Nils Johan Sundberg’s date of birth

A few days ago I got an email from someone asking about a mutual ancestor, Joseph Tornander. She sent me a portion of her pedigree chart showing her connection to him and his wife. Naturally, I wanted to add those relations to my own tree, so I started doing so. Two of them are Anna Amalia Almqvist, granddaughter of Joseph Tornander, and her husband Nils Johan Sundberg.

But I quickly came on a discrepancy. On his death record, the date of birth for Nils Johan Sundberg is listed as 14 Aug 1848. But I could find no record of his birth that matched that. Most of the online trees that include Nils Johan indicate he was born in Nederluleå parish or Överluleå parish. Neither of those has a record for a Nils Johan born on that date. Now, Sweden is a big country, so there are lots of places he could be from and possibly one of them has a matching record. But it is pretty likely that Nils Johan was born somewhere in Norrbotten. So I dug a little deeper.

There was a birth record for 21 Feb 1948 in Överluleå for a Nils Johan, born to an unmarried Greta Stina Johansdotter. And one person had an online tree that matched that. My gut feeling was this was the correct date of birth, but I need evidence for it.

To find the truth, I started with the marriage record for Nils Johan and Anna Amalia, the one record I knew referred to both people correctly. It only listed the year of birth for each. Nils Johan’s was 1848. Then I looked at the husförhör record for Nils and Anna immediately after their marriage. It also gave a birth date for Nils Johan of 14 Aug 1848. Each husförhör record includes a reference to the previous record for that person. So I created a table, and started tracing backward in time, record by record.

As an unmarried farmhand, Nils Johan moved quite frequently, but it only took going back a few years. The record for him from 1 Nov 1871 to 5 Oct 1872 has his date of birth as 21 Feb 1848, which matches up with the birth record in Överluleå. Still not solid enough to call it good, but enough to know I was on the right track. Continuing to trace back, Nils Johan appears in a record covering 1855 to 1869, with a birth date of 21 Feb 1848, in a family with parents Olof Gustaf Nordström and Margareta Christina Johansdotter. Greta Stina Johansdotter. There is a strong likelihood this is the same Nils Johan Sundberg, now living in a family with his mother and step-father.

I continued tracing backward. The first appearance of Nils Johan Sundberg in Piteå parish is in 1855 in the family with Olof Gustaf and Greta Stina. He’s listed as having joined the household in 1855. His mother joined the household in 1853. Both from Nederluleå parish. It doesn’t say where in Nederluleå for either, and there are many places they could have lived in Nederluleå.

In addition to tracing backward, I also traced Nils Johan forward from the birth record. However, shortly after his birth, Nils Johan and his mother are listed as moving from Överluleå to Piteå parish. It doesn’t say where, and there are a lot of villages they could have moved to.

Date Date End Place Birth date Record Citation
1848-02-21 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Födelsebok Överluleå C:1 (1831-1855) Image 178 / page 174
1848-02-21 1849 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Husförhör Överluleå AI:2a (1841-1848) Image 218 / page 206
1849 1850 Harads Överluleå 1848-02-21 Husförhör Överluleå AI:3a (1849-1858) Image 222 / page 208
The record in the next row is for Greta Stina Johansdotter; Nils Johan does not appear.
1853-09-17 Rosvik Piteå lfs. Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:8a (1844-1853) Image 58 / page 54
1855-11-25 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:9a (1854-1861) Image 66 / page 60
1869-11-15 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:10a (1862-1870) Image 72 / page 63
1869-11-15 Hälleström Piteå lfs 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:10e (1862-1870) Image 199 / page 1378
1871-11-01 Hälleström Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11e (1871-1879) Image 247 / page 1328
1871-11-01 1872-10-05 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-02-21 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30
1872-10-05 1873-10-04 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 28 / page 19
1873-10-04 1874-10-03 Rosvik Piteå lfs. 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 47 / page 38
1874-10 Piteå lfs 1848 Vigselbok Piteå landsförsamling EI:6 (1861-1879) Image 66
1874-10-03 1877-12-02 Rosvik Piteå lfs 1848-08-14 Husförhör Piteå landsförsamling AI:11f (1871-1879) Image 13 / page 1372
1907-01-18 Luleå 1848-08-14 Dödbok Luleå domkyrkoförsamling F:4 (1901-1923) Image 1170 / page 113

