Sweden Emigration and Immigration

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Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or coming into (immigrating) a country. Swedish emigration records can be a useful source of genealogical information. They are usually found as passenger lists. There are also some records of passports issued.

Emigration records can help you determine where in Sweden your ancestor came from. They can also help in constructing family groups. If you do not find your ancestor in emigration or immigration records, you may find emigration information about your ancestor's neighbors. People who lived near each other in Sweden often settled together in the country they emigrated to.

Unfortunately, there are few pre-1866 Swedish emigration records.

Records were created when individuals emigrated from Sweden. Others document his or her arrival in the destination country. This section discusses:

  • The history of emigration from Sweden.
  • Finding the emigrant's parish of origin.
  • Records of Swedish emigrants in their destination countries.

The History of Emigration from Sweden

The first Swedish emigrants to the United States left Sweden in 1638 and founded a colony near Wilmington, Delaware. Although Sweden held the colony for only 17 years, this was the start of Swedish immigration to the United States. Some people emigrated from Sweden between 1638 and the early 1800s. They usually traveled through other European ports. An estimated 1,300,000 people left Sweden between 1820 and 1920. Most of them were farmers, but some were craftsmen and others professionals.

Emigration was minimal until the 1850s, after which large numbers left Sweden. Emigration peaked in the 1880s. Swedes settled in every state, but most settled in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

The Swedish-American Line began carrying passengers directly from Sweden to America in 1915. Before that, ships left Swedish ports and went to other European countries where the passengers changed ships for their transatlantic voyage.

Swedes emigrated for several reasons. Among them were poor economic conditions, avoidance of military service, glowing accounts from emigration agents, availability of free land and encouragement from other family members in the new land, and religious persecution.

Finding the Emigrant's Parish of Origin

Once you have traced your family back to the ancestor who immigrated, you must determine the parish he or she came from.

Sweden has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records. These records were kept locally. You might learn the parish of origin by talking to family members. They may know the parish or have documents that name it, such as:

  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates.
  • Obituaries.
  • Journals.
  • Photographs.
  • Letters.
  • Family Bibles.
  • Church certificates of moving.
  • Naturalization applications and petitions.
  • Passenger lists.
  • Passports.
  • Family heirlooms.

Passenger Lists

Swedish passenger lists record the people, including people from other countries, who departed from Swedish ports. The records were kept for the Swedish police authorities (Poliskammaren).

Most Swedish emigrants left from the port of Göteborg (Gothenburg). Emigrants from southern Sweden left from Malmö. Relatively few left from Stockholm and Norrköping.

The passenger lists are indexed. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of both the indexes and the original passenger lists.

The indexes for Göteborg and Malmö are alphabetical, first by the surname of the person. This alphabetizing is for individuals traveling alone. A second index follows the first, which alphabetically lists by given name, youths traveling alone. Most of these individuals are under the age of 21 years. Sometimes a reference is given to whom the minor child may be traveling with. A third and finally index alphabetically lists the surnames of families traveling together. A family is composed of at least one adult and one or more children. Remember the inclusion of the Swedish diacritical letters, Åå. Ää, Öö follow the letter “Z”.

The following table lists the original lists and indexes available for each port.

Original Lists

Malmö 1874-1939 1874-1886
1888-1929 1931-1939
Norrköping 1860-1921
Stockholm 1869-1904 1869-1920

To find a film number for a specific port in a specific year, look in the Family History Library Catalog. Each port is listed under:


Many Swedes also left from the following ports:

  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Oslo and Trondheim, Norway
  • Hamburg, Germany

Records from these ports are indexed and list Swedes as foreigners. As a result, the records generally list the person's last residence as Sweden, though some do list the person's home parish.

If your ancestor emigrated through Hamburg, the passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in the Wiki article Hamburg Passenger Lists. Also, the Family History Library has the Hamburg Passenger List 1850-1934 Resource Guide, and microfiche instructions Hamburg Passenger Lists.

To find records of these ports, check Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:


Extracts of Parish Records

Parish ministers were required to send yearly extract records to the Central Bureau of Statistics (Statistiska Centralbyrån) of people leaving Sweden or arriving in Sweden from another country. This practice was supposed to have started in 1851, but it did not become regular until 1865.

The Central Bureau of Statistics compiled these records by county. These records have been microfilmed to the year 1940. Thus far, the records between 1851 and 1860 have been indexed. The indexing is an ongoing project. Some counties have indexes more recent than 1860.

