Solving a Family Puzzle with a Timeline


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

I have been using a timeline to solve a very challenging family puzzle. My husband’s great grandmother, Johanna Mathilda, was listed as the illegitimate daughter of the “town vagrant.” Her birth record found in the Swedish church records was the only place that I was able to locate her mother’s name, Martha Helena. After spending at least 5 years trying to find more information on her, I asked for help from the Swedish advisors for the SAG group that meets annually in Salt Lake City. They were able to help me locate one more record, her marriage record. From there I was able to gather the names of three more children born to Martha Helena. However, some were listed as illegitimate and some not. Notes in the records gave intriguing bits of additional information. Then I found her as a widow in the records. My problem was sorting out who the children belonged to, whether or not she had been married more than once, and who raised Johanna Mathilda as she does not appear with her mother in any Household Exams. I decided that I needed to build a timeline that would sort out the pile of notes that I had into chronological order. Below is the timeline that I created. As you can see, I still do not have all the answers to my questions, but I am hopeful that as I continue to look for this family and add information to the timeline, the answers will reveal themselves.

Johanna Mathilda Timeline


  • Martha Helena born May 15, 1807 in Veddige, Halland


  • Martha Helena Oldsdotter (Olsdotter) (Olofsdotter) and Jonas Isaksson
    • Marriage June 15, 1827 Kungsbacka
    • Jonas is listed as enkling (widowed)
      • I have found a potential first wife, Beata Andersdotter
      • Wedding date February 5, 1802 in Fjärå, Halland
      • Child Zacharias
  • Carl Johan Isaksson
    • Birth July 2, 1827 Kungsbacka
    • Also included on this record is a note from the Parish Priest written in 1841 attesting to Carl’s ability to read and write and that he had been living with his mother in Veddige but now had a job in Göteberg working in the fur trade.


  • Johanna Christiana
    • Birth Record September 16, 1832 Sweden, Halland Church Records He is listed at the end of the book with the Oäkta births. Do not know who the father is.
    • Petronella Olsdotter is a witness from Fälnebacka (is this a sister?)
      One record indicates that she may have lived in Ludby or Läsdrofwersla


  • Johnna Mathilda
    • Birth Record November 7, 1835 Valinge
    • Listed as oäkta, mother listed as a vagrant
    • Listed as a late entry to the Utflyttning Record as leaving. (no listing of parents found)


  • Anna Brita
    • Birth Record June 20, 1840 Morup, Halland Morup
    • Listed as Oäkta with a lengthy note included that indicates that her son Carl said that he and his mother had been begging in the area of Rosendahl at the time of Anna Brita’s birth. He also reported that Anna’s father was an unmarried shoemaker’s apprentice.
    • Jonas Issaksson is listed as a workingman. It does not say where he is currently, but it lists Martha as a widow


  • Johan Berndt
    • Birth Record February 29, 1844 Veddige


  • Johanna Mathilda
    • Utflyttning Record Jan 1852 Veddige
    • Lists her parents as Jonas Isaksson and Marta Lena Olsdotter
    • Lists her as leaving Lindome
    • Also mentions Fjäras and Rosingberg

As I promised, some websites to help you to develop timelines: – This one will help you to put your family into historical context – This offers videos on developing timelines

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.