Posted in Genealogy 101

Guest Blogger – Annika with Find A Swede

I love connecting with other genealogist and family history fans through social media. That is how I met Annika. She is a Swedish genealogist and the owner of Find a Swede. Annika lives a stone’s throw from the harbor where one million Swedes emigrated between 1850 and 1910.

While I haven’t found my Swedish ancestor just that, I love learning about Swedish history and how to do Swedish genealogy. That is why I was so excited when Annika offered to do a guest post all about Swedish Genealogy! Below, she explains just how to get started. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did and make sure to go follow her on Instagram: @FindASwede

How to trace your lineage in Sweden
It’s easy to access historical records in Sweden. The earliest resident registrations are from the 17th century. There are even taxation registers from the 16th century. But, you may have to change your approach when you trace your lineage in Sweden. You are not likely to find a Facebook group for your Johansson family. In fact, your ancestor’s surname may not help you much at all. Before the 20th century most Swedes did not have regular surnames. They existed mainly among some professionals like priests, soldiers, or craftsmen. But these last names could just as well be personal names and not family names. Most Swedes went by a patronymic. The son of Johan had the last name Johan’s son – Johansson. The female version was Johan’s daughter – Johansdotter. This way you will find different last names in the same family. You will also have people who are not related sharing a last name. So it’s not meaningful to search for the Johansson lineage.
The use of patronymics ended in 1901. The naming becomes less confusing after that. But the names are still not useful for tracing your family history in the 19th century.

So what do you do?

Think like a real estate agent. Location, location, location. Instead of searching for your Johansson lineage, think of them as your ancestors from Sandvik Parish, Jönköping County. It will make everything easier. The name of the parish is usually the most important thing to know. Most of the records are organized that way. Some parish
names exist in more than one county. So to know the parish, you may also have to know the county. As family historians we often share our work with other genealogist or online. Be careful to include the birth and death parishes in your family tree. Only listing the names of your ancestors is not going to be useful for anyone else. If you add the
location, the chances of making a meaningful connection will multiply. There are many local history groups for different regions on Facebook. Some of them are specifically for local family history. The groups are often based on the province (landskap) or the nearest city. Some of the groups even have English names. But it’s usually fine to write in English in the Swedish speaking groups as well. If you don’t know the birth location of your ancestor, I have a blog post with useful statistics. Where Did My Swedish Ancestor Come From? Other great tools are

So to reiterate, when you trace your Swedish ancestors you want to focus on the home parish. Location, location, location. That’s the Swedish approach to genealogy.
If you want to start researching your Swedish ancestors, I have a free guide on how to take the first steps.

Have fun tracing your Swedish ancestors! There’s so much information out there. You may even feel like you get to know them.


Annika, the owner of Find A Swede

If you would like to be a guest blogger on my site, send me an email to

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 Live: Episode 1 Recap

In case you missed it, last night was episode one of my new series, Genealogy 101 Live. I talked about how I got started in genealogy and what it looks like to do this professionally.  I also touched on what you should do if you are wanting to get started on your family history journey.

I announced the topic for my next episode which will be all about Census records.  While I’ll mainly be focusing on United States census records, I’ll touch briefly on other census records from other countries (i.e. Ireland).  Make sure you’re following me on Instagram where I’ll announce when the next episode will go live!  I’d love to have you join me!

Another reason to follow me on Instagram is that I will be doing a giveaway when I hit 1,000 followers!  If you’re already following me, thank you!  It means the world to me!  If not, give me a follow.  All who are following me when I hit the 1,000 mark will be entered to win a genealogy surprise!

Here are a few links to things that I talked about last night:

Board for Certification of Genealogists

Research Charts and Forms

Sample Interview Questions


Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 Live

New Live series starts tonight over on my Instagram page!  Tonight (May 2nd) at 7pm (central) I’ll start off the series by talking about how I got started in genealogy and why you should care about your family history.  I’ll share with you some tips that I used when first getting started!  This will be a regular event and tonight I’ll share with you what the next topic will be!  I will try my best to answer any questions that you have.  If you have one now, share it in the comments or send me an email:

Cool Girl Genealogy on Instagram

I hope to see y’all there!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Never Forget

When I woke up this morning, I knew I had to say something.  Every year on the anniversary, I relive that day.  I can remember every detail as if it was yesterday.  Sometimes when you have memories like that, you cannot help but talk about it.

As I was debating with myself on if I should post something on my site, or just save it for my own personal social media, a tiny voice in my head kept saying, “this is your history…own it”.  It is funny how as genealogists we become so focused on the past as it pertains to our ancestors, that we forget about our own history. We are so wrapped up in the names, dates, and brick walls of our research that we fail to take stock of our own history.  Our lives are so busy that it is hard to take the time to reflect and record all the things we have been through.

So today, take the time to write down your history.  I am not suggesting you do it all in one sitting, but get a journal and start writing.  Some things will be difficult to write about while others will bring a smile to your face.  The important thing to remember is that someday, someone is going to want to know about you.  They are going to want to know more than just the dates on vital records or a picture found in an old box.  Just like you crave to know your ancestors, someone will crave to know you.

