Friday, January 19, 2007

Chapter 11 - Our Scandinavian Ancestors

In the spring of 2004, Kathy and I departed from Florida in our motor home. Our plan was to attend my college reunion in early June in Ithaca, New York, visit my sister and her family in Boston, spend three or four weeks in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, and then return home to Florida by late summer. After several stops on the way north to visit historical sites such as Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, we finally arrived at our first long term campsite where we planned to stay at least two weeks. It was here at the K.O.A. Campground where we met Carol Knox and her husband. Kathy and I shared a few drinks with the Knox’s who had parked their RV next to ours and it was during our initial conversation with them that I mentioned to Carol that I was interested in my family’s genealogy. As it turned out, Carol was an avid genealogist and claimed to have collected over 12,000 names in her family tree. She was very interested in where I stood collecting information so I shared with her some of our family’s names. That night after we parted company, she must have stayed up late, for the next morning she delivered pages and pages of information printed from genealogical websites regarding my family’s ancestors. There were so many new names that it took me several weeks just to enter the names into the family tree stored on my computer. One of the lineages she discovered traced our family roots back to Alfonso I, the first King of Portugal. Alfonso had chased the Moors out of Lisbon way back in the 11th century.

Quite by coincidence, in the spring of 2005, Kathy and I took a transatlantic cruise that disembarked in Lisbon, Portugal, the ancestral home of our relative, Alfonso I. We took this opportunity to visit Alfonso’s much restored castle and the church where he was crowned. Our many photographs on the trip included several pictures of a large statue of Alfonso. Kathy humorously remarked that she could see the family resemblance when she studied Alfonso’s face. It had always been my intention that one of the chapters in our family’s history had to cover the subject of Alfonso’s great deeds. It was not until I had completed ten chapters and entered them into our website,, that I finally found the time to begin my research on this side of our family.

Fortunately for today’s genealogist there is a vast amount of free information available on the internet. Anyone interested in learning about their ancestors can join organizations such as where genealogical information is accumulated and made available to its members. These same websites offer at a modest cost access to historical records such as immigration records, cemetery listings, ship passenger lists, birth certificates, and well as the multitude of other typical sources of data that used to take months to gather through the mail or by visiting genealogical and historical societies. Naturally and especially when viewing family trees prepared by other amateur genealogists, one has to be careful not to accept everything at face value without also doing independent research to find collaborating evidence. I offer these two examples illustrating how easy it is to be misled. Last year, I became convinced that I was a direct descendent of William Shakespeare simply because I found a family tree on that claimed that our ancestor, a John Hall, was also William Shakespeare’s son-in-law. They both had the same name and they both lived around the same period of time. Of course, Shakespeare’s son-in-law would have had to have immigrated to America to be our John Hall. John Hall, the son-in-law, actually died while still living in England. I learned later that Shakespeare had no descendents below his grandchildren.

The other example of the pitfalls of assuming the accuracy of someone else’s research occurred when I accepted as fact that I was a direct descendent of Afonso I. I am in fact unrelated to Afonso. While one of Afonso’s granddaughters married Valdemar II, King of Denmark, his son who is our ancestor was born in 1211, one year before Valdemar’s arranged marriage to Afonso’s granddaughter. The son was actually born by one of Valdemar’s lovers, the widow of a wealthy Danish nobleman. While the son was born a bastard this was not an uncommon occurrence in the 13th century. Valdemar recognized his son, his nobility, and his right of inheritance in everything but the Danish throne. The bastard son was named Knut Valdemarson and he was my great (x20) grandfather. But our family’s history begins at a much earlier date.

This family story begins in the year 1719 with the marriage of Jeronimus Rapelje and Aeltje van Arsdalen which for clarity purposes we shall label as Generation 1. The story will end with the birth of King Gorm in the year 880. This we will label as Generation 24. Each of the intermediate generations will be labeled with their appropriate numbers.

