brother lost patience with the issue and registered a new name, which still is my surname. Their three sisters kept the original family name, which confused me as a child!

I take consolation from the fact that even the Great Bard, Shakespeare, spelt his name, and other words differently sometimes. If you have spotted any "alternative spelling" in this post, it is simply because I got into the spirit of my ancestors.


traveler one said...

I found that all really interesting. How cool is that to have so many stories to tell about your ancestors.

Veronica said...

We will just call you blogling!

swenglishexpat said...

T1 - I have another that I have heard but not found anywhere in the documents; about a priest who made the maid pregnant. According to family legend, this person was so shocked and dismayed that he stopped researching!

Veronica - Blogling is good enough for me. ;-)

Protege said...

Hello from another cosmopolitan; I was born in Slovakia, my father was Czech and I grew up in Sweden (Malmo). Heja Sverige.;))
I lived in the US for almost 10 years and now I live in Denmark.;)
Found you through the very fun and talented Diane.;))

Diane said...

What a great post!!

I've never been confused by my last name, but lots of other people are. It's mispronounced all the time (though it looks so easy to me) and I've been called all sorts of things, including 'Houdini' :)

swenglishexpat said...

Protege - Thanks for dropping in. I've lived most of my life in Malmö. How's that for a coincidence?
Diane - Thanks. Houdini, is that because you have a knack for getting out of tricky situations? ;-)

GutsyWriter said...

I couldn't help but notice how young everyone died. Good thing we live longer today. P.S. You do know I was born in Copenhagen and visited Malmo many times as a kid.

swenglishexpat said...

GW - I remember, we almost come from the same place! Just a little bit of water in between. In fact I have several old relatives who moved to Denmark, so in theory we might even be related. :-)

Carl said...


You can try too.

They have a search engine that can help with finding those alternate spellings!

Best of luck!

swenglishexpat said...

Carl - Thanks for visiting, and for the link. I'll try it.