So I have a gap of 5 years for Nils Johan and a 3 year hole for his mother that I should account for in order to complete something that withstands the Genealogical Proof Standard. It’s possible that my Nils Johan son of Margareta Christina Johansdotter is a different person than the one born in Överluleå. I haven’t yet performed a reasonably exhaustive search. Both their names are common enough there could be others.

But I have enough to satisfy me for now. And I absolutely can answer the question as to what Nils Johan’s date of birth is. It is 21 Feb 1848.

Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30
Piteå landsförsamling AI:11a (1871-1879) Image 39 / page 30

And I even have a pretty good idea how the change in date happened. If you look at the attached image for the record that shows him living in Rosvik from 1871 to 1872, you will see the person listed below has a date of birth of 14 Aug 1842. When Nils Johan moved and a new record was created, the religious official who created the new record looked to the old one to fill out the information properly. It looks likely to me that he transcribed the day and month from the person listed below. Every record created after that copied the same, incorrect, birth date until the day he died.

At least, that’s what I suspect happened.

Genealogy starting point number 1

I have a few starting points for my genealogy. This isn’t actually the first starting point, but it’s the first I’m going to write about.

Last year, Gram and Gramps handed a package of papers to me. They wanted to make copies or scan them into the computer. It was a bunch of stuff related to Gram’s family in Sweden. It’s really a mixed bag. Some of it was Gram’s own notes. Some of it was some pedigree trees and family group sheets for the Nordvalls (her mother’s side of the family). One was a poster sized pedigree tree for the Omans (both her mother and father’s side of the family). They gave me some other stuff later on, but that was the start.

This is one of the Nordvall pedigree trees. The other trees continue people from the top of this one. It’s for Johan Anton Nordvall, who was Gram’s uncle. I assume this was prepared for one of his kids or grandkids. These sheets are 1960s or 1970s era photocopies. The paper clip holding them was rusted even. The form is in Swedish, which is not surprising. Gram’s family is from Piteå, in northern Sweden.

The earliest in time these sheets go is around 1460, with Oluff Birkarl. That actually predates the history I have on the Hathaway side of my family, which I already knew about and which goes back to the late 1500s.

But here’s the rub, it may not be correct. How many people claim to be part Indian these days? Many of them aren’t making it up, even if it’s not true. It’s what their parents told them and their grandparents told their parents. Oral history has a way of getting munged. The same could easily be true for all this information, despite the precision of the dates.

In fact, one of these sheets has information I know is incorrect.

This portion of the tree, 10 generations back from me, has Elsa Jonsdotter-Rehn married to Hans Hansson and having a child named Johan Jönsson.

A quick history of Swedish names. Until the 1800s, most Swedes did not have a family surname. A surname in Sweden was a version of your father’s name. If you were the son of Erik, your last name was Eriksson. If you were the daughter of Lars, your last name was Larsdotter. Surnames did not pass multiple generations.

Like English, old Swedish spellings were flexible. I’ve seen Olof spelled multiple different ways. But while spellings were flexible, Johan Jönsson is probably not likely the son of Hans Hansson. Later sources I’ve found indicate that Johan Jönsson was the son of Elsa Jonsdotter Rehn and Jöns Tomasson. The rest of the tree could have similar errors.

In this case, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a case of family legend passed down badly. Rather, it’s probably a problem with someone trying to match children with parents in the records. With the Swedish naming system, there could be a lot of people with the same name, and Hans looked close enough. Or it was a transcription error. When genealogy is done by hand, it can run into many problems similar to family stories getting changed as they pass down.

But I didn’t know all this at the time. Nevertheless, it was a good starting point for what I was doing.