History of the Swedish Church Records
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The most valuable resource to find your Swedish ancestors is the church records (which is considered a primary source.) Surveys performed at the Regional archives in Sweden have found that their patrons use the church records approximately 80% of the time while at the archive. The foundation for kingdom wide registration in the church records dates back to the church law of 1686 which became effective in 1688.  Prior to this many parishes were keeping church accounts books which date back to medieval times. Eventually the bishops of a few dioceses took the initiative to start keeping other church records. One such bishop was Johannes Rudbeckius in Västerås Stift who in 1622 decided that more records were to be kept for the parishes in his diocese. He is attributed for creating the earliest Household Examination record in the 1620’s.  This influence is why you can search the Household examinations in Dalarna and Västmanland back to the 1620’s compared to the rest of the kingdom that generally begin in the 1720’s. The oldest Swedish church record is a death record of 1608 – 1615 from the parish of Helga Trefaldighet in Uppsala diocese.
Areas of modern Sweden that historically belonged to Denmark such as Skåne and Jämtland often have church records dating back to 1646 when a similar law was passed by the Danes.
The church law of 1686 stated that the parish priest was to maintain:
- Birth and christening records (födelse och dop anteckningar)
- Engagement and marriage records (lysnings och vigsel anteckningar)
- Death and burial records (död och begravning anteckningar)
These 3 records are often called Ministerial books.
He should also maintain:
- Household Examinations (Husförhörslängder also called Skriftebok)
- Moving in and out records (Inflyttnings- och Utflyttningsländer)
But there was no centralized instruction as to how the books were to be kept. This became a concern for every diocese to regulate which lead to a wide diversity of record keeping all over the kingdom. For example, moving in and out records were not generally kept before the 1800’s. Starting in 1860 we see standardized printed forms in the church records yet even these vary diocese to diocese. It wasn’t until 1894 that standard forms were used kingdom wide for the church records.
In early times it is common that all 3 Ministerial records were kept in one book called the church book (kyrkboken). Often you will find other records there too such as the Sockenstämmoprotokol (a record of parish decisions and affairs), and the Kyrkräkenskaper (a parish financial record). In some parishes you might find a Konfirmationsbok (confirmation record) was kept. Eventually these records became separate books altogether.
All of the original church books before 1895 have historically been kept by the Regional archives (the Landsarkiv). When there are gaps in the church record collections of a parish, it is most likely that the original records did not survive due to fire, or other destruction.
If all the records for a parish begin at a later date for example 1800, either: 1- the original records have been destroyed or 2- this parish was created in 1800 and you should be searching in another parish record collection prior to 1800.
A good reference to see what happened is: Sveriges församlingar genom tiderna. This is available in book form and online at Sveriges församlingar genom tiderna.
If the local parish records were destroyed you might check with the Diocese Archives (Domkapitel Arkiv). These collections include many records from the parishes within the diocese such as diocese instruction, parish priest replacement, church residential properties, visits to the local parish by diocese officials, and donation records.
Among the visitation records you might find copies of local records such as the communion and household examinations and seating locations within the church. When a new priest or klockare (parish clerk) was chosen an electorial register was created which can offer detailed information about the land owners and farmers within the parish or pastorat. The Domkapitel Arkiv can also include records of divorces. The older part of the Domkapitel Arkiv are stored at the Regional archives (the Landsarkiv.)
Access to Swedish Church Records
The easiest way to access the Swedish Church Records is through the internet using sites such as SVAR, Genline, and Arkiv Digital. All three require a subscription for access (Genline is available at some FamilyHistory Centers.) Ancestry.com (a fee-based website) now includes in its World Deluxe Membership collection the following Genline collections:
- Sweden, Church Records 1500-1937
- Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880-1920
You can find microfilm and microfiche through the Family History Library, and FamilySearch Centers. The original copies of the church records before 1895 are preserved by the National and Regional Archives in Sweden.
FamilySearch has partnered with The National Archives of Sweden to create indexes of the Swedish church records. To learn more about these indexing efforts see:
The Family History Library created a basic key words list to help with reading the column headings (for when they exist in the actual records.) This copy has been given out at the Nordic Reference Counter for many years. To print your own copy see: Swedish Parish Register and Household Exam Roll Headings
- Kyrkbokföring, Släktforska steg för steg, p. 26
- Wikipedia Community. Kyrkböcker. Wiki-Rötter, February, 2011
Clemensson, Per and Andersson, Kjell. Släktforska steg för steg. Falköping, Natur och Kultur/Fakta, 2005
Wikipedia Community. Kyrkböcker. Wiki-Rötter, February, 2011 See http://www.genealogi.se/wiki/index.php/Kyrkbok