On September 19, 1719, 22-year old Jeronimus Rapelje, our great (x6) grandfather, married 27-year old Aeltje van Arsdalen. Jeronimus was the great grandson of Joris Rapelje and Catalyntje Jeronymus Trico, the young couple who had immigrated to America in 1623 and who are the subject of the first chapter in our Family History. Jeronimus was also the grandfather of Jeremiah Rappleye who moved with his family to New York’s Finger Lakes Region in 1797 and who is also a subject in Chapter 1. Jeronimus and Aeltje were married in the Dutch Reformed Church in Flatlands, New York, an area that is now part of Brooklyn. It was a farming community in the early 1700s occupied in large part by families of Dutch heritage. They were both born in Flatlands as were their fathers and mothers before them. Perhaps as a result of the scarcity of farm land in Flatlands due to population growth, sometime after their marriage the couple moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey. Jeronimus is reported to have been one of the earliest settlers in New Brunswick. Both he and his wife lived there for the remainder of their lives. He died in 1775 and is buried in New Brunswick. Aeltje followed her husband and died in the year 1784.

We have been able to trace Aeltje’s ancestors back twenty-three generations to the 10th century. Her great grandfather was born in Sweden and emigrated from Amsterdam, Holland in 1637. Her great grandfather’s ancestors included nine generations of Swedes and before them another twelve generations of Danes, many of whom were of royal blood and some of whom were Viking Kings. The remainder of this chapter will cover their history.

Claes Cornelissen van Schouwen
, the great grandfather of Aeltje, and our great (x9) grandfather was born on April 3, 1597 on the Island of Oland located four miles off the southeast coast of Sweden. At least six generations of our family preceding Claes Cornelissen were born, lived, worked their entire lives, and are buried on this island that is only 1,342 square kilometers in area. As would be expected, the principle industry of the island is related to the sea. Our ancestors were fisherman, sea captains, and merchant traders. Everything revolved around the islands excellent location in the Baltic Sea and its proximity to their trading partners in Denmark, Finland, Russia, and mainland Europe. The story of Claes Cornelissen is an interesting one.

Claes was a sea captain and merchant-trader. At one point he owned two vessels and four warehouses, one located on the Island of Oland, one in Schouwen in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Denmark. He lived part of his life on the Island of Schouwen in the Netherlands and as was the Dutch custom, his Dutch surname name, van Schouwen, was taken from the location of his home. He married a Dutch women, Margaret van der Goes, on November 9, 1623 and shortly thereafter returned with his new wife to Oland to live near his relatives. In 1630, Claes joined the Swedish military and he served as a soldier in the 30-Years War, a war considered by historians as one of the great conflicts of early modern history. The war consisted of a series of declared and undeclared wars which raged through the years 1618 through 1648. Sweden’s role in the war encompassed only the years 1630 through 1634. The background of the war is complex although at least in part it was a religious war between the Catholics of Austria and Spain, and the Lutherans and Calvinists of Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden. Control of the sea ports on the Baltic Sea was another very important secondary motivation for going to war.

Unfortunately for our Claes, he was badly wounded in the head and captured at the Battle of Mitten in Poland in 1631. After suffering terrible hardships during his imprisonment, he miraculously escaped his capturers in 1633, and after an heroic adventure he found his way home. When he returned home he learned the sad news that when the war was at its height in 1631, his wife had died. Furthermore, his business was in ruins and he was forced to sell what was left of his vessels and warehouses. On October 1, 1636, Claes with his son Pieter, departed from Amsterdam on the ship “Rensselaerwyck” headed for America. They arrived in New Amsterdam on March 8, 1637. Claes remained in Manhattan working as a contractor for the rest of his life. He died in 1674. He remarried in New York and had four more children, including our great (x8) grandmother, Pieterje Claussen van Schouwen who was born in 1640. Pieterje married Simon Jansen van Arsdalen, Aeltje’s grandfather, who was born in Belgium. They both lived and died in Flatlands, New York as did their children.

As might be expected, there is not a lot of information available about Claes’ ancestors that lived on the Island of Oland other than their names and birth and death dates and the few family stories covered below. For continuity purposes I am listing their names, starting with Claes’ parents:

Part 2 (Years 1447 to 1599)
Cornelius Petersson (1560-1599) m. Johanna van der Goes ( ?-1592)
Peter Eriksson (1527-1589) . Matilda van Houden (1531-1591)
Erik Erikson (1490-Abt. 1550) m. Anna Olosdotter (Abt 1499-Abt 1542)
Erik Knutson (Abt 1469-Abt 1491) m. Cajsa Brita Gregorsdotter (Abt 1473-Abt 1500)
Knut Simonson (1443-Abt. 1531) m Barbro Knus (1447-1469).

