Chris Armstrong | Dec 19, 2017

3 Tips for Getting Started with Scandinavian Genealogy Research

This is the first of a three-part series to help you begin researching your Scandinavian ancestors. Read part two and part three. The series is based on a presentation at Rootstech 2017 by Finn Karlsen.

If your ancestors hail from the Nordic countries of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), you are in luck. These countries boast some of the oldest and best historical records around. But where to start?

Finn Karlsen, a noted professional genealogist who specializes in Nordic research, presented three classes at Rootstech 2017. Let’s zero in on where a master recommends beginning your records hunt.

1. Gathe​r all the information about your ancestors that you can.

“With this I mean gather together everything you can back home,”said Karlsen. “[Even] bits and pieces of information left by your relatives might come in handy. This includes places and names of other people.”

The smallest bit of knowledge may hold the clue to finding the right puzzle piece down the research road. Letters, certificates, deeds, and so on can offer valuable information. Of course, take advantage of your oldest living relatives if they are still alive. Record interviews of them telling about their memories, explaining pictures and mementos, and so on. Upload this audio treasure to the person’s FamilySearch Memories.

2. Get some tools.

Karlsen recommended equipping yourself with a good map and dictionary rather than relying solely on internet resources.

“There are of course good alternatives on the internet, but there is nothing like paper where you can make your own notes, for example put an X on the map,” he said. “Or you can write in a word in the dictionary that you don’t find there. One advantage with printed dictionaries is that if you don’t know exactly how a word is written, you can look at [similar words].”

According to the FamilySearch Wiki page for Denmark Maps, “maps are an important source to locate the places where your ancestors lived. They help you see the neighboring towns and geographic features of the area your ancestor came from. Maps locate places, parishes, churches, geographical features, transportation routes, and proximity to other towns.”

Excellent historical maps of Nordic countries are available online. Here are some of the best (click for English in the website’s upper right corner unless your language skills are amazing!):

You will also find recommended dictionary options on your country’s FamilySearch Wiki.

3. Get an overview of the country, its peculiarities, history, and geography.

“If you haven’t been to the Wiki at FamilySearch, you certainly should go there and look up your country and see that there might be very … interesting information there,” advised Finn.

Indeed, the FamilySearch Wiki has 85,282 articles to help you learn! To access it, log in to your FamilySearch account, click on Search in the toolbar, and select Wiki from the drop-down menu. Enter the country name or what you want to find.

“They have separate pages for each country with a lot of information aimed at genealogy,” said Karlsen. “And, if you’re not familiar with Cyndi’s List, you should look it up, because she has been gathering links to all kinds of information that are important when you are doing research in other countries.”

Regarding history, Karlsen said that the borders between the three countries have changed over time. Indeed, there have been wars, coalitions, unions, quarreling, and independence, and each country once owned geography in areas now belonging to its neighbors. So, a basic understanding of these historical and political shifts could help a lot in locating your ancestor’s time.

What resources have been helpful for you in Scandinavian research? Tweet us @RootsTechConf to share your experience.

This is the first of a three-part series to help you begin researching your Scandinavian ancestors. Read part two and part three. The series is based on a presentation at Rootstech 2017 by Finn Karlsen.

Chris Armstrong

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