To look for their Swedish roots and ancestry, and then to visit their “hembygd” (the native/origin place of their ancestors/forefathers), is something more and more Swedes are setting out to do.
Perhaps they want to return to the place where their fond childhood memories were created at their parents’, grandparents’, or even great grandparents’ “hembygd”. However, for others their ancestors/forefathers may left their small town or village as young adults. Therefore, it is harder for them to find their “hembygd”. Nevertheless, after many years living the busy city life, together with the growing trend of “find who you are”, many look to return to the place where they came from or once have been. They are the so called “återvändare” (the returners), Swedes that return with their closed ones for family holidays, week-end trips or to celebrate a family gathering at their “hembygd”.
For some of us, our ancestry is more of a puzzle and we do not know where to start to look. Using modern DNA-testing technology is a good start. I have had a 6 years subscription to an online genealogy service in order to find out more about my roots.
Thanks to affordable access to DNA-technology, the digitalization of church and other records, it is today easy to build a family tree. I have been lucky. Some of the relatives I have found through the DNA testing are also keen on researching their ancestry, allowing us to help each other. I have in some cases traced back to the 17th century. Most of my ancestors come from the West Coast, the county of Halland in southern Sweden, and the east side of Vättern.
My Swedish roots and Swedish ancestry trip
The starting point to track my southwest Swedish roots was the county of Halland. This is where my great-grandfather, Oscars Leander, was born on a farm in a small farming community called Körsveka. He was a farmer’s boy who made it in the big city and did not look back.
Some summers ago, I went on a search for my roots with a trip to Halland. Later on in the search, I took my father’s cousin to Körsveka. However, this time I had set up meetings with local historians. It was an amazing treat and experience. They guided us to places we would otherwise never had discovered or known about.
Thanks to our guide, Tore, we could visit the ruins of the childhood homestead of my great grandfather, Oscar Leander. The former farm is today totally engulfed by the forest. I never met Oscar Leander, but I inherited part of his hard-earned money. So naturally, I was very curious to understand the farmer boy who became carpenter and a later on an entrepreneur. He, is his own terms, was a quiet, but successful businessman.
Some tips for searching for your Swedish roots and Swedish ancestry
Genealogy research for beginner and busy bees
- Subscribe to an online family tree search service. There are several to choose from, depending on your ancestry background.
- Do an DNA test from a genealogy service, so you can connect your family tree and find living relatives that you can trace back to someone else in your family tree.
Find your roots and prepare for a visit to the countryside
- Look for names of villages and farms in the family tree. Some of the names may have changed, but if you are lucky, you can find the village or homestead with the same name. In Sweden, the people in the countryside used to live in the so called “socken”. A “socken” is a former countryside area that was formed around a parish. It also served as a unit for buildings and villages, and is typically named after the main village of the original church.
- Call a relative and go to your “hembygd” region on a fact finding mission.
- Contact a local historian association or a local guide to maximize the experience. They can take you to the places of your ancestors.
- Visit the parish, churches and graveyards to find the resting place of the people in your family tree. Pay your respect to your Swedish ancestry and if you are lucky, you can find relatives who can tell you stories about the lives and accomplishments of your family.
Things to do while when you reached your ancestry destination or “hembygd”
- Pick an apple or an flower from the homestead of your ancestor. Envisage the gardens they enjoyed and said goodbye to several generations ago.
- Find a local “loppis” (flea market) and buy something local and vintage.
- Arrange for a “släktträff” (a meeting/reunion of relatives and family). The occasion might be that you just want to get to know each other and enjoy a moment in time together. Others might be looking for something more ambitions, perhaps a “kinship” teambuilding activity would be better. For the more traditional, why not a name giving ceremony, wedding or special birthday close to or in the area of your ancestors?
Swedish family get-together (“Släktträff”) suggestions
If your ancestry is in Blekinge, ask for a a tailor-made programme and why not also go on a gourmet tour close to your roots.
Family gathering in the villages of Rättvik, Dalarna
Contact the local guide company Guidekullor and they can create tailor-made and unforgettable visits to Rättvik and the district of Ore. They can also help you with catering and shopping that takes you back to your Dala roots. Do you need musicians for the occasion? They have the contact.
Walk in an amazing old-growth forest, try outdoor cooking, a wilderness safari, or sauna in the winter, as well as the summer. You can also fish with a guide or try out snowshoe walks.