Sunday, September 18, 2011

Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

I highly recommend an archive called the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center. It is located in Rock Island, Illinois, near the Mississippi River. The Swenson Center can be found in the former Denkman Memorial  Library on the campus of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

Here is their genealogy page which tells about "some" holdings and also has links leading to some other holdings.

Swenson Center Genealogy Page

This tells about their Research Services.

Research Services

They have translation services.

Translation Services

There are microfilmed newspapers. These newspapers can be borrowed through interlibrary loan, but their other materials cannot be borrowed.

Swedish American Newspapers

There are church records.

Swedish American Church Records

There are lodge records.

Lodge Records

You can visit, for a fee, and use the Swedish subscription services SVAR and Arkiv Digital to research in the parish records.

SVAR and ArkivDigital Records At the Swenson Center

They have far more than I can list in this blog to help with our research, but here is something which they have digitalized and you can enjoy. There are some digital projects, including some digitalized old issues of the fantastic journal "Swedish American Genealogist".

Digital Projects

The Swenson Center is inside this building at the front of this old postcard.

Once you are inside the building, this is the door you enter to start your research at the Swenson Center.

This is a partial view inside the Swenson Center.

The Swenson Center's extensive collection of records is NOT online. We need to go there to research or pay them to research for us. They have records which are difficult or even impossible to find elsewhere. Many of us have found the parish of birth there, if they were a member of a Swedish American church. A surprising number were not. The records often indicate that someone was suspended for non-payment of dues. Perhaps joining was a luxury that newly arrived immigrants could not afford. However, there are plenty of member records, arranged in family groupings. In my experience the records for the Lutheran churches are much the same as the ones in Sweden, and the Swedish Covenant Church records are also quite detailed for membership records.

Here is an example of a membership listing from a Lutheran church which I found at the Swenson Center. (My farmors [father's mother's] brother was Johan Ernst Ferdinand Eckman, who is listed with his family at the bottom of this record.)

Left side:

Right side:

Even non-members had baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals recorded in the church records and much of what I know about my family in the U.S. comes from those records. The records mostly exist until about 1930, but I have found records in one church which went well into the 1960s.

 Here is an example of a Lutheran Church baptism record found at the Swenson Center. Lester Ernest Ferdinand Ekman was the nephew of my farmor = father's mother, so he was my father's first cousin.

Left side:

 Right side:

Here is an example of a confirmation record from a Lutheran Church. I found this record at the Swenson Center.  Alfreda Olson was the daughter of my farfar's brother (father's father's brother), so she was my dad's first cousin.

Here is an example of a marriage record from a Lutheran Church which I found at the Swenson Center. This shows the marriage of my farmors (father's mother's) sister Ulrika Matilda Theresa Eckman [written as Mathilda T. Eckman here] to Gustaf Herbert Johnson.

Here is an example of a funeral record from a Lutheran church which was found at the Swenson Center. This is one of the few records with information later than 1930. My farmor (father's mother) was Mrs. Signe Olson.

I have also found obituaries and more using the microfilmed Swedish American newspapers at the Swenson Center. Those records actually can be ordered through inter-library loan. They are in Swedish but it is not hard to pick out names, dates, and locations. You can always scan the obituary and ask for help translating it. I have also found information about births, marriages, and deaths, even from other parts of the country. There also will be listings with information about people in Sweden.

 Here is an example of a burial notice found in a Swedish American newspaper. This is for Gustaf Herbert Johnson, brother-in-law of my farmor. (father's mother). The English language obituary did NOT name the pallbearers but this did.

 The newspapers also have other information, such as these lodge notices after the death of Johan Ulrik Ekman, father of my farmor (father's mother).

If you can't get to the Swenson Center, they do research, for a fee. If you can research there, be sure to make an appointment.

The Swenson Center sponsors the Swedish American Genealogist Workshop (SAG Workshop) each fall at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Many people go every year. If you are interested in information about next year's workshop , contact Jill at the Swenson Center.

This year's workshop starts today. (It is sold out.)



  1. Thanks for sharing such an interesting information.

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  3. So interesting! This will be incredibly instrumental in my search for piecing together my paternal family. Thank you for this valuable resource!

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