Graves in Sweden and Hospital Records
The episode begins with some brief interviews of Swedes who describe what started their interest in doing genealogy. Over the last decade, the hobby of genealogy has become a movement across Sweden. The focus of this episode is on the topic of death which is not unusual as people doing Swedish genealogy are always searching death and burial records. Elisabeth Renström met with a church yard curator who describes where the oldest graves are in Nya Varvet churchyard in Väster Göteborg. This is followed by an interview with Kent Andersson from a genealogical society in Göteborg while walking through Nya Varvet. They describe how the status quo in Sweden is to leave a grave intact for 25 years before it can be re-sold and re-used. When a grave is re-sold the old grave stone is removed, and the site is ready for the next occupant (they do not use concrete vaults, materials in the casket, or chemicals in the body that will not decompose.)
For this reason, there are many people in Sweden who have helped to create a cemetery database. Over time there has been an increase in support of the parish churchyard authorities to help in recording grave information. In 2004 Kent was receiving daily inquiries by people who wanted to know if a specific grave is included in the database (this database was published on c.d. by the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Sweden. The most recent version is called Begravda i Sverige 2 in 2012 that is available through the Federation Website.) Elisabeth also interviewed Malte Sahlgren a manager over Gamla Kyrkogården in Malmö who described another project where people can text a number that’s on a little sign by a grave to receive a message by email that tells more about the person buried there.
The episode transitions with a couple more brief interviews with people in Sweden who are attending a genealogical course before finishing with a discussion about hospital records in the Härnösand Landsarkiv. Specifically a patient record from the Härnösand hospital in 1880. This record describes a man named Jonas Berglund of Säbrå (1840 – 1880) that was dying of syphilis. It includes details such as his age, birth date, birthplace, marriage date, and when he was admitted to the hospital. The journal also told of his temperament, attitude, and behavior while in the hospital with a detailed description of his condition on the day before he died.
With this information, Elisabeth Renström met with Anna Lundberg (a researcher with the Demographic Database in Umeå.) Anna has published a history of sexually transmitted disease in Sweden between 1785 and 1903. She reviewed the account in the hospital record and determined that Jonas contracted the disease perhaps 10 or 15 years before the disease progressed. The record was extremely detailed in the physical description of Jonas, including his weight, height, and build, with skin, eye, and hair color. They note from the patients file that the wife and children lived for many years after and discussed the different stages of the disease. The question arose, is this record unique? Anna points out that each hospital had their own way of keeping these patient records. The quality of the record will vary from place to place, but in this time period it is not unusual to have such a rich description.
What do we learn for Swedish genealogy?
- The Swedes re-use graves after about 25 years (unless special arrangements have been made.) After a grave is re-sold, the grave stone is removed and the plot is re-used.
- People in Sweden helped to create a “grave database” called Begravda i Sverige 2 (2012) that is available through The Federation of Genealogical Societies in Sweden (Sveriges Släktforskarförbund) at www.genealogi.se
- There are hospital records in Sweden. Depending on the time and place they can give incredible detail to the life on an ancestor. They are often called Sjukhusjournaler in the Swedish Archival system.
Program: Släktband by Gunilla Nordlund and Elisabeth Renström
Season: 1 – Learning Genealogy and Other Useful Tips
Episode: 1 Premiär för Släktband
Topic: Graves in Sweden and Hospital Records
Date of publication: 7 November, 2004
Published by: Sveriges Radio P1
Link to episode: Släktband 1:1 Premiär för Släktband i P1