It took me quite some time researching our Swedish ancestors before I caught on to their names. For example, I could not understand why Claes Cornelissen’s father’s surname was not also Cornelissen. Then it became quite obvious. His father’s first name became Claes’ last name with the addition of “son” or “sen”, thereby identifying him by name as the son of Cornelius. With that knowledge, it becomes quite easy to predict that Knut Simonson’s father had a first name of Simon. In the same vain, the daughter’s surname was derived from the father’s first name with the addition of “sdotter” which probably means in Swedish, daughter of. This different way of naming the offspring must have played havoc on English speaking immigration officers in our country’s early history. For that reason, it is not surprising that Pieter, Claes’s son, whose last name would have been Claessen, changed his surname once he arrived in America to Wyckoff to help distinguish him from all of the other Claessens in New Amsterdam. Apparently Claes was a common first name as was Pieter. Thereafter, all of Pieter’s children and descendents carried the surname of Wyckoff. I mention this because one of my ancestors, the son of our clock builder, was named Joshua Wyckoff Rappleye, the Wyckoff name coming from an earlier family member and the original Pieter Wyckoff.

While we do not know much about Claes’ immediate ancestors we do know that Claes’ father, Cornelius Petersson, our great (x10) grandfather, was himself a merchant-trader on the Island of Oland and he owned and captained a ship named the “Calmarsund.” We also know that because he owned his own ship he was pulled into another military conflict this time involving Duke Charles, the future King of Sweden and King Sigismund of Poland. Apparently King Sigismund, a Catholic, had a claim to the throne of Sweden despite the fact that Sweden was predominately a Protestant nation and Duke Charles was a champion of the new Lutheranism. In 1598, Sigismund returned to Sweden to claim his throne and in southern Sweden near Kalmar, the coastal city near the Island of Oland, home of Cornelius Peterson, a battle ensued in which the forces of Duke Charles defeated the forces of King Sigismund. King Sigismund lost his claim to the throne of Sweden and in 1604, Duke Charles became King Charles IX of Sweden.

We do not know for certain the role that Cornelius Petersson played in this conflict although it seems clear that he must have supported King Sigismund since Duke Charles had Cornelius tried for treason in 1599. He was found guilty of treason but was later pardoned. There is no definitive record of what happened to Cornelius after his trial although he did end up dead in February of 1601. This leads to the speculation that he may have been murdered or died while in prison. He was in his early 40s when he died. His son Claes was only five years old.

Unfortunately, war was an all to common occurrence in Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1563, war broke out between Sweden and Denmark with off and on again fighting persisting for seven years until a treaty was signed in 1670. The war is named by historians, the Baltic Seven Years War. Our great (x11) grandfather, Peter Ericksson (1527-1589), sea captain of the ship “Calmarne Bancken” sailing with his two older brothers, Nils and Hans, was to play a role in the war. For Nils and Hans it was to be a life ending role.

In 1397, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway agree to a union between their three counties to act as one state under one common monarchy. Each country in the “confederation” was to retain its own laws and its own governing elites. Unity was to exist in terms of foreign policy, and national security. The agreement is called by historians the Kalmar Union, named after the Swedish city near the Island of Oland where the agreement was signed. Even considering the occasional difficulties that arose during the period of the confederacy, the Union worked fairly well for over 100 years. Unfortunately, with the change of monarchy in Denmark in the later years of the union, Sweden grew very discontent with the leadership in Denmark, and finally in 1523, Sweden elected its own king, King Gustav I Vasa, which effectively ended the Kalmar Union. Over the next 40 years, Gustav fortified Sweden and developed Sweden’s first standing army. Gustav I is considered today by most Swedes as the “father of modern Sweden.” Unfortunately, when Gustav died in 1560, he was succeeded by his eldest son Erik XIV, who was mentally unbalanced and much too adventuresome, which resulted in alienating many of his nobles, squandering the treasury’s surplus, and starting a war with Denmark in 1563.

