Swedish County Letters

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As you do your Swedish family history research, sometimes you will see a letter associated to a county. In Sweden these letters are called Länsbokstav which is literally translated as “county letter”. The system of assigning a unique letter (or letters) to every county began with automobile registration in 1916 and continued up until 1973. During this time period, the characters’ on every license plate began with a letter that was associated to the county where the owner lived. For example, if the owner lived in Kalmar County (which was assigned the letter H) then the car’s license plate might be H40371.

To simplify the system they did not use letters that could be easily confused with others (such as Ä and Å which could easily be mistaken for A.) After eliminating many letters for the system, there were not enough letters left over for every county to have its own single character county letter. So some counties ended up with double letters like BD for Norrbotten County. In counties where there were a lot of cars (like Stockholm city) a second letter A was added after the first letter of registration. So a registration of A became AA (when the city had a county jurisdictional equivalent of its own) and BA for cars in Stockholm County around the city. If the vehicle was sold, or moved with an owner to another county, it would be re-registered to reflect the correct county letter.

The structure of every county having its own letter was reinforced by road atlases, other maps, and having been taught in most schools for 57 years. Over time the county letters became so well known that they were used (and still are) for other purposes. Eventually people were referring to the counties by the letter as though it was the real name of the county, such as “it’s in M County” and most people would recognize they meant Malmöhus County.

It's common to see the county letters used in modern Swedish databases that are used for family history research.

The County Letters are:

A – The city of Stockholm (up to 1968)
AB – Stockholm County (from about 1969)
AC – Västerbotten
B – Stockholm County (except the city before 1968)
BD - Norrbotten
C – Uppsala
D – Södermanland
E – Östergötland
F – Jönköping
G – Kronoberg
H – Kalmar
I – Gotland
K – Blekinge
L – Kristianstad (now part of Skåne County)
M – Malmöhus (now part of Skåne County)
N – Halland
O – Göteborg och Bohus (now part of Västra Götaland County)
P – Älvsborg (now part of Västra Götaland County)
R – Skaraborg (now part of Västra Götaland County)
S – Värmland
T – Örebro
U – Västmanland
W – Kopparberg (now part of Dalarna County)
X – Gävleborg
Y – Västernorrland
Z - Jämtland


Wiki Community. Länsbokstav. Swedish Wikipedia, July 2011