Was your ancestor among the settlers of New York in the seventeenth century? Were they Scandinavians or Germans? Then the book Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630-1676 might be of interest to your family history.
Introduction to the Book
John Oluf Evjen, Ph.D., Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1676 (Minneapolis, Minnesota, the United States: K. C. Holter Publishing Company, 1916).
I prefer to use the PDF copy made by the Danish genealogical society Danske Slægtsforskere at the website called Slægtsforskernes Bibliotek (the genealogists' library) at https://slaegtsbibliotek.dk/900256.pdf. The PDF is searchable, so you can search for a name, though you must be aware of spelling variations. Furthermore, you can click each item in the table of contents to be taken directly to that page. The PDF contains 468 pages, so I recommend that you download it. Downloading PDFs from this website is allowed for personal, private use.
The book contains three sections and four appendices with biographies of immigrants from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany with the primary focus on Scandinavians who lived in New York between 1630 and 1676.
The author described the book as follows:
"Of special use it should be to such Americans of Scandinavian ancestry as in their school-days were taught a little about the Swedes on the Delaware, more about the Dutch in New York, most about the sons and daughters of New England, but nothing about the Scandinavians, particularly the Danes and Norwegians along the Hudson."1
Sections of the Book
- Biographies of fifty-seven Norwegian immigrants in New York 1630-1676.
- Biographies of ninety-seven Danish immigrants in New York 1630-1676. This number includes immigrants from Schleswig and Holstein, then a part of Denmark.
- Biographies of thirty-four Swedish immigrants in New York 1630-1676. The biographies do not include the Swedes who settled in New Sweden, now Delaware, but only those who settled in New York proper.
Appendices with Biographies of Other Immigrants
During his elaborate research, Doctor Evjen found records of Scandinavian immigrants to other places, some who arrived later than 1676, as well as some German immigrants in New York. Luckily, he did not discard the information even though it does not fit within the subject's delimitations.
The additional biographies are compiled in four appendices:
- Scandinavians in Mexico and South America 1532-1640.
- Scandinavians in Canada 1619-1620.
- Some Scandinavians in New York in the eighteenth century.
- Some German immigrants in New York 1630-1674.
Are the Immigrant Biographies Trustworthy?
There is no doubt that Doctor Evjen spent considerable time on this project, but different research standards applied in the early 1900s when he did the research and wrote the book.
He strove to base each biography on reliable information, but some error-prone sources were used. He wrote that the information "is in the main based on primary sources," giving examples such as passenger lists, church books, deeds, wills, etc.2 Per today's standards such sources typically fall under the category of original records.3 However, many of the sources used in this book are compiled transcriptions of the original records, meaning derivative records.4 Today's genealogical standards encourage us to use original records whenever possible.5
Furthermore, the author focused only on the nature of the source and not on the informant. Today's genealogical standards advise us to analyze whether the informant had first-hand or second-hand knowledge of the information they provided.6 The author makes no such discrimination.
These shortcomings do not mean that we should not use the book, but we should do it like we would any other research aid.7 Instead of focusing on the fact that the book was written by a doctor, imagine you found the information in an online family tree. Would you uncritically trust the information if that were case? Probably not.
My Suggested Approach to Using this Book
I suggest you take the following steps when using this book:
- Based on the citation to the derivative record, locate the original record and carefully examine it if it is extant.
- Evaluate who the informant of each piece of information was and how that influences the reliability of the information.
- Do your own research – including analysis and correlation of evidence as well as resolution of conflicts – to ensure that you have obtained proof.8
When you have completed these research steps, you can write your own trustworthy biography of your Scandinavian immigrant ancestor.
- John Oluf Evjen, Ph.D., Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1676 (Minneapolis, Minnesota, the United States: K. C. Holter Publishing Company, 1916), Preface, pages xi to xii.
- Evjen, Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1674, Preface, pages ix to x. Today the use of the terms primary and secondary sources is discouraged by leading experts, see for instance Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd edition (Kindle revision; Baltimore, Maryland, the United States: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2017), p. 22-24.
- Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd edition (Nashville, Tennessee, the United States: Ancestry.com, 2019), p. 82, sub verbum original record.
- BCG, Genealogy Standards, p. 75, s.v. derivative record.
- BCG, Genealogy Standards, p. 23-24, Standard 38 Source preference.
- BCG, Genealogy Standards, p. 24, Standard 39 Information preference.
- BCG, Genealogy Standards, p. 12-13, Standard 13 Source-based content.
- BCG, Genealogy Standards, p. 1-3, Chapter 1–The Genealogical Proof Standard; p. 82-83, s.v. proof. Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills, "QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (http://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-2-sources-vs-information-vs-evidence-vs-proof : accessed 25 February 2023), last updated 30 October 2018.
- The image at the top is a map of New Netherland, which the Dutch colony covering New York was then called. Source: Nicolaum Visscher, Novi Belgii: Novæque Angliæ nec non partis Virginiæ tabula, [about 1684]; image copy, Het Geheugen (https://geheugen.delpher.nl/nl/geheugen/view?coll=ngvn&identifier=KONB01:422 : accessed 25 February 2023). License: Public domain.