The war that followed involved numerous land and sea battles beginning on May 30, 1563 when the Swedish navy fired on Danish ships off the coast of Sweden. A two day sea battle ensued resulting in a Danish defeat followed shortly by a formal declaration of war by Sweden against Denmark. Our great (x11) grandfather, Peter Eriksson and his two brothers were a part of the navy engaged in this first naval battle. We do not know the details of their involvement other than they may not have performed up to expectations, for shortly after the battle all three were tried for cowardice [not a family trait, I hope]. Fortunately, all three were acquitted of this charge. Unfortunately, Peter’s brother Hans was also found guilty of freeing prisoners and he was subsequently executed. Nils, Peter’s other brother, was found guilty of treason and he too was executed. It was a cruel world back in 1564. Peter on the other hand was set free and he continued to serve as a sea captain for the remainder of the war fighting in a number of sea battles during which he apparently acquitted himself well. Peter died in 1589 and he is buried on the Island of Oland, the home of his parents, his wife, his children, and many of his ancestors.

Knut Simonson
was our earliest ancestors to be born on the Island of Oland. We do not know whether his father, Simon Kristoferson Strale, our great (x15) grandfather, was born or lived any of his life on Oland or in Kalmar, Sweden. All we do know about Simon was that he was born around 1410 and he married a rather wealthy woman of noble heritage from Aspenas, Sweden. Her name was Elin Ivarsdotter and at least four generations of her ancestors lived in or around Aspenas, Sweden. I have spent a great deal of time researching the whereabouts of Aspenas without a great deal of success. The best that I can determine is that Aspenas was the medieval name of an area in Ostergotland, a province in southeast Sweden located about 100 miles north of the coastal city of Kalmar. Aspenas was most likely the name given to the castle and the estate of the nobleman who owned the property. One source in my research reported that one of our ancestors was the “Lord of Aspenas.” It is clear from my research however, that at least five generations of our family were wealthy nobles from the Aspenas area. They include:

Part 3 (Years 1230 to 1490)
Simon Kristoferson Strale (? – abt.1410) m. Elin Ivarsdotter (1404-abt.1490)
Ivar Knutson (father of Elin) (bef. 1347 – aft.1404) m. Elin Larsdotter
Knut Jonsson (abt.1270 – 1347) m. Katrina Bengtsdotter (? – 1350)
Jon Filipsson (abt.1212 – 1280) m. Ingeborg Svantepolksdotter (abt.1250 – 1340)
Svantepolk Knutson (1230 – 1310) m. Bengta Folkunge (? – 1280)

Svantepolk Knutson
, our great (x19) grandfather, was the son of the son of Valdemar II, one of the Denmark’s early medieval kings. Valdemar will be the subject of this story in a subsequent paragraph. Svantepolk was born in Estonia in 1230, a province in present day Poland. His father was the Duke of Revalia in Estonia. Land and titles were granted to his father in Estonia by his grandfather, Valdmar II. Perhaps as a result of an arrangement, Svantepolk moved to Sweden and married Bengta Folkunge sometime around 1250. Bengta was the grand daughter of King Sverker II, the late King of Sweden. Her older sister was the wife of Eric XI, the then current King of Sweden. Svantepolk already wealthy from his inheritances gained even greater wealth with his marriage to Bengta. His position of being the brother-in-law of the King further enhanced his position as a high lord of Swedish nobility.

Svantepolk Knutson is a notable name in Swedish history. He became the Justiciar of Ostrogothia which meant that he was a senator, judge, and close adviser to the King. One source refers to him as the “Lord of Skarsholm” which is an area in Ostergotland, near the estates of 13th century Swedish royalty. Above all, Svantepolk was a remarkable and wealthy feudal lord in Sweden during his lifetime.

Svantepolk’s daughter, Ingeborg Svantepolksdotter, our great (x18) grandmother, was very young when she married Jon Filipsson, who was over 30 years her senior. Undoubtedly the marriage was arranged which was the custom of the time. Jon was a wealthy nobleman who carried the title of “Lord of Aspenas” and obviously he must have been considered a suitable husband for Svantepolk’s young daughter. It was probably not Jon’s first marriage considering that he was in his fifties when they married. Their marriage lasted for less than ten years for in the year 1280, Jon was murdered. Ingeborg, only thirty when he husband died, lived another 60 years. I can not help but speculate that Jon’s father-in-law, Svantepolk, may have reconsidered his choice of Jon as a husband for his daughter, and may have had the marriage ended by ordering Jon’s murder. Those were cruel years in the 13th century.

