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Sweden Jurisdictions

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A jurisdiction is an area which is governed by a system of laws. Each jurisdiction has a geographic boundary with some kind of authority (government, office, committee, or person) who has authority to implement the laws.

Name Description Jurisdiction Type
Domsaga Judicial administrative area Church
Fögderi Administrative area mostly for tax collection/law enforcement Civil
Härad Subdivision of the landskap (esp. mid/southern Sweden) Civil
Kommun Municipality Civil
Kronofogdedistrikt Administrative area under authority of the kronofogden Civil
Landskap Province Civil
Län County Civil
Länsmansdistrikt Geographic area patrolled by a police force Civil
Pastorat Geographic area a minister is responsible for Church
Stift Diocese Church
Tingslag Subdivision of the landskap (esp. northern Sweden) Civil
Församling/Socken Parish/congregation Church
Högsta Domstolen Supreme Court Judicial
Rådhusrätten/Rådstufvurätten City court Judicial
Häradsrätten district court Judicial

Civil Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

Knowing what civil jurisdictions existed when your ancestors were living in Sweden can help you find more evidence to build the family tree. This is especially true when the church records are inadequate. For more information on civil jurisdictions, see this article.

Landskap[edit | edit source]

The landskap, or province, have no administrative functions, but "remain historical legacies and the means of cultural identification. Dialects and folklore rather follows the provincial borders than the borders of the counties."[1] For more information about the landskap, see this article.

Län[edit | edit source]

The län was organized from the landskap organization in 1634, when the landskap turned over its civil authority to the län. Each county was under the direction of a governor (konungens befallningshavande) and his administration was collectively called the länstyrelse. For more information about the län, see this article.

Domsaga[edit | edit source]

Historically an appellate court, the domsaga was made up of one or more härads or tingslags, and contained a district judge who acted as chairman. Today, the domsaga is referred to as domkrets (see image for modern domkretsar).

Härad[edit | edit source]

All of the landskap were divided into smaller areas called härad throughout mid to southern Sweden, and tinslag or bergslag in Northern Sweden. In coastal areas they might be called skeppslag. The härad was involved in the gathering of taxes through the häradsskrivare, and it also provided a place where local political decisions were made. For more information about the härad, see this article.

Tingslag[edit | edit source]

The tingslag is a geographic administrative area for the häradsrätten, often based on the traditional härad structure. Multiple tingslag make up a domsaga. For more information about the tingslag, see this article.

Fögderi[edit | edit source]

The fögderi were smaller areas within the härad, and was an administrative geographical area with the primary purpose of tax collection and law enforcement. For more information about fögderi, see this article.

Kommun[edit | edit source]

The kommun, or municipality, were formed in 1863. They were essentially a civil replacement for the parish system, providing for the needs of the locality. For more information about the kommun, see this article.

Kronofogdedistrikt[edit | edit source]

The kronofogdedistrikt was the geographical administrative area under the authority of the kronofogden, or the High Bailiff over a fögderi within a härad. These jurisdictions functioned primarily for tax-collecting purposes. For more information about the kronofogdedistrikt, see this article.


Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

As you search for your Swedish ancestors, you will spend the majority of your time in the Swedish Lutheran Church Records. After all, they contain the household examination, birth, marriage, death, and moving records. But there are times when a parish record has gaps, was not well kept, or is even missing for the years you need. In situations like this, you may need to search the rest of the parish record collection (that was never microfilmed or digitized), or search records created by other church administration levels. For more information about ecclesiastical jurisdictions, see this article.

Stift[edit | edit source]

The stift is the diocese, which is then made up of several archdioceses. Each diocese is under the direction of a bishop, and belongs to a central administrative organization called a domkapitlet. For more information about the stift, see this article.

Pastorat[edit | edit source]

The pastorat is the geographical area that a minister has responsibility for within the church, usually made up of one, two, or more congregations (församlingar). Sometimes the parish records of the whole pastorat would be kept in one book, other times there is a separate book for each congregation. For more information about the pastorat, see this article.

Församling/Socken[edit | edit source]

The församling, also known as the socken, is the parish jurisdiction within the pastorat. Traditionally, the parish includes the territory of a church building and the kyrkoherde's (the priest/pastor) territorial congregation outside the city, when applicable.[2] For more information about the församling/socken, see this article.


Judicial Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

The courts were responsible for the processing of criminal and civil cases, but also for the recording of property transactions, the division of estates (probates and wills), and even death lists that were sent in by the parishes. Plus there is often a wealth of supporting documents for the cases. It is generally believed that most of the population can be found in the court records for one reason or another. For more information about judicial jurisdictions, see this article.

Högsta Domstolen[edit | edit source]

The högsta domstolen is the name of the Swedish Supreme Court after 1789.

Rådhusrätten/Rådstufvurätten[edit | edit source]

The rådhusrätten (also known as the rådstufvurätten) is the city court, and was the first and most common level of jurisdiction to settle criminal offenses and civil disputes. For more information about records that can be found at the rådhusrätten/rådstufvurätten level, see this article.

Häradsrätten[edit | edit source]

The häradsrätten is the district court, primarily in the countryside. and was the first and most common level of jurisdiction to settle criminal offenses and civil disputes. For more information about records that can be found at the häradsrätten level, see this article.


Further Information[edit | edit source]

To see diagrams of jurisdictional structure along with more detailed explanation, click on the image or word below:

Civil JurisdictionsJudicial JurisdictionsMilitary JurisdictionsChurch JurisdictionsSwedish Juris Bar 1.jpg
About this image


......... Civil ................ Judicial ................... Military .............. Church .........


To see a list of records that are associated with each jurisdiction, click on the image or word below:

Civil RecordsJudicial RecordsArmy RecordsChurch Records4 Open Books Next to Each Other.jpg
About this image

. Civil Records .... Judicial Records ... Army Records ... Church Records

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Provinces of Sweden," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_Sweden, accessed 21 February 2019.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Församling," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%B6rsamling, accessed 26 February 2019.