How do I find the place of origin of an ancestor whose birthplace is listed only as "Sweden"?
My grandfather Carl August Petersson (he later went by Charles) was born in 1863 in Sweden, and died in America in 1927. I've spent years searching unsuccessfully for his birth parish. He came immigrated around the mid-1800's and spent most of his life in northern California. Records I've found list his birthplace as only "Sweden."
A. Have you tried church records? David Fryxell, who wrote our guide to Swedish research in the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine, says many Swedish-American churches kept records as thorough as those of their counterparts in Sweden. The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center has a broad church records collection, including several in California. The Swenson center is in Illinois, but you can request a $25-per-hour search by a staff member.
Search for Carl in immigration records (such as those for New York City arrivals indexed at CastleGarden.org) and check the book Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States, 1820-1850 by Nils William Olsson (Schmidts Boktryckeri AB). Look for it at large genealogy libraries including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Since you don't know Carl's parish, Fryxell recommends a searchable CD such as Emibas, compiled from Swedish church records (the CD is out of production, but you can look for it used or search the data on subscription site Emiweb).
The subscription database SVAR (click "In English") as well as Swedish databases on Ancestry.com (which include the former Genline records), offer digitized Swedish church records. Both sites offer a variety of subscription options.
More Swedish genealogy resources from Family Tree Magazine: