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Sweden Genealogy Genline Workbook

Swedish Church Records

There are several kinds of Swedish Church Records. Some are more useful to a genealogist 
than others. This is true particularly when a person is just beginning to research 
ancestors. Perhaps my opinion is not correct, but I believe the Household Examination 
Record HER is the most important type record of all.

Household Examination Record HER started out as a way for the priest to keep track of 
taxes and the ability of the parishioners to master church doctrine about religion. 
There was an examination each year to see what progress on religious education was made. 
But in the process of doing this, a record was created which included the name of each 
person living in each house, the relationship to one another, their date of birth and 
the place (parish) where they were born. Further entries would show when the parents 
were married, when they moved into the parish where the record was made, and even where 
they moved if they left that parish to go to another. Death dates are given if someone 
passed on. In fact, the records mostly seem lacking in the record of the religious 
knowledge, as time went on. So the very reason the volumes were kept seems to be the 
first detail to go wanting in the records. Often the left side of the opened book has 
all the pertinent information about the family. Then on the right side where entries 
are to be made about religious knowledge, there is a blank. Far to the right on an open 
page there may be a notation of something to do with the person. This is where it can 
be seen that the person left for America, for example.

Birth Records are important. This is useful to find the name of the parents of a person. 
When you have the name of the parents, look further in the birth announcement for my 
favorite piece of information: the farm where the family lived when the person was born. 
This will be very important when trying to establish the birth place and birth date of 
each parent. This will be necessary so the continuing backward journey through the ancestry 
can continue. The farm name follows the easy to read letter i. It means 'in'. And no amount 
of bad handwriting or over inked pen usually wrecks this letter.

Moving In and Out. Last for a beginner genealogist is the In and Out books. These are 
the volumes which document the movements of each person in each parish. I would like 
to say they are very helpful. But it seems that just as soon as they would be helpful, 
the volumes do not exist. Or the person you are looking for is not there when they should 
be there. However, they have provided useful details in a search of various ancestors so 
they remain on my list of useful books.

Less Useful Volumes.  I do not use the christening books, the banns books (engagement 
announcements), the wedding books, the death books or the burial books. I guess the day 
will come when I will want to flesh out each ancestor. At that time these volumes may come 
in handy. But for now, I just do not have an interest in the information they contain. 
Fortunately you are a different person perhaps with a different mind set. So go on to any 
of these volumes as you feel the need. Just not me. All four of these volumes are arranged 
chronologically. But all four categories of records could be in the same volume. This means 
you must go to the table of contents for the volume. FIRST, before searching the volume. 
In the table of contents you are looking for the pages in that specific volume that are 
used for the records you seek. (See an example of the table of contents of a volume on 
page 71 of this workbook.) Once you know the pages where the record you seek can be found, 
then apply the proportionality method of calculating a good start page. You will find this 
technique explained on page 91 and following in this workbook. With this calculation you will 
be able to get closer to the desired page than if you use a hunt and peck strategy.

Every family eventually has a single person who takes on the task
of collecting ancestor facts. And this person is called the
family historian who should really be called the wonderful person
who has had time to research and record difficult to find facts.
Or just plain 'Wonder Person'. Order a sweat shirt with that phrase.

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Swedish Church Records

What is the Swedish Church Records archive?

Slaka Kyrka Genline's Swedish Church Records archive consists of photographic quality images scanned from microfilm of the original church records. These microfilms are direct copies of the masters kept at the Swedish National Archives in Stockholm.

What Swedish Church Records are included in our archive?

Our church records archive includes records from the 16th-20th century. These records consist of birth/baptismal, confirmation, marriage, death/burial, church ledgers and household examination rolls. These are the main sources of genealogical information in Sweden. In some cases we will be complementing these church records with those kept by a government agency known as Statistics Sweden (abbreviated as SCB).


Swedish Church Records
By Elisabeth Thorsell
Professional genealogist, lecturer and writer

Sweden, a country in northern Europe, has not had any civil registration of Vital Statistics until 1991. Why? Did Swedes and Finns (until 1809) not have to register Births, Marriages and Deaths?

Indeed, they certainly had to, and omission to do so was punished by law. But it was not the local civilian government agencies that kept track of the important happenings in the lives of the Swedes.