With that said, I would love to share where I was and what I experienced on that 11th day of September 17 years ago.  I was a senior at Middle Tennessee State University (Go Blue Raiders!) and majoring in mass communications. I got up and got ready for class just like every other day.  Before I left my room, I jumped on my computer to check my email.  My mom called just like she did every morning but this time there was something different in her voice. “Have you seen what’s happening?” she asked.  “No,” I replied, “I have the TV on but I haven’t been watching it.”  As I slowly came to the realization of what was happening, I remember my whole self going numb.  I do not remember much about the rest of the conversation with my mom, but I do remember asking her if I should go to class.  At that moment, I just needed something normal. I hung up with her and promised to keep in touch all day.

As I walked to class that morning, I remember being in a fog.  I arrived to an eerily quiet Mass Comm building.  The Mass Comm building was usually bright and full of life, but at that moment, it was the exact opposite.  I do not remember what class I had that day, but I remember everything about that classroom.   The room was packed full and the professor had the news showing on the giant projection screen.  Nobody said a thing although a few people were crying.  I did not stay long.  Although I was surrounded by people, I had never felt so alone.

I left the Mass Comm building and went back to my dorm building.  All the sororities had their chapter rooms in that same building, so I went looking for some friendly faces.  Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who had that idea.  Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day, so I spent most of my time in our chapter room.  My fellow sisters came and went throughout the day.  Sometimes we would sit in silence while other times we tried to figure out just what was happening.  The only thing we all agreed on was that none of this seemed real.

The following week went by in a haze.  I was a Resident Assistant in the freshman dorm, so a lot of my time was checking on my residents. The campus remained pretty quiet the rest of the week.  Students seemed to be just focused on getting to class. There were no planes in the sky, not even the smaller ones that aerospace students used.  I’m not sure when things got back to the new “normal”.  Eventually we all got back up, gave a helping hand where we could, and continued on with our lives.  What I do know, is that none of our lives were ever the same.

Posted in Genealogy 101

Take Notes

So today’s tip is coming from a personal preference…something that I started doing and have found helpful.  I hope you find it helpful too!

If you are like me, when you do research you tend to take notes on anything and everything.  Then when you go to input the information you’ve found, you have no idea where all your notes are.  I’ve developed a system to try to keep track of my information.


It all started at Target (because really, what great stories don’t start at Target?!) where I found the notebooks pictured above.  They are about $6 a piece, but they are just the right size to fit into my research bag and/or to take into a research area where you can only take a spiral notebook. So…because I’m at Target…I bought a bunch of them!  (Don’t judge)


I didn’t really have a plan of what to do with these notebooks until I started taking notes.  Then the light bulb when off!  What if I used one notebook per surname?  Then I would know that everything in that one book would deal with one particular line.  Bingo!

So…that’s what I do.  I have one notebook per surname that I’m researching.  I do carry around post-it notes in case I need to make notes about another surname.  Then, when I have the chance I enter the information into my family tree everything I need is right at my fingertips.  I do use those tabs to mark where I left off as far as where I’ve entered information because sometimes I just can’t enter it all in one sitting.


Who knew that Target would bring a genealogical revelation?!


Posted in Genealogy 101

Hanging Out With The Cool Kids In The Irish DNA Group

If you’ve ever searched for genealogy groups on Facebook you know there are oodles of them.  It seems that every area of the world has their own page designated to their specific area.  Some are awesome…and some are not…but I’m here to tell you about some cool kids that I’ve met.

I stumbled on the Irish DNA Group by accident.  I had hit a brick wall while researching my Grandfather’s family and was desperate to find a crack in the wall.  I did a search and found the Irish DNA Group.  I quickly read through the “about” section and realized this could be what I’ve been looking for!

The purpose of the Irish DNA Group is assist those with potential Irish DNA.  To connect users with possible cousins and others who are doing research in a given area of Ireland.  To get started, all you need is to have taken a DNA test and have uploaded that DNA to GedMatch.  When you click join, you will answer a short questionnaire.  Once approved by the moderators, you will be then able to run Matchbox Tool.  This is where you will find your matches.  Matches are pulled from other members of the Irish DNA Group.

Below is an example of some of my matches…


You will find that just because you match some in the Irish DNA Group, it does not necessarily mean that you share Irish ancestry.  I was able to connect with a cousin where both of our ancestors were from Tennessee.  The great thing about DNA is that you never know what you’ll find!

Go and check out the Irish DNA Group.  They have a ton of information on how to get started and what to do with your results.  You can find a link to the group below!

The Irish DNA Group

Posted in Genealogy 101

What Is GedMatch and How Do I Use It?

If you’ve been around Genealogy DNA for a bit, you’ve more than likely heard of the site GedMatch.  GedMatch is a great (and free!) tool you can use to dive deeper into your DNA results. In simple terms, GedMatch is a catch-all for all DNA testers.  No matter the test (with some exceptions) you can find all your DNA matches in one place. In today’s post, I’m going to go into the basics of GedMatch and how you can benefit from using it.

