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Do Taylor Swift's ancestors really come from a small parish in rural Sweden?

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Do Taylor Swift's ancestors really come from a small parish in rural Sweden?
Taylor Swift, possibly a descendant of a Swedish blacksmith from the 1600s. Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

A community history group has tried to get to the bottom of a persistent genealogy rumour surrounding US mega star Taylor Swift and a small parish in north-central Sweden.

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Lodged in the mountains between Östersund and Norway, Offerdal in the region of Jämtland is home to some 2,000 people. It may also be the ancestral home of Taylor Swift.

Or maybe not. It's not entirely clear. Bear with us.

"It's been written about in several newspapers since as long ago as 2014. Because specifically Offerdal and a village called Söderåsen are mentioned in those articles, we've been curious about this for a while," Sara Swedenmark, chair of the Offerdal Community Association, told The Local.

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When Swift decided to launch her Eras Tour in Sweden (she's set to perform in Stockholm on May 17th-19th), the group decided to look into her possible connection with Offerdal, which is mentioned on several American genealogy sites, but always without reference to a source.

During their research, they found two people from the area who could possibly be related to Swift. One of them is Olof Thorsson, who is the main person rumoured to be one of her ancestors.

"We can see that there are people who connect them, but in one place the line is broken because there's a man who married several times. So we haven't found a direct line of descent, but we're not saying it doesn't exist. Because we're talking about around 1,200 people in 400 years, there could be other possibilities," said Swedenmark.

A church in the parish of Offerdal. Photo: Offerdal/Wikimedia Commons

Thorsson travelled with his family in 1641 to New Sweden – a Swedish colony in what today are Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland – on board the ship Kalmar Nyckel. He is said to have committed a crime in Sweden and was sent abroad for penal labour.

"We haven't found which crime he allegedly committed, even though there are conviction records from this time, which makes us doubt whether he actually lived here," said Swedenmark.

"Another person who was banished from the country around this time in Offerdal received it as punishment for having put witchcraft on the neighbour's cattle."

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An oil painting by Jacob Hägg, depicting the ship Kalmar Nyckel. Photo: Sjöfartsmuséet/Wikimedia Commons

But they also found another possible connection with Swift: a man known as Jöns The Black Smith Andersson, his wife Maria and their daughter Brita, who travelled to New Sweden in 1654.

"There seem to be certain relations here via half siblings in the early 18th century," said Swedenmark, urging readers to reach out if they have more information. "The Church of Sweden started keeping population records in the later half of the 17th century, so it's not completely straightforward to track down roots from this time."

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So in other words, nothing concrete that confirms that Swift does indeed descend from Offerdal, and the parish is not the only place in the world that's purportedly connected to the artist. Genealogy company Ancestry claims she's related to the American poet Emily Dickinson, and according to My Heritage she's also related to France's King Louis XIV and US actor Johnny Depp.

Offerdal, by contrast, is rather less grand. But what might life have been like at the time?

"Offerdal in the 17th century was an uneasy place, because Jämtland was being torn between the Swedish king and the Danish-Norwegian king," explained Swedenmark. "There were a lot of wars in close succession and farms were seized if the owner swore their allegiance to the ‘wrong' king. There were around 30 villages and 600 people in the parish."

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