It was the church. In 1527 Sweden became a Lutheran country, and the church became a State church. The king (or queen) was and is the head of the church, and all clergymen were also state officials, and stayed so until 2000, when the state and the church were separated. The State church excluded all other denominations until 1858, and everybody had to accept to be registered by the State church, even if you were Moslem, up to 1991, when the local tax authorities took over this job.

The clergy had to keep track of the christenings, marriages and burials, to make sure the people of their parish paid the required fees for the clerical services, and also the tithes, as they had to. So accounts (kyrkoräkenskaper) are the oldest church records still existing, even some from catholic days in the 1400s.

During the early 1600s many Swedes studied at the German universities and brought home ideas on many things, which were then used in their parishes. Among those ideas was the keeping of Christening, Marriage and Burial records in a special book. This was ordered by at least two early bishops, Johannes Rudbeckius of Västerås and Johannes Botvidi of Linköping, that it should be done in their dioceses. So several parishes in those dioceses have continous Church records from about 1630 to 1991. As a general rule, however, most Church records start in the 1680s, as a result of the Church Law of 1686.

Johannes Rudbeckius

The keeping of Christening, Marriage and Burial records is nothing unique for Sweden and Finland, but we do have something unique in our records: The Husförhörslängderna, or translated into English: Household Examination Rolls, or shorter: Clerical surveys.

Everybody over the age of 15 (about) had to go to a meeting once a year, when they were examined in the knowledge of their religion. Everybody should be able to read the Cathechism, so most Swedes, even the women, could read in the early 1700s, and some could even write. You had to pass the examination, or else you were not allowed to take part in the Holy Communion, and that made you a social outcast, and you were not allowed to marry, for instance.

To keep track of the parishioners' knowledge of religion, the parish priest made lists of all persons in the parish, household by household, with spaces for entering age, place of birth, moves, inoculations, knowledge of different parts of the cathechism and many other facts of life. These records were kept continously, in big books, every volume covering mostly a period of five to ten years. The year they start are very varying in different parts of the country, as the various dioceses had varying regulations about keeping this kind of record. In Västerås diocese there are many cl. surveys from the 1600s, in Linköping diocese they generally start around 1792 and in Lund diocese in the 1810s. The completeness of these records varies a lot, according to the interest of the clergyman to keep records, some were interested, others were not.

From the previous text it may be clear that the basic unit of Swedish and Finnish genealogical research is the parish (socken, församling). But what is a parish? A parish is a geographical area, the smallest administrative unit in Sweden. All people in the same parish went to the same church, were registered in the same books, and were buried in the same churchyard.

There are also bigger units, a number of neighboring parishes formed a rural deanery (prosteri), and a number of those formed a diocese (stift), of which there are now 13 in Sweden, but generally the starting genealogist does not have to look for the records of those units.

When someone moved from his home parish to another one, he had to have an Exit Permit, and that was also the custom, when someone emigrated. Read more on the Exit Permits here.

More About Swedish Church Records


A Brief History of Statistics Sweden

arrow The parish registration 
required by the 1686 Church Ordinance laid the groundwork for future population statistics.

arrow The Office of Tables (Tabellverket) 
Sweden began to keep population statistics in 1749, a quite unique phenomenon. Sweden - and Finland, which was then under Swedish rule - are the only countries that possess continuous records of their population so far back in time.

arrow The Tables Commission (Tabellkommissionen) 
In 1756 a new public authority was established, which was given the task of ensuring that the Office of Tables worked properly.

arrow Statistics Sweden
was established in 1858. Initially, its operations focused overwhelmingly on population statistics, but gradually other branches of statistics were added, such as agricultural statistics, statistics on local government finances, savings banks statistics and poor relief statistics.

The Tables Commission ceased to exist in 1858 and was replaced by the Statistical Committee, a body that advised and coordinated official statistics.
The number of members was set at nine, with the Minister of Public Administration serving as Chairman and the Head of Statistics Sweden as Permanent Clerk.

arrow The Statistical Tables Commission
The Statistical Committee was reformed in 1886 to become the Statistical Tables Commission, which continued to operate until 1948, when it was formally dissolved. The Head of Statistics Sweden chaired the Commission.


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