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Finding the Treasure in Having a Humble Scandinavian Family

Weep not. A series of unfortunate events may can make it easier for you to confirm family relationships, especially in those parishes that were burned in early years before censuses were taken regularly.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Mindy Lunt
Word Count: 540 (approx.)
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So you have a family from one of the Scandinavian countries and they are some of the poor lower class farmers. They did not own their own land, but worked as a renter on an overlord's property. The man's wife died early, leaving him to care for the children, and he may have married again only to be left a widower soon after. You have been able to follow most of their children through life events, but some of them were born before the time parish registers begin, and you don't know how you are going to fill in the holes. Others of the children may have married but were unable to have children of their own. You are thinking that maybe it's time to leave the Scandinavian research for a while and work on a line that appears less challenging. Instead of thinking this, consider how their circumstances can make it easier for you to confirm family relationships, especially in those parishes that were burned in early years before censuses were taken regularly.

One reason you should be glad for such a family is that even renters left land records behind. When a renter died, his children were the first in line to be able to take over the responsibility to the overlord. As children took up where their parents left off, land records were created that can help connect children to parents.

Another record type that is often overlooked but may prove helpful is that of very early censuses. Although they were not as detailed as those we see in more recent times, they still hold valuable information. They may include only heads of household, but that may be just enough to determine where the family is located. Some even include listings of widowers, how long they have been without a spouse, and other details in regard to their married lives. They usually also include ages, which are always helpful in determining the correct ancestor amid the list of patronymic names on the page.

What a sad life it would have been for that couple who had married and not had children. It was important for couples to have children in that timeā€”it meant there was someone to take care of the parents and to take over the responsibilities when they were gone. Well, for those without be extra grateful, because that usually means that you will find really great probates for the husband and wife.

Normally, the probate was mainly to determine guardianship of children, but even if there were no children in the marriage, the probate was still needed to distribute property. The surviving spouse only received part of the possessions. In Denmark the widower received 50 percent, whereas the widow would receive only 30 percent. The rest was divided among their children. This means that if there were no children among whome to divide the remaining possessions, they would go to extended family, usually siblings and their children if they were deceased. This type of probate is definitely a gold mine of information, especially because family relationships were usually given.

You may find yourself feeling discouraged at the plight of your poor ancestors, but remember that with their lowly circumstances they also left "treasure" of a different kind behind for you.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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