Step One: Upload Your DNA


The first step in using GedMatch is uploading your Raw DNA file.  To find this file, you will need to go to the site of the kit that you used.  For example, if you took the AncestryDNA test, the Raw DNA download can be found under “settings” on your DNA results page.  Once downloaded, you can upload this file to GedMatch.

Step Two: Get Your GedMatch Number


Once your Raw DNA is uploaded, you will receive a GedMatch number (you can see mine in the above picture).  This number will be what you use to run your matches, compare your DNA to specific matches, and as a reference when contacting your matches.  If you notice, my number starts with the letter “A”.  This is in reference in what company I used to take my DNA test.  You will find that GedMatch numbers that start with an “A” used AncestyDNA, “M” is for 23andMe, and “T” is for FamilyTreeDNA.  This will help direct you on where to possibly find a family tree that your match may have posted.

Step Three: Run the “One to Many” Report

Capture2.PNG The “One-to-Many” report will give you all the users that you match on GedMatch.  This can be an unbelievably large number of matches!


This report will give you all the information you need on comparing matches and how to contact the matches (I’ve blacked out names on my results).  The above picture just shows a snippet of my matches.  Believe me the list goes on and on.

What do you do with these matches?  If you find a match that shares a common surname that either you have, or that you’re researching, you can contact that match and share with them what you are researching.  Another option is to select a few matches, run a comparison, and see if you can essentially connect the matches.  This is a long process and the key is to be patient!  I’ve been working with DNA for a while and still have no idea how some of my matches fit.  Personally, I’ve found making my own spreadsheet with specific information helps me keep track of everything. (An example of which you can see below.)


There is so much more that GedMatch can do, but I’ll go into more details in a later blog.  I just wanted today to talk about the basics.

If this all sounds like a bunch of gibberish, that’s okay.  I promise the more you use DNA the easier it gets!  Also, if you ever have any questions about how to read matches or what to do with your DNA results, send me an email…I’d love to help you!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Am I On the Maury Show?!

I remember whenever I stayed home sick in high school, I would spend my day on the couch watching daytime television.  One of my favorite guilty pleasures was the Maury Povich show and the best episodes were always the one with paternity tests.  Talk about drama! To a sixteen year old girl, this was television gold.


I blame Maury for skewing my ideals of DNA tests when they were first introduced into genealogy.  I find that my thoughts then are what many are now…

“If I know my parents, why do I need to take a DNA test?”

First, let’s talk about the who of DNA testing.


There are a multitude of genealogy companies who offer DNA testing.  There are too many for me to go into detail here.  The most popular of the DNA tests is AncestryDNA administer by  For that reason, I suggest anyone looking to take a DNA test for the first time to start with the Ancestry test.  Ancestry gives a great overview of your ancestral makeup as well as DNA matches.  Since AncestryDNA is so popular, you have better odds of matching with a long lost cousin.

Other companies who sell DNA tests include 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage.  Each test has it’s pros and cons.  If you’re looking for more information on specific tests, I recommend attending my Facebook DNA online class on Wednesday where I’ll be able to go more in depth about each company.

Next, let’s talk about the what of DNA testing.


What is DNA testing?  Genealogy DNA testing takes your DNA, compares it with other test takers around the world, and with that information, gives your general ethnic makeup as well as potential new family members.  Some DNA tests give you a bit more information.  In particular, 23andMe gives you some medical information.  While 23andMe does not substitute seeing a medical professional, it does give you some indicators of some things you may be more prone to.

There are two ways that companies collect your DNA.  Some test require you to spit in a tube.  Other companies have you scrape the inside of your cheek.  Either way that the DNA is collected, it is all used for the same purpose…to open the gateway to your past.

Lastly, let’s talk about the safety of DNA testing.


After being asked which DNA test to take, safety is usually the second question I get.  Is DNA testing safe….yes.  All companies have a disclosure of how they use your information.  This information is included with your DNA testing kit.  I know there has been some issues lately with DNA testing being used to crack cold cases.  While this is still relatively new, the ability to use your DNA for these purposes is covered in the disclosure by the company.

DNA is complicated, that is a fact, but is also a fascinating journey.  It has many twists and turns but if you’re patient it can unleash a wealth of information.


Posted in Genealogy 101

TSLA and DocsBox

I love finding programs that bring history to life and the Tennessee State Library and Archives has just the thing to help.  The TSLA has a new program called DocsBox.  There are several boxes ranging from the Civil War to Vietnam.  All the boxes include specialized lesson plans focused on the specific topic from a Tennessee perspective!  Not only are teachers given a lesson plan, but also unique items to really bring history to life.

You can find the details of the boxes, and how to reserve a box for your classroom by clicking the link below.  I know if I was still in school, I would have loved these boxes!

Tennessee State Library and Archives DocsBox