Knut Jonssan
, our great (x17) grandfather, was the son of Jon and Ingeborg and only 10 years old when his father was murdered. Knut was born with all of the advantages. He had wealth and he had power. His wife, Katrina Bengtsdotter, was the daughter of a Justiciar and a cousin of the Folkunge kings. Knut went on to become the Lord High Justiciar of Sweden under King Magnus IV, King of Sweden and Norway. This position was the second highest position in the land under the King. Knut died at the age of 77 in the year 1347, only 3 years before the “Black Death” spread into Sweden.

The bubonic plague is thought to have begun in Asia in the year 1334. The exact cause of death and how the disease was spread is still a subject of some debate although the general consensus seems to be that death was caused by a bacteria carried by rat fleas. Humans were affected when bitten by the diseased fleas. The plague spread rapidly reaching Europe in 1348 and finally reaching Sweden by late 1349. It is estimated that between one-third and two-thirds of the European population died between 1348 and 1350. It is believed that over 200,000 Swedes died in the year 1350. The disease caused major skin damage that resulted in the body being covered with dark blotches hence the plague being referred to as the “Black Plague” or “Black Death”. Most victims died within four to seven days after infection. Europe was overwhelmed by the onslaught.

Knut Jonsson’s wife, Katrina Bengtsdotter, our great (x17) grandmother, died in Sweden in the year 1350. There is no record of how she died, however considering that one-third or more of the population of Sweden died in the year 1350, it is easy to speculate and even to conclude that Katrina died from this dreaded disease. We are fortunate that her son, Ivar Knutson, who could not have been more than 10 years old in 1350, survived or was not afflicted by the disease. Her son’s survival is fortunate for he is our great (x16) grandfather.

All of Svantepolk Knutson’s ancestors were born in Denmark. All of them at least as far as our family story goes, were nobility and in a few cases, even royalty. These ancestors include:

Part 3 (Years 1096 to 1260)
Knut Valdemarsen (1211-1260) m. Hedvig ? (1215 - ?)
Valdemar II (1170-1241) x Helena Guttormsdotter (1172 - ?) never married
Valdemar I (1131-1182) m. Sophie (of Polotzk) (abt.1140-1198)
Canute (or Knud) Lavard (abt.1096-1130) m Ingeborg Haraldsdotter

Canute Lavard
, our great (x23) grandfather, was the second and the only legitimate son of King Erik I of Denmark. When King Erik died in 1103, Canute was too young to be elected to the throne and he was sent to live with a magnate family in Zealand, Denmark. When he came of age in 1115, King Niels of Denmark made Canute an Earl of South Jutland, in the south of Denmark. For the next dozen or so years, Canute worked hard to bring peace to the lands that he governed including spending many years fighting against Viking pirates. He successfully restored peace to the area while at the same time encouraging and aiding Christian missionary activities in southern Jutland. Apparently his success infuriated King Niels, his uncle, who soon began to regard Canute as his rival. In the year 1130, two of Canute’s cousins murdered him while he was on a hunting trip. It seems that in these medieval times, murder was an accepted practice for resolving disputes. Canute may have had the last laugh at least from an historical perspective, for in 1170 he was formally canonized as a martyr for justice by Pope Alexander III. Saint Canute is today venerated as a saint in Denmark. He and his wife Ingeborg had four children, one of whom married the King of Norway, and one of whom was to be a King of Denmark.

Valdemar I, our great (x22) grandfather, was only a few months old when his father was murdered. He was raised by a noble Danish family. When he was only 23 he was elevated to the position of Co-king of Denmark. There were three kings in total each ruling a different area in Denmark. In 1157, one of the kings was murdered and the other king killed in battle. This resulted in Valdemar I become the sole ruler of Denmark. King Valdemar I spent the remainder of his life in constant battle repealing invaders and warring with others to gain control over important lands along the Baltic. In the process he united Denmark and re-built the country. Valdemar, also know today as Valdemar “the Great” had four children with his wife Sophie. One daughter married the future King Erik X of Sweden, two daughters became nuns, and two sons became future kings of Denmark including our great (x21) grandfather, King Valdmar II of Denmark. Valdemar I was 51 years old when he died in 1182. His son, Valdemar II, was only eight when his father died.

