A Brief History
Swedish Roots in Oregon (SRIO) was formed in 1999 when Ross Fogelquist of Oregon’s New Sweden Cultural Heritage Society suggested that a project be initiated to research, document, and preserve the rich history of Oregon’s Swedish immigrants. Due to the extensive effort that would be required for such a project it was decided that a separate organization be formed to carry out the project. It was also recommended that this new group was to be a small, tightly focused research organization unencumbered by the responsibilities of maintaining a general membership. After some preliminary discussions, it was decided that the following questions were to be asked:
Who were the Swedish immigrants? Where did they come from? Why did they leave Sweden? What brought them to Oregon? How did their lives turn out? What did they achieve?
A series of preliminary meetings were held, and in 1999 they led to the creation of “Swedish Roots in Oregon — An Immigration Research Project.” The following objectives were to be prioritized:
Create a computer program designed for genealogical research of first and second generation Swedish immigrants who settled in Oregon.
Collect genealogical information about Oregon’s Swedish immigrants from individuals and institutions such as lodges, universities, churches, and libraries.
Build a database of the gathered material, publish it on a CD and make it available to the public.
Research the lives, settlements, and achievements of the Swedes of
Oregon and publish the findings.
Build an archive of oral histories of Swedish immigrants to Oregon.
In December 1999, the Internal Revenue Service granted Swedish Roots in Oregon non-profit status, and the organization began raising funds for its activities. The Swedish Council of America in Minneapolis contributed significant seed money to enable SRIO to launch its activities. Various individuals, Swedish lodges and organizations in the Portland area also helped fund the initial research effort.
The development of a computer program for the genealogical
information SRIO wanted to compile turned out to be a major
challenge. SRIO needed a program into which all the relevant
information could be entered and automatically sorted, individuals
searched for, retrieved, and printed or emailed. After a number of
initial hurdles, the database program was eventually completed by a
Swedish programmer in 2002. The database was designed to process the
following genealogical information:
The names of the immigrants in Sweden and the United States (often different) Birth and death dates Place of birth in Sweden Date of emigration Date and place of arrival in the United States Community affiliation in Oregon Any family history or anecdotal information that may be available
SRIO has been working with the Swedish lodges in the Portland and is very fortunate to have had access to the membership rosters for Swedish Society Linnea in Portland which date back to 1888. It constitutes a major source of information about Swedish immigrants in Portland. The records are sometimes difficult to trust due to name changes or incomplete or erroneous entries, and this often makes it necessary to do extensive research in order to verify the information. Data has also been gathered from individuals who were asked to fill out an emigration record form. Information on about 1,000 first generation Swedish immigrants to Oregon has been entered so far. The goal of SRIO is to include as many as possible of the more than ten thousand Swedes who settled in Oregon. An unfortunate development regarding the database occurred in the spring of 2004, when SRIO’s chief genealogist resigned from the Board without providing backup material, and the project is currently on hold.
Swedish Roots in Oregon has also embarked on publishing a series of
booklets containing articles about the Swedes of Oregon. Six such
articles have been published in booklet form so far, and several
more are currently in progress. SRIO’s goal is to eventually gather
all of these articles and publish them as a book on the Swedish
experience in Oregon. The most recent booklet (February 2004) is
entitled “Samuel Magnus Hill: Swedish Educator, Poet and Minister.”
It is an interesting story about a Swedish immigrant who dedicated
his life to help promote higher education among the Swedes in the
United States, and who retired to Oregon in 1914. Hill holds the
distinction of being the only person in Oregon to have ever
published a book of poems in Swedish. For additional information and
a complete list of our booklets, please go to the
Publications page of this website.
Long-term publishing plans also include translating Swedish texts about the Swedes of Oregon. One of the first projects will be a translation of the biographical section of Ernst Skarstedt’s 1911 book "Oregon och dess svenska befolkning" [Oregon and its Swedish population]. Skarstedt was one of the most well-known Swedish-American newspapermen who worked as a journalist and editor of many of the leading Swedish language newspapers in America. When he passed away in 1929 he had written 13 books, all of them in Swedish, and all somehow related to the Swedish-American experience. As funds become available, SRIO also would like to facilitate the publication of a series of oral histories of contemporary Swedish immigrants to Oregon, and to support the translation of this material into English.
A project like this also requires outreach—both into the Swedish-American community in Oregon and in the US at large. Newsletters are issued twice a year to provide progress reports and to gather feedback. Swedish Roots in Oregon has made a point of attending most of the major, annual Swedish and Scandinavian fairs and events in the state, informing visitors about our activities. We have also visited Swedish lodges and organizations and made a number of presentations about the immigration research project. The official Swedish Roots in Oregon website migrated to its own domain in September 2004 from its temporary home on Bertil Sundvall’s personal website. A great deal of work remains to be done, and we look forward to sharing our information with our visitors. In short, Swedish Roots in Oregon is at the beginning of an exciting, long-term immigration research project which, when completed, will both preserve and make better known the rich history of the Swedes of in Oregon.
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