• This year it is 170 years since the great emigration from Sweden began, and of all those who emigrated to America about 112,000 from Västra Götaland *
Stockholm, 2021 - 170 years ago, the great emigration from Sweden began when over a million Swedes left the country. One third of those who emigrated to America came from the Värmland, Västra Götaland and Kronoberg regions. Behind these numbers are many incredibly exciting family stories. Some of these have become both books and films, others are often told during family dinners, but several are still undiscovered. For almost all Swedes have an American history in the family. One more fascinating than the other. And nowadays it's easier than ever to find out your family's history - without even leaving the couch.
In 1851, the great wave of emigration from Sweden began. For sixty years, more than one million people left Sweden to try their luck abroad. It was almost a fifth of Sweden's population at that time.
About 80% of all emigrants took the boat west to America, just like Karl-Oskar and Kristina from Vilhelm Moberg's famous book series The Emigrants. Approx. 112,000 of them came, according to Statistics Sweden, from Västra Götaland *. But what happened to the relatives then in the New Land? Today you can easily find out via the internet.
Genealogy companies like Ancestry® have over 27 million Swedish historical documents in their database and over 25 billion global historical records. Their documents on e.g., a passenger lists from the ships that departed from Gothenburg, which was the largest place of departure to America, is an invaluable source if you want to trace your emigrating relatives. Via Ancestry's databases, you can then follow your ancestor's arrival to the country in the west and very often find out where they went, settled and get an insight into what the new life was like.
Anette Tuores in Kungälv has been doing genealogy for many years and also traveled to the USA to find her relatives. Unfortunately, a first trip to Philadelphia did not yield any results. But through a friend's Ancestry family tree, Anette eventually got in touch with a distant relative in Kansas. In 2015, Anette decided to redo the US trip, now with destination Kansas.
“It was a very successful trip”, says Anette. “It turned out that my newfound relative's mother and grandmother had carefully documented their lives. There were over 100 years of well-written life history, which I could copy and take home to continue my genealogy. And I found a picture of my grandmother's grandfather's sister!”
Several in the Inlands Släktforskarförening, of which Anette is a member, have fascinating American stories because the county has such a large group of emigrants. One of the genealogists once invited both her American and Swedish relatives to a huge family reunion. As many as 99 people gathered and sang the Swedish national anthem before there was a party in the old homestead.
Ursula Krause, a genealogist at Ancestry, is from Germany herself, and has ancestors who emigrated from Germany to the United States three generations ago.
“I could find information about how they died and where they were buried. But above all, it was as if I got to know them”, says Ursula. “Relatives, whose names I have not even known before, become people of flesh and blood.”
It is this experience that is one of the major contributing reasons why the interest in genealogy has grown worldwide where curiosity about one's family history is the start. In 2020, the number of members signing up to Ancestry increased by 75% compared to 2019, as genealogy is a perfect home activity during the pandemic. Today, thanks to the digital databases, you do not even have to leave the couch to find out where the family's answers to Karl-Oskar and Kristina went. Most of the information can be easily found online through the genealogy companies.
* Älvsborgs län and Göteborg & Bohuslän: