Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Probate by any Other Name

Ancestry has apparently been selling their DNA tests beyond North America, as I've recently seen DNA matches who live in Sweden, Australia and the British Isles. This is a wonderful development for those of us with fairly recent ancestors who lived in other countries.

While messaging with a DNA match in Sweden, a gap in my tree jumped out at me. That gap reminded me of a series of posts where I described how a cousin paid for research in Sweden that was sloppily (or fraudulently) done. Four years ago, I recommended:
  • Never ignore evidence
  • Consider unusual sources for unusual problems
  • Even professionals get it wrong sometimes -- by accident or on purpose
  • When you pay for research, make sure to get lists and/or copies of sources

It was important to me to document the truth for cousins now and in the future who might see a copy of the bad research. This latest review leads me to a new recommendation for my cousins:
  • Throw away that research. It is good only for starting fires and lining bird cages.

One of the lines in this allied family ended at a woman named Brita Larsdotter who was born in 1772. Why did I not have a birth date, a birth parish or parents? The bad researcher had extended her line several generations. What was I missing?

Brita had married Olof Andersson, borne children and died at the young age of 39, all in the parish of Östra Vingåker in Södermanland. The parish records were a bit sparse and there was no indication that she had migrated in from a different parish. Hopefully she had been born in the parish. The first step was to research all girls named Brita who was born in that parish in 1772. If I couldn't identify her, I could search a couple of nearby parishes, but it would certainly not be practical to search the other 2500 parishes!

There were only two girls in the birth records who were named Brita and had a father named Lars. One had a middle name of Cathrina. The other had no middle name recorded. My Brita never appeared in any other record with a middle name. So I followed the other one -- the daughter of Lars Larsson.

Lars and his wife had several children. There was not much common geography between my Brita and the Larsson family. Nor did any of the Larsson children serve as godparents or witnesses at the christening of my Brita's children. When the Larsson family was visited by the minister in about 1790, Brita's name was crossed out with no indication why. Had she moved? Married? Died? If she was my Brita, the timing would have been right for her arrival at the place she met her husband.

I followed Lars Larsson until his death. The next step was to find Lars' probate, the bouppteckning, or estate inventory. It would list all his living children or other heirs. These records are available on ArkivDigital at this time. Unfortunately, finding the file within the bound books can take some time, as there are few indexes and the order is rather random. When I finally found the file, Brita was not listed. Since my Brita was alive at the time, this was the wrong family. The other Brita had indeed died.

It was time to start over and research Brita Cathrina. Her father, Lars Ekelman, was a discharged soldier who was 72 years old at the time of her birth. Her mother was a shocking 27. Lars died in 1776, a time for which few probate records survive. Brita's mother, Anna Ericsdotter, remarried in 1777, and had several children with her second husband. Those children did indeed serve as godparents or witnesses at the christening of my Brita's children. This was definitely the right Brita. Could the relationship be proven?

Returning to the bouppteckning records provided that proof. Brita's step-father's probate wasn't found, but Brita and her mother both had files. Brita died in 1812 and her file gave the name Brita Cajsa, a nickname for Cathrina. Her mother, Anna, died in 1815. Anna's probate mentioned four children whose rights would be protected by Olof Andersson, Brita's husband. That was concrete proof that Brita was the daughter of Anna Ericsdotter and Lars Ekelman.

Having found Brita's parents, they became the end-of-line ancestors, with the same challenges in the sparse records. However, the bouppteckning files had a very important clue. Both files mentioned a man named Anders Ericsson of Gribecken in the parish of Stora Malm.

Brita's mother being Anna Ericsdotter, it appeared that Anders was Anna's brother and Brita's uncle. Indeed that was the case. Following Anders to his birth parish of Björkvik was fruitful, resulting in finding yet another generation: Eric Ericsson and Kierstin Ericsdotter. The time and money spent to research the bouppteckning records were well worth it!

The paid researcher had followed and chosen Brita, the daughter of Lars Larsson. I doubt she considered Brita Cathrina, as she should have noticed the christening records supporting this choice. She obviously did not look at the bouppteckning files.

Be careful when hiring a researcher. Get the list of sources and review the work that was done. Don't ever accept a sloppy job.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent research story, Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned. Persistence pays off! I don't have any known Swedish ancestors, but my wife has Norwegian. I haven't looked for probate records yet. Thanks for the idea.