The Sweden Church Records collection contains over 19 million images scanned from microfilm/microfiche of the original church records. The collection features various records from the 16th through the 20th century, including birth/baptismal, confirmation, marriage, and death/burial records; church ledgers; moving-in and moving-out registers; and household examination rolls. These are the main sources of genealogical information for Swedish family history research.
More recent records in the collection include parish books from approximately 1896 onward, as allowed by the Swedish confidentiality act. In some cases, church records have been complemented with records kept by Statistics Sweden (abbreviated as SCB), a government agency. The collection includes SCB birth, marriage and death records from 1860 to 1941, and SCB extracts from parish books for 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.
SCB birth records from 1880 to 1920 have now been indexed in the Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880-1920 collection, making it even easier to find the ancestors you're looking for.
About Swedish Church Records
Many of these records stem from a royal decree in 1686 requiring ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden to record births, marriages, deaths, and people who moved in and out of the parish, and to perform household examinations every year. The amount of information varies from book to book, from parish to parish, and from year to year. However, below is what you can typically expect to find in these records:
Birth (Födde) and baptismal (Dop) records
Birth records provide a child’s birth date and christening date. You may also find parents’ and godparents’ names and the family’s residence at the time. Other information can include the parents’ ages and the name of the priest who baptized the child.
Marriage records (Vigsel) and banns (Lysning)
Marriage records include dates for banns and weddings and usually indicate where the bride and groom lived at the time. Most also record ages for the bride and groom and sometimes their parents’ names.
Death/burial records (Död)
Death and burial records list a death date, death place, burial date, and burial place for the deceased. The deceased’s age and cause of death are other types of information you can find. Keep in mind that someone who was born before birth or marriage records were kept may still have a burial record.
SCB births, marriage and death records
The Swedish church books for births, marriages, and deaths were filmed up to about the year 1859. For this reason the Sweden Church Records database has been augmented with material from Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån—SCB). These records are transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths from 1860 to 1941. The transcribed SCB material is not as complete as the actual Swedish church books, and sometimes information such as a burial date, appointment of a godfather, or cause of death is missing.
Household examination rolls/clerical survey records (Husförhör)
Household examination rolls make up the main church register in Sweden. In them, everyone in a parish, including children, is listed household by household. These records came about from examinations held each year to determine people’s knowledge of the catechism.
The household examination has details such as name, occupation, date of birth, birth parish, marriage, etc. The records also have information about when people moved to and from the farms or crofts. The entire family is listed together, which makes it easy to find a person’s children or parents. The examination forms typically cover a five-year period, which can provide interesting details about how a household may have changed over that time.
Moving-in (Inflyttning) and moving-out (Utflyttning) registers
These records give you information about people who moved in and out of a parish. You’ll also find information about people who emigrated to the U.S. The records usually provide the name of the farm, croft, or other place where a person lived before moving or emigrating, which is helpful for then finding that person in the household examination records.
Parish books (Församlingsbok)
Around 1900 household examination rolls were changed to parish books, and their purpose was no longer religious. The books have information about all the people in the parish, household by household. You’ll find names, birth dates, birth parishes, marriage dates, occupations, etc.
Searching the Records
Images in this collection can be browsed by county, parish, record type, and year range. Each image set contains records specific to a parish. Some image sets may contain multiple record types and year ranges. While individual records have not been indexed for this collection, images may be searched by county, parish, record type, year range and GID number. You can also try searching the images by village, farm, or croft where your ancestors lived. Approximately 50 percent of the household examinations are indexed by these place names.
Search by GID number
Each image in the Sweden Parish Records database has a unique ID number called the Genline ID number (GID). The GID number consists of three groups of numbers delimited by periods. The first group of numbers represents the parish ID, the second group the sequence ID number, and the third group the image number in the sequence. For example: 1119.23.23600. You can use a GID number to search for a specific image. When viewing an image, the GID number will be displayed in the index section at the bottom of the image viewer. The GID number will also be listed on the record page.
Search by place name
If you know the name of the village, farm or croft where your ancestor lived, you can try to search using this name. About 50 percent of household examination images are indexed based on these names.
Search by page number
When viewing images, you can jump to other pages in the book by typing the page number in the "page" box above the image. Household examination books sometimes contain an index at the beginning or end of the book with references to page numbers for each farm. Also, when people move between farms in the book, the page number is usually indicated next to the record. Other types of books, such as moving-in and moving-out records, may also contain references to page numbers.
Please note that page numbering within a book may sometimes skip numbers. Also, if an image contains two pages with numbers, only one of the page numbers will be indexed in this collection.
About Swedish Names
Researchers should know some characteristics of Swedish names and that many Swedes changed their name after emigration.
The patronymic naming system, which is based on the father’s name, was common in Sweden up to the end of the 19th century, with between 90 and 95 percent of the population using it. If the father’s name was Sven Johansson, for example, his son’s name might be Magnus Svensson (Magnus the son of Sven). Similarly, a daughter might be named Kerstin Svensdotter (Kerstin the daughter of Sven). When a woman married, she did not adopt her husband’s name; she kept her own patronymic.
Surnames, or family names, were used by the nobility, the clergy, and some townspeople. Members of the nobility adopted family names, some of which could be traced back to coats of arms. However, less than 1 percent of the population was nobility.
Many of the clergy adopted names with Greek or Latin endings such as -ander (meaning “man” or “man from”) or -ius (“coming from” or “of”). Examples of names used by the clergy are Fallander and Morelius.
Many townspeople took family names called "nature names." These "nature names" would usually consist of two parts, such as Dalberg: Dal means “valley” and berg means “mountain.”
Soldiers were given names while in the military, where patronymics did not provide enough differentiation among the troops. Military names sometimes reflected a personal quality like Rapp (“quick”), a military term, a regimental preference, or could be associated with the place where the person served. When they left the service, some soldiers kept their military name, while others returned to using their patronymic.
When emigrants moved to a new country, they often changed their names. If they immigrated to English-speaking countries, the name was often Anglicized. Examples of name changes are
- Andersson — Anderson (the double s becomes one s)
- Bengtsson — Benson, Bentson
- Johansson — Johnson
- Sjöberg — Seaberg or Seeberg
In addition, married women would adopt their husband’s surname.
It is important to understand that the name and spelling of a name for the same individual can differ in the various records. You will always want to compare birth dates and other family information to verify that you are tracing the correct person.
While these records are in Swedish, the records themselves are mostly tables of dates, names, and places. There are some key words that are used repeatedly in the church books and researchers only need to become familiar with these terms.
Need help with Swedish terms? Find resources in our Swedish Research Center.