|Tracing Your Swedish Ancestry|
|By James E. Erickson and Nils William Olsson|
Swedish Parish Records
It is in the parish that you must first look for the records that will bring you closer to the information you seek. Since the parish clergyman was responsible for keeping these records, it is in the parish that we find the registers of births and christenings (födelselängd and doplängd), marriages (vigsellängd), deaths and burials (dödslängd and begravningslängd), communion attendance (kommunionlängd), confirmation classes (konfirmationslängd), movement of individuals into or out of the parish (inflyttningslängd and utflyttningslängd), and the very important series of husförhörslängder.
These latter documents, known as household examination rolls or clerical surveys (view image), were originally set up by the clergyman when making his visitations throughout the parish to see how his parishioners were faring physically and spiritually. In cities household examination rolls were organized by blocks (kvarter) and house numbers, whereas in rural areas they were organized first by districts or wards (rotar) and then by type of residence; for example, village (by), estate (herrgård), farm (gård) or croft (torp) within the ward (rote).
The household examination rolls give information about all members of a household, including their names, occupations, relationships, birth dates, birthplaces, departures and arrivals and, often, their marriages and deaths. Information is also given about people who boarded in the household, such as aged parents, servants, cobblers, tailors, retired military personnel and poorhouse inmates. Here we find bits of information about the educational status of the persons enumerated, their character, and notes about their undesirability as parishioners, such as being mentally challenged, chronic alcoholics or criminals.
These rolls are interesting from a sociological point of view as well. Taken as a source, the husförhörslängder are probably the single most unique and important type of Swedish record, since they give an overall view of a family and its place in parish society. The earliest, known as katekismilängder, go back as far as the 1620s (Västerås Diocese); some in Linköping Diocese begin as early as 1714; and a number of husförhörslängder from Växjö Diocese date back to 1717 or 1718. Generally speaking, though, the majority begin about 1750, when the national Central Bureau of Statistics (Statistiska Centralbyrån) began its activity. In 1895 the character of the husförhörslängder was changed somewhat and they were renamed församlingsböcker.
In 1946 a reform was initiated that changed the system of keeping vital statistical records. In addition to the information supplied in the parish registers, each person was given a personakt (personal record), which contains an extract of all the pertinent data appearing in the parish records. If an individual moves to another parish, the personakt is taken to the new parish. If an individual dies or emigrates, his or her personakt is sent to the national Central Bureau of Statistics in Stockholm. Here two series are kept - one of deaths and one of emigrations. For the latter category, there is a supplementary register arranged according to dates of birth. Today in each län there is also a record of addresses, arranged alphabetically, for all persons living in that län.
If the information you seek
is more than one hundred years old, you have to go to the landsarkiv or stadsarkiv, depending upon where the parish records are stored, to continue the
search backwards in time. A few parishes, primarily in the landskap of
Dalarna, enjoy a so-called dispensation and have been allowed to keep all of
their records. There are about forty such parishes. An inquiry to the nearest landsarkiv
will usually bring a reply, if the parish sought is one of this privileged
Images © 2000 Kimberly Powell. All Rights Reserved.