Valdemar II
was the second son of King Valdemar I. His older brother, Canute VI, ruled Denmark until 1202, at which time, Valdemar II, then 32, succeeded him on the throne. Canute VI had died childless. Valdemar II, also known as Valdemar “the Conqueror”, is counted today among the greatest of the medieval Danish kings. Commencing in the 1210s he began to expand Danish influence in a crusade against the remaining pagan tribes on the opposite shores of the Baltic Sea. He successfully gained control over most of the lands in northern Germany and Estonia. Unfortunately in 1223 he was captured in battle and not released by his capturers in 1226 under the condition that he relinguish most of his conquests in north Germany. In 1227, he attempted to regain control of his lost territories but his armies were disastrously defeated. Valdemar spent the remainder of his life codifying Danish law which he completed by the time of his death in 1241.

Valdemar II had one son by his first wife. When she died, he remarried Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal and granddaughter of Afonso I. Together they had three sons and a daughter. Two of his sons were destined to become future kings of Denmark. Valdemar’s son by his first wife predeceased Valdemar. Our family is not directly related to any of Valdemar’s children by his two wives. Fortunately, before Valdemar’s arranged marriage to his second wife was consummated he had an affair with Helena Guttormsdotter, a woman of Swedish noble birth and the widow of an important Danish nobleman. In 1211, she bore Valdemar a son, our great (x20) grandfather, Knut Valdemarsen.

In 1219, Valdemar II granted his son, Knut Valdemarsen, lands in Estonia (Poland) and Knut became the Duke of Revelia, and later the Duke of Blekinge and of Laaland. These were lands on mainland Europe on the Baltic Sea that had been conquered by his father. Knut married Hedwig (von Pommerellen), daughter of a Duke in Pomerania, the land immediately west of Estonia. Together they had two sons, including our great (x19) grandfather, Svantepolk Knutson, born in 1230, who is covered earlier in this chapter. Svantepolk is the last of our ancestors to live in Denmark or on lands controlled by Denmark. In 1250 he moved his home to Sweden

The six oldest generations of this family tree include the following individuals:

Part 4 (Years 880 to1103)
Erik Sweynsson (1070-1103) m. Boedil Thurgotsdotter
Sweyn Estridsen (1018-1076) m. Gunhild Svandsdoter (abt.1033- ?)
Ulf Thorgilsson (993-1027) m. Estrid Margarete Sweynsdotter (abt.997- ?)
Sweyn “Forkbeard” (960-abt.1014)
Harald “Bluetooth” Blatand (910-985) m. Gyrithe Olfsdotter (abt.905- ?)
Gorm (abt.880-abt.958) m. Thyre Dunebod

People who became known as Vikings inhabited much of Denmark for several hundred years from the 8th to the 11th century. During the Viking period, Denmark was a great power that was based in the Jutland Peninsular in southern Denmark, and on the Island of Zealand, and the southern part of what is now Sweden. They were famous not only for their raiding and trading but also for their complicated and well developed social structure. Gorm “the Old”, our great (x28) grandfather, is considered to be the last of the great pagan Viking kings. Following the lead of his father who ruled a small portion of eastern Denmark, King Gorm by the mid-10th century had gained control over the entire of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

Gorm’s son, Harald “Bluetooth”, our great (x27) grandfather, took over the throne as King Harald I of Denmark in the year 940 and by 980 he had fully established a totally united Denmark and secured control over much of Norway. At the height of his power in the mid-960s, Harald was baptized into Christianity and preceded to converts the Dames to his new religion. Harald I Bluetooth died in battle in the year 986 which was a fitting ending for a man who had spent most of his life as a warrior. Harald and his wife Gyrithe Olafsdotter had at least two children. Their daughter Thyria married Olof Bjornsson, the son of the King of Sweden. Harald’s oldest son, Sweyn, became king of Denmark when his father died.

