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The Län is the jurisdictional name given to a geographical area that has been used in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia. From the beginning the term was referring to an area that was “förlänat “ to a member of nobility as reward for his services to the King or Kingdom. The word has carried forward in time but evolved to a different meaning.
A Storlän is often used to describe a larger Län that was created by combining multiple smaller Län into one.
The Swedish Län
The Län in Sweden dates back to medieval times. Birger Jarl and King Magnus Ladulås (who reigned from 1275 to 1290) established the Slottslän at a time when the Ledungen tax (a tax to provide for the military) was revised into a fixed tax. There were also Underhållslän created to financially support members of the Swedish Royal Family, Pantlän that were areas loaned from private owners to the Crown, and Tjänstelän that were exchanged for military service. In compliance with the Constitution in 1634, the kingdom was organized into counties. At this time each province (Landskap) turned over its civil authority to the county (Län) administration. When the county boundaries were created, some counties matched the old province, other provinces were divided into multiple counties, and some provinces were combined to create a county. During the centuries that followed the number of counties fluctuated. By 1810 there were 24 counties which generally remained the same up until 1997. Each county was under the direction of a governor (Konungens befallningshavande) and his administration that was collectively called the Länstyrelse. The Länstyrelse was organized into 2 offices, the Landkansli and the Landskontor. The Landkansli was responsible for commissions related to permissions and appointments. The Landskontor was responsible for all economic matters such as tax collection. The administrative activities in the counties have basically been in force since 1810. For more information about the evolution of counties see History of Swedish Counties.
- The word Län is translated into English to be County.
- Always include the name of the Län when citing the location of an event.
- Be sure to distinguish between Län and a Swedish landskap (usually called province in English).
Here is a map of the Swedish Län from 1810 up to about 1996:
Abbreviation Letters for Län
Genealogists in Sweden often abbreviate the county name to save space. They adopted the county letters used for automobile registration (from 1916 - 1973) because this system was already established and well known by Swedes. While in receent years some counties have been combined or renamed, old county names are often needed in family history research so the abbreviations are still very handy. You may also find these abbreviations used on road maps.
A – Stockholms city and city-county
AB – Stockholms län (from 1969)
AC – Västerbottens län
B – Stockholms län (excluding Stockholm city)
BD – Norrbottens län
C – Uppsala län
D – Södermanlands län
E – Östergötlands län
F – Jönköpings län
G – Kronobergs län
H – Kalmar län
I – Gotlands län
K – Blekinge län
L – Kristianstads län (now part of Skåne län)
M – Malmöhus län (now used for Skåne län)
N – Hallands län
O – Göteborgs och Bohus län (now used for Västra Götalands län)
P – Älvsborgs län (now part of Västra Götalands län)
R – Skaraborgs län (now part of Västra Götalands län)
S – Värmlands län
T – Örebro län
U – Västmanlands län
W – Kopparbergs län (now called Dalarnas län)
X – Gävleborgs län
Y – Västernorrlands län
Z – Jämtlands län
Sveriges Släktforskarförbund Wiki Community., "Pastorat". Wiki-Rötter, January 2011. http://www.genealogi.se/wiki/index.php/L%C3%A4n