These records contain the name of each parish on the first page with statistical information about that parish. Information about the people arriving from another country or leaving Sweden have separate sections on the next page.

The parish extracts are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:


Indexes to parish extracts are listed under:



Passport Journals: Between 1798 and 1851, the names and residences of persons applying for passports were recorded yearly in the records of the Swedish Navy. The Navy kept the records because the passport fees went into the Navy's pension fund.

These records are available on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL films 479331, 479587-605). Axel Friman has created an index to the names of emigrants listed in the naval records between 1817 and 1850 (FHL film 1224712 item 3).

Passport journals are also available from a few cities in Sweden. They give the name and home parish of the applicant. To find them, search the Family History Library Catalog under:


Emigration Archives: Sweden has several regional emigration archives. The most prominent one is the Emigrant Institute in Växjö. It houses the largest collection of Swedish emigration materials as well as a microfilmed collection of church records from the Swedish-American Lutheran Church. The Institute's address is:

Svenska Emigrantinstiutet
Box 201
S-351 04 Växjö
Internet: http://www.utvandrarnashus.se/

Electronic databases

A special emigration database, called Emigranten, is available at the Family History Library on computer disc. The database gives access to the following files:

  • EMIHAMN - Emigrants leaving through Göteborg, Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, and Kalmar (1.3 million names).
  • EMIBAS - Emigrants who were residents of Göteborg City (40,000 names).
  • EMISJÖ - Sailors who left their ships outside of Europe (20,000 names).
  • SAKA - A list of the church records in the Swedish-American Lutheran Church Archives.

Another emigration database is Emibas.  Emibas contains information regarding almost 1.1 million emigrants from more than 2300 Swedish parishes, three quarter of all Swedish emigrants.  The following information is included: Name, title, gender, date of birth, marital status, place of residence, destination, and comments.  Emibas covers the years of 1840-around 1950.  It is available at the Family History Library on computer disc. 

The records of the Swedish-American Lutheran churches are also available on microfilm through the Swenson Swedish Research Center. See the "Societies" section of this outline for their address.

LDS Emigration

The Scandinavian LDS Mission Index is the most comprehensive source of information about Swedish Latter-day Saint immigrants. The index alphabetically lists the Church members from all Scandinavian countries. One person may have several entries in the index.

This index generally gives the person's birth date and place, other event dates and places, and a reference to the original source of the information.

The index is on 344 microfiche and is broken down into sections of ten fiche for a part of the alphabet. The index is found in the Family History Library Catalog under:


An excellent book about Swedish emigration available at the Family History Library is:

Clemensson, Per and Kjell Andersson. Emigrantforska! Steg för steg (Emigration Research. Step by Step). Falköping, Sweden: Gummessons Tryckeri AB, 1996. (FHL book 948.5 D27ce.)

Records of Sweden Emigrants in Their Destination Countries

Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she emigrated to. The records there may provide the town or place of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks, manuals, and the research outline for that country (if available).

Many of the emigrating Swedes settled in the upper mid-west of the United States. States like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa, plus the Dakotas received the bulk of the Swedish emigrants. It was not uncommon for Swedes to cluster in spots and form their own communities. Many also affiliated with Lutheran churches once they arrived in America. The American-Lutheran Church membership records can be very informative for finding more information about your emigrating Swedish ancestor. These registers are on file with the Swenson Institute located at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has microfilmed most Swedish immigrant church records in the United States. Its address is:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, Illinois 60631-4198
Telephone: 312-380-2818
Internet: http://www.elca.org/

The microfilms are available through the Augustana College. See "Societies" section of this outline for the address.

Naturalization Records

US Naturalization records can sometimes provide the necessary information regarding place of origin. However, these kinds of records frequently only list the name of the country from where the individual came and the name of the king, etc. of that country. Naturalization records are found in the FHLC at the county level of the state in which the county is located. First papers are filed with the clerk’s office at the time the individual first applied for citizenship. However, citizenship was not granted until the residency requirement, which was 5-7 years had been satisfied.

Passenger Arrivals. Most Swedish immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and Quebec. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records and some indexes. See the United States Research Outline for more information about United States immigration records.

An important book on Sweden immigrants to the United States is:

Olsson, Nils William and Erik Wikèn. Swedish Passenger Arrivals in U.S. Ports 1820-1850. Stockholm, Sweden: N. W. Olsson and E. Wikèn, 1995. (FHL book 973 W3on.)

County Histories. Histories from the counties where Swedish immigrants settled sometimes provide the immigrants' town of origin.

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