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By Gunnar Damström

There was a farmer named Erik, born in Nordingrå, Sweden, who in the beginning of the 16th century moved to Västerteg in the vicinity of Umeå in Västerbotten. He conducted trade with the Lapplanders and brought his merchandize to the Distingsmarket in Uppsala. In Uppsala he took the family name Ångerman, after the County where he was born.

As an Ångermanlander it was natural for Erik to be trading in herring- sill we say in Swedish. During the war of 1521- 1523 he contracted with Lars Olson Björnram, military governor of Väster- Norrlanden to deliver large quantities of herring to Gustav Vasa’s liberation army. Besides cheap, salted herring Erik in appreciation of the good customer delivered a small quantity of sursill, the famous partly fermented herring popular in Northern Sweden. The soldiers did not understand this delicasy, complained and a suit was brought against Erik who was found guilty of fraudulent delivery. On top of everything Erik got the nickname Sursill which he later assumed as his family name.

Erik Sursill had three daughters and two sons. The daughters moved to Finland and married prominent burghers and clerics in Österbotten. Each became matriarchs of extensive families. One of Eriks sons had seven daughters who moved to Finland as well and had large families.

In the middle of the 17th Century the ancestry of Erik Sursill had grown to a point where most clerical families and burger families in Österbotten were related. The next generations again counted large numbers of daughters.

The Bishop of Åbo, Johannes Terserus started making notes of the Sursill family during his vistations to Österbotten parishes in the mid 17th century. Martinus Peitzius and Gabriel Petizius and others contined the effort over a time period covering two centuries. Their notes constitute the source of Genealogia Sursilliana, published by Lappfjärd priest Elias Robert Alcenius in 1850. It took Alcenius almost twenty years to compile the information. Printing took three years. The first version of Genealogia Sursilliana had 345 pages.

The computer age brought new opportunities to genealogical research. An updated revision of Genealogia Sursilliana was published in 1981, sponsored by the Kone Foundation. This updated version contains complementary information gathered from the Finnish National Archives and parish books.

The new revision of Genealogia Sursilliana has information of about ten thousand persons, descendents of Erik Sursill, covering about twelve generations up until 1850. However if one sibling was born before 1850, all siblings are accounted for in the new revision. Today, a.d. 2000 more than 50% of the 5.2 million Finns are related through the Sursill family tree. Sursills can also be found in North America, Germany, and France.

If you want to find out if an ancestor who lived before 1850 is listed in Genealogia Sursilliana, you can contact me by e-mail Bergvik@msn.com I am the proud owner of both the original 1850 version and the 1981 version of Genealogia Sursilliana.

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