Sweyn I “Forkbeard
”, our great (x26) grandfather, continued his father’s conquests by gaining control of all of Norway, and shortly before his death, conquering England in 1013. Despite his obvious success in forming a Danish North Sea empire, historical information on Sweyn is conflicting. We know that he spent almost twenty years mostly away from Denmark, fighting in Norway and in England before his eventual conquest of England in 1013. His coronation as King of England took place on Christmas day in 1013, and his death occurred shortly thereafter on February 3, 1014. He ruled England unopposed for only five weeks. Despite his short reign, his ancestors have claim to being descendants of a former King of England.

One of Sweyn’s sons became King of Denmark called Canute the Great. After his death, Canute was canonized a saint. Sweyne’s daughter, Estrid Margarete Sweynsdotter, our great (x25) grandmother, married Ulf Thorgilsson, the son of a prominent Swedish family. Ulf became a Jarl (Earl) under Canute the Great, his brother-in-law, and the number two man in Denmark under the king. Apparently there was a misunderstanding between Ulf and Canute over Ulf’s behavior in Canute’s absence with respect to the control of Denmark for it is said that on Christmas day in the year 1026, Canute ordered the murder of his brother-in-law. I have lost count of the number of our great grandfathers murdered in these medieval times and while murder was clearly an effective means of controlling relatives, it is still best that this behavior today is considered totally unacceptable.
GENERATION 20: Twelve years after the 1035 death of King Canute the Great and demise of two other short lived kings, Sweyn II, our great (x24) grandfather, was elected King of Denmark in 1047. Sweyn II (Ulfsson) was the nephew of Canute the Great and the son of Estrid Margaret Sweynsdotter and Ulf Thorgilsson. He was 29 years old when he became king and he died as king at the age of 58 in 1076 after reigning for 29 years, a long time to be in charge in this period of history. Sweyn’s claim to the throne of Denmark however did not go unchallenged for King Harald of Norway refused to relinguish what he believed were his valid claims to the throne after the death of King Canute. A long war ensued that was eventually won by Sweyn in 1064. In 1066, King Harald invaded England but he was defeated by an English army under Harold Godwinson. Godwinson then turned his attention to another invading army under Duke William of Normandy, and this time his English army was defeated at the Battle of Hastings leaving William the Conqueror in control of England.

Sweyn I is often considered to be Denmark’s first medieval king. He was to found a dynasty that sat on the Danish throne until 1448. Sweyn built a strong foundation for royal power through cooperation with the church. Notwithstanding his strong alliance with the church, Sweyn was married only once to a girl to whom he was distantly related. The pope ordered that he dissolve the marriage union which he did. For the rest of his life Sweyn remained unmarried although that did not prevent him from taking one mistress after another. History records that he fathered no less than nineteen children including Erik “Always Good” Syeynsson who was born in 1070. Sweyn II was 52 years old when our great (x23) grandfather was born.

Erik I, “Always Good” or often translated as “Good Hearted” or “Evergood”, was King of Denmark between the years 1095 and 1103. During his short reign Erik was a popular king appealing to the “common people”. It was said that he liked to party and he lived a rather dissipated life. Both he and his wife died in the year 1103 while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands following the First Crusade. His son, the future Saint Canute Lavard was only seven years old when his parents died.

This ends the story of our Scandinavian ancestors. It is a long chapter and probably and unavoidable somewhat difficult to follow. I invested more than fifty hours researching this side of our family plus the time that I spent writing the chapter. Hopefully, my efforts will be enjoyed by future generations. I would encourage other members of our family to do additional research on our Scandinavian ancestry. I have no doubt that the internet and libraries in the future will yield substantially more information on our past than I was able to gather when this chapter was completed in January of 2007.


Robin Flannery said...

WOW!!! As a student of genealogy this blog, openly available to the public, is very much appreicated. Is there any possibility that I may bother you for your citations as well????

jazzwamp said...

Nice site. Found your link in We're related via Peter Eriksson.


dennis grace said...

Very interesting read. I am descended from the wyckoff/polen family so this is very interesting to me

Corey Winkler said...

Claes was my 9th great Grandfather, so this Blog is super interesting and helpful! I had no idea I had Swedish roots!!