How to Ask for Help when Researching your Swedish Genealogy

Genealogy can be a tricky game from start to finish (well, there’s never a “finish” – hah!). You may need to learn some new skills, how to navigate tricky sources, and how to read very convoluted old handwriting. With all of this under your belt, you will be sure to get stuck at some point – you’ll need help!

Where to Go For Help Online

The website of the Swedish Genealogical Society has a discussion forum called Anbytarforum.  Under the heading Discussions in English, users can post questions in English. The better way to use Anbytarforum is, however, to post your question under the appropriate geographical category heading (don’t worry so much about the language, most people can respond with a minimum of rudimentary English). For instance, if you’re researching the parish of Bollebygd, then navigate to Landskap > Västergötland > Bollebygd and post your question there. A “landskap” is the largest administrative geographical division in Sweden.

Anbytarforum has been the go-to place for almost two decades, however in recent times, it has been overtaken in popularity and immediacy by Facebook Groups. Notable among these are Släktforskning and the Swedish American Genealogy Group. Of these, the latter is specifically concerned with helping non-Swedish speakers, whereas the former is targeted mostly to natives.  The journal Svensk Genealogisk Tidskrift (by the Genealogical Association) also has a Facebook group which welcomes queries. The advantage with these is that a response is oftentimes more rapid. Most of the time, accurate and well-cited answers are forthcoming, but as with all secondary research, you should double-check it yourself.

Just remember that The quality of answers are oftentimes reflective of the quality of the question.

How to Ask for Help

  1. Be specific.  The more details you have about what you want help with the better.  General questions, such as “Who were the parents of Sven Svensson?” are likely to be met with more questions back.  Instead, include all you know about the person already, e.g. “Who were the parents of Sven Svensson who was born around 1845-1847, probably in Mollösund parish (co. Göteborg och Bohus), emigrated to America in 1877, arriving at Ellis Island on the 1 April.”  and so on.  You get the idea.  If you don’t have much information about the person at hand, then include other contextual evidence, such as details of other family and children.
  2. Don’t ask for too much.  People answering questions in fora are volunteers who answer questions to be nice.  Asking someone to research a person or family fully for you, translate long documents (more than a couple of sentences), or spend more than 15 or 20 minutes on your query is unlikely to receive a response.
  3. Ask for a hint, tip, or small specific fact. Questions about where to look for more information, or how you can approach a particular problem are more likely to be well met.  Equally popular are specific questions that are easy for someone with experience to solve (but remember §1!). Let the volunteers help you help yourself, rather than hope that they’re going to do the work for you. Besides, where’s the fun in that!?
  4. Ask each question once and once only.  Asking the same question twice can be interpreted as if you haven’t bothered reading the responses or following the instructions given (if any). It also suggests that you think you didn’t get what you wanted and that the people that responded weren’t good enough for you. Instead, try to solve the issue with the clues you’ve been given, and ask another question that takes into account the updated status of the research. This should include any additional information you received when you last asked, and a reference to your previous post so that people know that you still need assistance.
  5. Be polite and say “please” and “thank you”. You don’t need to gush, but a simple thumbs up, or a thank you comment is always appreciated.

Professional Help

A final option would be to seek out a genealogical professional to help you. This may be the best solution if what you’re looking for is more involved. Examples include translating entire probate or court records, researching a family in extenso, or trawling through Household Examination books. As with any other form of help, make sure to be specific and remember to have a clearly defined goal.

What’s your experience from asking for help with your research?  Did you get what you needed or were you left hanging?  Share your experience in the comments below!

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