Introduction to Swedish Church Books
The Swedish church books are usually the first Swedish records that one uses when tracing one’s Swedish roots. These records are a “gold mine” because they are so complete and contain such detailed information. In many cases, one can trace a person’s life in the church books from birth to death or birth to emigration.
ArkivDigital’s online archive contains church books from the earliest times in the 1600’s to 1894 for all of Sweden (household examinations, moving, birth, marriage and death records) as well as many of the so-called modern church books (1895-1942) which includes the congregation books, moving, birth, marriage and death records as far as is allowed by privacy regulations. Swedish law limits the availability of some records younger than 70 years online. So if a book covers the years 1929 to 1950, it can’t be published because it contains information within the last 70 years. You can check to see what church books are available for a parish by going to www.arkivdigital.net and click on the section, image database.
Swedish Church Books
The Swedish Church Books include the following record types:
- Birth and Christening (födelse- och dopbok)
- Banns and Marriage (lysnings- och vigselbok)
- Death and Burial (död- och begravningsbok)
- Moving in and out (In- och utflyttningslängd)
- Household and congregation (husförshörslängd och församlingsbok)
Birth and Christening
The content of the birth and christening records varies by parish and by time period. If you know the name of your ancestor, the birth date and birth parish, you should be able to find the birth record. Below is the information that you will find most often in these records:
- Child’s Name
- Birth date and baptismal date
- Names of parents
- Name of the farm, village or place where family lives in the parish
- Names of baptismal witnesses
- Mother’s age
- In many birth books after 1860, you will find the page number of the corresponding household or congregation book that contains information about the household.
- Birth records are in chronological order
- In the early books, sometimes only the baptismal date is given
- Some books contain multiple types of records. It is recommended to check the front of the book and look for a table of contents that gives the page number for the beginning of the birth record section.
- Note down the place name in the birth record. You will need the place name in order to find the family in the household examination book. In many of the birth books after 1860, the page number in the household or congregation book is noted in the birth record.
Banns and Marriage
You will typically find the following information in the banns and marriage books:
- Dates of the banns and marriage
- Names of the bride and groom
- Name of the place where the bride and groom lived
- Name of the minister
- In some books, mostly after 1860 the page number in the corresponding
household or congregation book
- The banns and marriage records are in chronological order
- The marriage was usually performed in the bride’s parish
Death and Burial
You will typically find the following information in the death and burial books.
- Name of deceased
- Dates of death and burial
- Place in parish where deceased lived
- Age at death
- Cause of death
- In some books, mostly after 1860 the page number in the corresponding household or congregation book
- The death and burial records are in chronological order
Moving In and Out
Each parish minister was required to keep a record of all persons moving in and out of the parish. In the moving in records, you will usually see the name of the person moving in, date, place where he/she came from and the moving to place in the parish. Often the page in the corresponding household or congregation record is noted as a cross-reference. The moving out records contain the person’s name, place moved from and sometimes a reference to the page in the household examination or congregation book as well as the moving to place. If the person moved out of the country, usually only the name of the country is noted. For emigrants moving to America, the entry is usually North America (Nord Amerika).
Household and Congregation
The household examination records are unique to Sweden and Finland. Each pastor was required to take a yearly accounting of all members in his parish and test them for their religious understanding. In order to do this accounting, the minister made lists of all the people living in the parish, household by household. These records were kept in large books and each volume covers a series of years. You will see some that cover five years and many that cover ten years. This varies by parish and time. Most of these books begin in the mid-1700’s but they do exist earlier for some parishes.
In 1895, the household books were replaced by the congregation books. In these books all the parish members were registered but the religious examinations were no longer required so the information about religious examination results and receiving Holy Communion was no longer entered in the books.
- Name of place such as farm, village or address in city
- Names of all members in household
- Birth date and birth place for each individual
- Occupation for head of household
- Marriage date for head of household
- Vaccination information (after 1800)
- Religious examination results (up to 1894)
- Death date if person has died during the period the book covers (There will also be a death record in the death book.)
- Moving in and out information
- Sometimes notes in the special remarks column about the person
- The household and congregation books are organized by place. This is why it is important to note the name of the place where the family lives as is noted in the birth, marriage or death record. There is usually an index of place names in the front of the household and congregation that gives the starting page number for a place. There are a few books that do have person name indexes but most are organized by place names.