While researching a family story about brothers who emigrated from Sweden, genealogists on Facebook were the ones who helped me the most.
My great-grandfather Herman Peterson was born in Sweden and lived in Princeton, Illinois after he came to America. As the story goes, Herman had a brother who emigrated with him from Sweden; one or both of the brothers wanted to avoid the military. I was curious about this brother. Who was he and what was his story?
I had already found Herman Peterson’s name on a ship’s passenger list, but no relative was listed with him. I decided to go back to the Swedish records using ArkivDigital at the library and see if I could find any more about the brother.
Herman grew up with three brothers (Anders, Magnus, and Alfred) and three sisters (Bengta, Maria and Elin) in Sweden.
I looked at Anders and followed him starting in 1895 when he left his family and began working on farms throughout the area. In 1898 he moved into Trelleborg, a largish city. On his household record there I found a cryptic notation that read “117 4/89” in a column labeled “Värapligtsförhållande.”
I knew the key to Anders’ next move was in that notation, but what did it mean? Google could not translate this word. Where could I find an expert on Swedish genealogy to help me with this puzzle?
I turned to Facebook. I follow the Swedish American Genealogy group on Facebook, so I posted my question there. Maybe someone would know what those numbers mean.
Within 10 minutes someone did indeed answer, with more information than I knew what to do with. I was informed that 117 was Anders’ conscription number in conscription area 4 in the year 1898.
Aha! Here was the military part of the story. I tried to find more about Anders in the military records on ArkivDigital but the 1890s are not covered well and there were no records for 1898. I reasoned that Anders must have left around this time, so I checked in the Moving Out records for Trelleborg. Bingo! There was Anders, with his conscription circumstance 117 4/98, moving to N. America on 22 December 1899.
Armed with that information, I was able to find Anders on an abstract of a Swedish emigration list and then on a passenger list in March of 1900. His final destination was “Princeton, IL.” (Don’t be confused by the fact that Anders is listed as Hanson instead of Peterson. This is because of Swedish naming conventions, which I will try to address in a future blog)
So much has been written about the drawbacks of social media, but my experience shows that it has real value for genealogists. People I will probably never meet have furthered my genealogy research and helped me over a bumpy spot. Not only did I learn about the military conscription circumstance, but someone else posted later with a link to the genealogy site of Hans Högman and his excellent explanation of Swedish military research.
If you are on Facebook I would highly recommend connecting with genealogy groups researching in your places of origin, whether it be in Europe or in the United States. Local genealogy societies have Facebook pages, too, and are a great place to connect to the people who know that area well. Facebook is an underused tool for your genealogy toolbox!