The Search for Ancestors: A Swedish-American Family Saga
by H. Arnold Barton
Southern Illinois University Press, 1979
eISBN: 978-0-8093-8115-9 | Cloth: 978-0-8093-0893-4
Library of Congress Classification CS71.S97761979
Dewey Decimal Classification 929.20973


A metaphor for the Swedish migration to America in the mid-nineteenth century, the Sven Svensson family, traced here by historian H. Arnold Barton, a descendant, provides a model for genealogical research with which all persons inter­ested in ancestors can identify and from which anyone can learn.

The field of migration history has taken on new importance as a result of accelerating interest in ethnicity and genealogical research. Though a family history, and in a sense an inner voyage of self-discovery, the search for ancestors told here reveals the broader contours of Swedish and American history in the nineteenth century.

The Search for Ancestors is a microanal­ysis of those social, economic, and cultural developments that led to the grad­ual breakup of an ancient way of life in the Swedish countryside and the migra­tion of growing numbers of Swedish peasants across the Atlantic to America.

Barton’s personal odyssey took him to Gowrie, Iowa, the heart of Swedish America, and to the province of Småland in southern Sweden. Research in the Swedish Statistical Central Bureau in Stockholm, contacts with emigration historians in Stockholm, and search in Swedish provincial and national ar­chives, finally gave him the impressive mass of information and statistical data with which to chart his family’s history—over four centuries, back to the 1530s.

A kind of “history with the works showing” or do-it-yourself genealogical kit, the book will be fascinating as well as informative for general readers as well as students of history.

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