The Swedish Colonial Society is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the study and presentation of New Sweden history. In 1638, Sweden planted an American colony in Wilmington, Delaware. The first settlers arrived in 1640 and the colony was named New Sweden. New Sweden was taken over by the Dutch in 1655 and by the English in 1665, but the colony continued to have its own courts and laws until William Penn assumed control in 1682.
Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig (1928-2009) was The Swedish Colonial Society’s world-renowned historian and genealogist who specialized in 17th century Swedish and Finnish immigrants to the Delaware River Valley. He researched the colonial experience of the settlers and their descendants into the late 18th century. He wrote over 100 articles and books about these settlers. As genealogist for the Society, he reviewed over 500 applications of members proving descent from a Swedish colonist who arrived in New Sweden before the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. His work papers and correspondence form the bulk of the Craig Collection.
Upon Dr. Craig’s death, his papers and books were gifted to the Swedish Colonial Society, perhaps three hundred thousand loose papers and hundreds of books from the foremost expert on New Sweden. The entire collection of loose materials was digitized. Nearly 125,000 pages of paper have been scanned into .pdf format and run through optical character recognition to turn the scanned images into text that can be searched via computer. In addition, redacting software has been used to remove all personal data such as names and addresses of living persons. Furthermore, over 10,000 pages of Dr. Craig’s handwritten family group sheets have been transcribed in order to be computer searchable.
We decided to relocate the collection from the Lutheran Archives in Mt. Airy, so we have donated the entire collection to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where they will be more immediately available to a greater number of researchers. At present, patrons may ask to see the collection, but no finding aids are available beyond those we provided.
Dr. Craig first attracted attention among genealogists for his breakthrough article, “The Yokums of Aronameck,” published in 1983. He expanded his focus to research ALL New Sweden families. His book, “The 1693 Census of the Swedes on the Delaware (1993), is the definitive work presenting family histories of 195 households then belonging to the Swedish Lutheran churches on the Delaware. His subsequent book, “The 1671 Census of the Delaware (1999), identifies and discusses each of the residents on both sides of the Delaware River in the first English census of the Delaware. A majority of the residents were still Swedes and Finns. Dr. Craig’s eight-part series, “The Settlers of New Sweden, 1638-1664,” published by the Swedish American Genealogist (1996-1999), identified each of those colonists who today have many millions of living descendants.
Dr. Craig was born in 1928. He obtained his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1950 and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1953. After practicing law in Washington for 36 years, including more than 25 years with Southern Railway and two years as Assistant General Counsel for Litigation for the U. S. Department of Transportation in the Johnson Administration (1967-69), he retired in 1989 to spend full time on history and genealogy. A resident of Washington, DC, he joined the Swedish Colonial Society in 1981 and was its Historian & Genealogist from 1991 until his death.
Much in demand as a lecturer because of his expertise on the New Sweden colonists and their descendants, Dr. Craig spoke to historical and genealogical audiences in eight different states. In recognition of his writings, Dr. Craig was named a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists and a Fellow of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. In recognition of his contributions to a better understanding of America’s New Sweden heritage, Dr. Craig was awarded Knighthood in the Order of the Polar Star by King Carl XVI Gustav in 2002. He was also a recipient of the Swedish Council of America’s Merit Award.
Click here to download and print for free a Dictionary of the abbreviations used by Peter Craig for many of the references in his family group sheets.