Everyone is Related

Staffan Simonsson has occupied the “end” of one branch of my family for quite a while.  I had searched the earliest available clerical survey microfilms (hereafter called HFL for the Swedish term husförhörslängder) for Ramsberg (T) parish where Staffan was found, without finding a Simon who might have been his father.  I also searched the birth, marriage, death (BMD) films without results.

I did find an Erich Simonsson in Ramsberg and proceeded to gather the information on his family on the odds that he was Staffan’s brother, but no other Simonssons or dotters.  It seemed reasonable that the Simonsson families came from another parish, but I didn’t hold much hope of finding the connection.

I maintain a subscription to DISBYT, an on-line database consisting of the combined GEDCOM files of a large number of genealogists, primarily Swedish, but with a number of Americans as well.  I’ve submitted my GEDCOM twice and each time have received a report noting lots of parallel research by other members.  However, time goes on and more people submit more data, so periodically I check “ends” of branches against the database.

A check for “Simonsson” turned up a posting by Gunnar Gran.  Although the information was sketchy, careful comparison showed that his Staffan looked very much like mine.  His Staffan came from Skinnskatteberg (T) (hereafter Skb) with a father Simon Ryss and a mother Anna Olofsdotter.

Turns out that I had one HFL and one BMD microfilm from Skb, ordered 7/02 for another search, and they happened to be the correct timeframes, so I began looking for corroborating data.  The Skb HFL did not have an index of farms, or even page numbers, so it required a linear search.  Sure enough, I soon found Simon, Anna, and Staffan all on one page early in the HFL.  They were residents of Tackbyn farm.

I now felt good enough about the connection to invest some significant time in the project.  I began a search of the BMD for the appropriate time frame, looking for the births and deaths noted in Gunnar’s data.  I found Simon’s death.  He died in 1680 at 90 years old.  Then I found Anna’s death in 1697.  It was a large paragraph of barely decipherable handwritten text, but I could make out that she was born in 1589 and died in 1697 at 108 years old!

The BMD microfilm was in negative format and a printed copy was really light, but it was the best I could get.  I took it home, enhanced it, enlarged it, and started deciphering the text.  It became obvious that I needed serious help.  The spelling of many of the words I was digging out didn’t make sense in any language.  Gunnar volunteered to help.

Over a period of about a month, Gunnar studied the copy and gradually converted the ancient Swedish to modern Swedish and let me know the results.  I ran the modern Swedish through a Swedish to English translator, used dictionaries for words not translated, and finally got the gist of the obituary.  I composed a draft of an English translation attempting to maintain the general flavor of the original Swedish.  With Gunnar’s commentary, after several iterations we arrived at a mutually acceptable final cut.  This is Anna Olofsdotter’s obituary:

“Wife Anna Olofsdotter from Tackbyn, born in Södermanland of honorable parents, in Julita socken year 1589. Came immediately to baptism and Christianity.  Knew the main tenets of Christianity by heart.  Followed her dear parents who were from Finland to this parish (Skinnskatteberg).  They were among the founders of Tackbyn and she remained there until her death.  When she reached adulthood she married the late Simon Andersson Ryss.  They lived together a long time and had 7 children, 6 sons and 1 daughter of which 2 sons and the daughter are now dead.  She was always religious, honest and well-behaved and had a strong constitution, so she was seldom sick.  In fact it is said no more than the 3 days before her death and departure which occurred this year when she had lived 108 years.”

While we were iterating on Anna’s obit, I continued searching the BMD for Simon and Staffan and their patronymics, and for any mention of Tackbyn farm.  I found several births and deaths to children of my Staffan and also his brothers, a marriage for one of Staffan’s brothers, and lots of references to an Erich Andersson, a neighbor on Tackbyn.

In this timeframe and in this parish, the clerks (bless them) recorded witnesses to Christenings.  They even went so far as to indicate relationships (father’s brother, mother’s sister, etc.).  Use of this information clearly defined the family of Simon and Anna!  Witness data also clearly indicated at least a strong friendship with the Tackbyn neighbor Erich Andersson.

So now we’ve identified my Staffan’s father, mother and siblings, as well as where they came from.  We have also noted the births and sometimes deaths of Staffan’s children prior to the family’s move to Ramsberg.  We should be satisfied and quit, right?  Well, I guess if we were sane we would, but I’m hooked on genealogy.

Just for kicks, I did a Google search for Tackbyn farm in Skinnskatteberg.  I didn’t find any references to Simon or his patronymics, but I did find data on Erich Andersson and his wife Elisabet Henriksdotter, the friends and neighbors of Simon, Anna, and Staffan.  I followed it up without great enthusiasm, since they weren’t relatives, but something kept me going.

The reference found was a family tree with numbered entries for each person.  I easily found Eric and Elisabet with a “Find on this page” of Tackbyn.  I also found Eric’s father and mother the same way.  The next numbered entry after Eric’s mother was Elisabet’s father Henrik Werre from a different farm, parish, and county.  I wouldn’t have found him with the “Find” and I might not have pursued him if he hadn’t been the very next entry.  But I did find him and I did recognize him.

Henrik Werre was one of my 9th AND10th great grandfathers.  His son Pål was an 8th great and his son Per was a 9th great.  Pål and Per’s sister Elisabet was a multiple great aunt of mine living on the same farm with other 7th and 8th greats of mine!

How amazing is this?  Well, the Henrik, Pål and Per bloodlines (Elisabet’s father and brothers) and the Simon, Anna and Staffan bloodline (Elisabet’s Tackbyn neighbors) didn’t merge on my tree until my grandfather was born some 175 years later.

…A few days, maybe weeks go by……….

I had one more branch “end” who originated in Skb to investigate.  According to her death record, she was born in Kallmora, Skb.  I found her birth record and the names of her parents, and confirmed the finding in the HFL.  Her father has so far eluded me and has become a new “end”.  However, her mother turns out to be from the old, familiar, Tackbyn.  In fact, her mother’s father was Lars Erichsson, son of Erich Andersson!

So what does all this mean?  Well, Henrik Werre was the father of Pål, Per, and Elisabet, EACH of whose descendents eventually merged 175 years later in my grandfather!  And Tackbyn was the home of Simon Ryss, Anna Olofsdotter, Staffan Simonsson, Erich Andersson, Elisabeth Henriksdotter, and Lars Erichsson.  That’s four of my 8th great grandparents and two 7th greats!

  Who knows what another few weeks might bring.