Swedish America Heritage Online (SweAme)
“The New Frontier in Family Genealogy Research”
Submitted by David Borg
Why A New Organization?
Do you remember how you got started - learning about your family history? You had heard that one of your Aunts had put together a book many years ago. But, whatever happened to it? To make things worse, she was deceased, as also was most if not all of her siblings and other family old-timers. Back in those old days (pre-Internet) those issues (and others) provided the difficult problem of getting started with researching and documenting your ancestors. It was all a very manual intensive and paper orientated process. In my case, my mother (Thelma Carlson Borg, who lived in Williamson County, Texas) had been the one who documented her family tree and helped me understand a few research techniques. But, it required a lot of family communication and waiting for return of snail mail letters which was not efficient and was not very exciting to me.
Of major help to Swedish family researchers in Texas, we had one of the most important Swedish American family documents (in my opinion) that has ever been published. In the 1910s, our fellow Swedish cousins (so to speak - most were emigrants themselves) worked on a very significant project of collecting family information on more than 1,200 emigrant families. Their product (Svenskarne I Texas I Ord Och Bild) was published in Swedish in 1918 and later translated into English in 1994. This was great for all of us “Johnny come lately” to the genealogy research table, but the book was not well distributed due to its hard bound nature and limited publication. So, what could we do to help? How can we share this wealth of Swedish Texas information with new generations of researchers who also did not know that the book ever existed?
The Internet Explosion
Of course, the solution came to us as the Internet. To start with, we scanned the book and made it available online. But, we also utilized a genealogy software package that allows connecting families together without duplicating records. The Internet and software not only presents the information online to anyone anywhere, but it also allows Registered Users the chance to make their own updates and additions to their records at no cost.
That was the easy part. We next realized that by looking at the U.S. census records that the original Swedes In Texas book only included about 25% of the total Swedish born Texans in the 1900 census records. Would it not be of help and value to document online the other known 75% of the Swedes in Texas? No problem. It took us 3 years but now the families of all the Texas Swedish emigrants are documented online as part of our SweAme website data base.
Our next thought was - why stop there? Why not include the data for all Swedish emigrants to America? The census records as viewed via ancestry.com indicated that there were nearly 600,000 Swedish born individuals living in the U.S. in the year 1900. No problem. Wait, let’s think about that. In calculating the keying time for 600,000 individuals and their families, it was estimated to require one person 100 years - not very good. But, that also means that it will only take 100 people one year to complete the effort - that’s not bad. That’s a doable project. So, how can we do that?
Starting A New Organization
It became obvious that we would need a lot of help. We would also need a non-profit organization that could request and receive funds from donors and funding institutions who were interested in supporting online Swedish American projects. We would need an organization that could maintain a website that would be available for access to everyone at any time for no fee.
We therefore merged the original Swedes In Texas data into a new website called SweAme (www.sweame.org). In October, 2010 we completed the process of becoming a non-profit in the State of Missouri. In February, 2011, we received our 501(c)(3) status letter from the Internal Revenue Service.
This was accomplished with the help of an all-volunteer management team scattered from New Jersey to Arizona: Doug Anderson, Lissa Bengtson, Larry Blomquist, Elin Criswell, Jason Eckhardt, and Pam Hicks. This year John Norton (2010 Swedish American of the Year) has joined our team as an organization advisor.
The SweAme organization has no assets and therefore no overhead expenses. All organizational and technical expenses are covered by management donations. One hundred percent of all other donations are paid to the Registered Users who are performing the keying of the records to the online data base.
Growing An Organization
We are now in our 5th year with this project and we are nearing the 100,000 records mark for individuals. Our current data base documents only about 24,000 Swedish emigrants. The other individuals are ancestors and descendants of the emigrants from data that has been contributed by our 560 plus Registered Users on both sides of the Atlantic. These numbers change daily as on-going efforts continue.
Our vision for SweAme is more than genealogy and connecting family trees together. It is a strong vision of preserving our past and present for future generations. Anything that can be captured by a digital camera can become an artifact image on the SweAme website. In addition, the item can be linked directly to a person or family which then becomes part of their family digital records.
The SweAme website has already demonstrated one of its key benefits - that is - connecting living cousins together from the different sides of the emigrant bridge. And, by expanding the scope to include all America, emigrants once lost by mis-spelled names and unknown locations, SweAme can now greatly increase the odds of a successful search for a “lost” ancestor.
The SweAme website data base is hosted on a modern and always transitioning technological platform that will evolve into future platforms and processes. The benefits of SweAme will continue to be enjoyed by many generations in the future.
Funding and Current Status
Our overall funding objective is to solicit funds from as many sources as can be identified. These sources include Foundations, Public Organizations and Individuals who have an interest in promoting the preservation of our common Swedish American heritage.
The Swedish Council of America has become our first major contributor. For more detail you can visit our Contributors and Donors page at: (http://www.sweame.org/sweame/org/recognition.htm) .
The funds awarded SweAme will be utilized to compensate individuals working from their homes (from anywhere in the world) who will:
- view selected online U.S. Census records,
- access the SweAme website, and
- update the data base utilizing The Next Generation (TNG) genealogy software.
At this point in time, SweAme has accumulated over:
- 91,000 Individuals (emigrants, family members and descendants)
- 23,000 Family units
- 16,000 Media documents (histories, photos, headstones, etc.)
- 560 Registered Users
The Swedish emigrants (from the 1900 census) have now been documented for the following geographic areas:
Although we have a very long ways to go to reach our primary objective, we can get there one step at a time - or, so to speak - one emigrant at a time.
If you are interested in contributing to the SweAme organization, please contact us via our website or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org .