Page 6 - AUGUST2021
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 By leslie e. sanDeRson
When he was just five, Bruce Nilsson discovered that his family descended from historic Scandinavian nobility, trac- ing back to pre-Vikings in 500 AD. Since then, “I have been passionate about history and dreamed of living in Sweden,” says Nilsson. He earned his PhD In Germanic Languages from the University of Michi- gan where a Fulbright fellow- ship enabled him to study and live in Sweden for three years. While there, a tour of his fam- ily’s historic sites dating back to the Middle Ages hooked him. He brought his avocation back to the States.
In the 1980’s, the internet, genealogy sites like Ancestry. com, and the use of DNA analysis launched Nilsson into online genealogy research for family, then, as the technology and research tools improved, for friends and acquaintances. After retiringin 2016, he started
a genealogy research business, Northern Roots. Here he shares information to help you find your roots.
Nilsson used two companies to test his DNA. One was grossly inaccurate. He cautions to, “Use a well known company that tests large numbers of DNA sam- ples.”The larger the database, the more likely you will receive accurate ancestral data. He is a member of which has useful research tools and DNA testing.
Nilsson says start with one parent because you have reli- able sources and oral historyto trace back generations. “What’s really important,” he says “is that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s easy to identify the wrong person as you go back in time.” You might find thirty potential great uncles named John Booth living in the same area, around the same time. Cross referencing records, checking DNArelations, and the
process of elimination help you identify the right Uncle John.
Nilsson focuses mainly on Northern Europe. Since the 1600’s, the Lutheran Church required Sweden’s parishes to record birth, death, literacy, and so on, making tracing easier. But the system of naming children after their father’s first name (e.g. Nilsson=son of Nils) is confus- ing. On the other hand, English names like Carpenter and Smith may not have changed for gen- erations, but inaccessible public records and the vast number of identical names pose challenges.
Nilsson’s sister-in-law grew up believing family lore that she was related to the Wampanoag Tribe. Nilsson proved there was no direct connection but discov- ered that she was a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln! In another puzzle, Nilsson determined that a random photo dated back to the 1860’s, unraveled minute details to reveal the celebration of a second marriage in 1863
Bruce Nilsson creates a family’s genealogy book.
Bristol Professor Brings The Past To Life
 and identified everyone at the wedding.
Nilsson taught a Family Tree Workshop at Bristol’s Mi- not-Sleeper Library two years ago and hopes to teach another course in the fall. The free work- shop could be your entry into
the world of family genealogy under the tutelage of a college professor andexperienced ge- nealogist. Learning how to dis- cover your family history sounds like a fantastic opportunity, and Nilsson can help make those dreams come true.
 Scott Borthwick Ph: 603.523.9284
cell: 603.630.8032
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