If you want to find out more about your Swedish heritage, Kathy Meade is the person to talk to. She is one of North America’s top experts in the field of Swedish genealogy. For good reason.
"It is difficult to give numbers because I have been doing this since 2004, for over seven years, but I have probably met or spoken to more than a couple thousand people searching for their roots in Sweden. I have been to 28 states giving presentations and exhibiting the service and helping people with their research," says the determined historian and computer specialist of Chicago.
With her own cultural heritage mostly from Ireland and Germany, she entered the Swedish universe through her work in the 1990s. Kathy worked for a multi-national company within the IT-profession and was based in Stockholm for more than three years, then lived and worked in Norway for another three years. She fell in love with Scandinavia, and while she learned the languages she took in the culture as much as she could.
Kathy moved back to the U.S. in 2000. Genline.com, a Swedish genealogy site, approached her in 2004 and Kathy became their North American representative. With an undergraduate degree in history, her knowledge of Swedish and computer skills, the match between Kathy and Genline was perfect. It was an opportunity for Genline to enter the U.S. market, and Kathy felt it would be a rewarding job to help people find their Swedish roots.
"With so many people with Swedish ancestors here in the U.S. I quickly saw the need for someone locally." Genline also offered an educational component to the search process that she really liked.
With Genline one can register as a member or to receive e-mails and notifications about new services and Swedish genealogy news. Kathy won’t share specific numbers but estimates that at least 10,000 Americans have registered one way or another through her years with the company.
"About sixty percent of the people searching for their Swedish ancestors find me on the Internet through Genline. The other people usually contact me after a presentation at workshops or conferences in genealogy."

Genline detective
Genline is a Swedish online service that posts Swedish church records. Historically, the Church of Sweden was mandated to keep records of births, deaths, marriages and the census. The Church also kept track of movements within Sweden and emigration from Sweden. These records are the most important resource for Swedish genealogical research. They cover time from as early as the 17th century until the 20th century. So, if you know the parish where your relative lived at one point, the search through Genline makes it easy. Out of twenty-five inquires, Kathy is able to find twenty-three.
If you don’t know the name of the parish, the search gets more complicated. Kathy often uses search tools outside Genline as well. For example, she considers Emibas very beneficial when the name of the parish isn't known. Emibas lists 1.1 million names of people who left Sweden from 1840-1930. That represents seventy percent of the people who emigrated. Sometimes the National Swedish Archives or information from The Swedish Genealogy Society of Sweden is useful, too. Another way to search is through the passenger ship index that lists ports from which people left Sweden in 1869-1950.
Here in the U.S., researching the census records may prove helpful. Some of these records include an immigration year. Another source is applications for naturalization. In Illinois, many marriage certificates included parents' names on the backs of the records. “It’s like being a detective,” is how Kathy describes the search for relatives. “If it was easy it wouldn’t be as much fun,” she says.


Nordic Family Research
Ancestry.com recently purchased Genline.com, and Kathy will continue helping people find their Swedish roots in other ways. She now volunteers her time at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago (SAMAC) and at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. At both places she helps people in their search for Swedish ancestors during one-on-one sessions. At SAMAC Kathy also sits on the advisory board for the Nordic Family Research Center.
On September 10, 2011, a group of genealogists from Sweden will give presentations on different topics of Swedish genealogy at an all-day event at SAMAC. This group of experts will also assist people with their Swedish research that day. The genealogists will travel to do the same presentation at the Swenson Center in Rock Island on September 11, then in Denver, Colorado on September 17.
Kathy has been traveling throughout the U.S. to speak at different genealogy events and has met a lot of people searching for their Swedish roots.
"Personally, I have helped probably about 2000 people either via e-mail, conferences or trade shows over the past several years. It may be more because I have been answering questions daily for nearly seven years."

Meeting Mike Lindstedt
At one workshop in California, Kathy met Mike Lindstedt, who lives in Alameda, California. He really wanted to trace his ancestors, and this is his story.
“For the past thirty years I have had an interest in genealogy. My father is Swedish, with both of his parent having been born in Sweden and immigrating to America in the 1880s where they were married. As a child I had questions about my grandparents, but no one wanted to talk about them. Only after my parents, aunts and uncles had all died did I found out that both of my grandparents were illegitimate children. There was no information available about either of their fathers or any information available as to either of my great grandmothers’ exact names or places of birth.
"Although I wasn't having much luck in uncovering information about my grandparents, I never gave up on my search for my Swedish ancestry. After seeing the movie “The Emigrants” in the 1970s, I had one wish: that during my lifetime I would be able to visit at least one of my living relatives in Sweden. After I retired and had more free time, I was able to locate a new lead regarding my grandmother’s mother who also emigrated from Sweden in the 1880s. With the help of some volunteers from the Oakland Regional Family History Center (ORFHC), I developed an extensive family tree on that side of the family. It gave me the inspiration to continue.
"Last November, Kathy Meade gave a presentation at the ORFHC. Along with her presentation she provided handouts about key items and various databases. At the completion of the presentation, I asked her if she would mind putting my grandfather’s birth date into one of those databases. She was able to find the name of my grandfather’s father as well as his mother’s parents. At last the mystery about my grandfather was broken.
"I have now made direct contact with six separate families of my direct descendants presently living in Sweden. This July, my wife and I will be spending two weeks visiting my relatives in Göteborg, Kalmar and Läckeby. My lifelong dream has been met, and Kathy Meade has played a big role.”

As Mike’s story illustrates, it’s a very personal quest for people to try to find their ancestors or living relatives. It can be an emotional journey for some. “To learn of our ancestry is to learn about ourselves. I love helping people to give them a tie to something. To help them find out who they are,” says Kathy.

Contact The Swedish American Museum or email: kathyfranmeade@hotmail.com

By Kristina Hall