Since the early 1600s, Swedish clergy have maintained records of births and christenings, betrothals and marriages, and other religious events. An official decree of 1686 required that all parishes in Sweden maintain records of births, marriages, burials and persons entering or leaving the parish, as well as a list of the names of all parishioners (which became household examination rolls or clerical survey records).
Those with Swedish roots may wish to consult other records in Sweden, too, such as estate inventories, population registers (censuses), passenger ship manifests, and other records.
Unfortunately, the Swedish national archives’ records aren’t available online for free.
Sweden instead commissions this access through a commercial website. For many years, Genline
was the only available source, with black-and-white images of records from microfilms made before 1985. After Ancestry.com
acquired Genline, those records became available with Ancestry.com’s World subscription.
At the same time, Sweden’s national archives commissioned another
commercial site to re-image the records from the originals, resulting in higher-quality images and making them available to the public by subscription. Today, ArkivDigital
has nearly 50 million Swedish record images, in color for better contrast. The site provides church records, court records and inventories of estates. For an English version of the site, click the British flag at the top left.
You must download ArkivDigital’s software to use the records. Click Try Demo for Free on the home page to download a temporary free version. This demo includes only two parishes (Älvsbacka parish in Värmland County and Röke parish in Kristianstads County), but it’s helpful for learning to navigate the records. Subscriptions let you access all the site’s records; they range from one week to two years and start at 85 SEK (around $14).
Using the program takes patience because there’s not an every-name index to the site’s records. In order to locate a relative’s record, you’ll need to browse by time and place. The steps in this tutorial will help you locate information about your Swedish ancestors in the ArkivDigital database. But before beginning your research, you’ll need to gather some information: the name of the person you’re seeking, the years of life events (such as birth and death) for which you want to find records, and the name of the person’s parish. To find this information, search all possible records of the family in the United States—obituaries, church records, naturalizations, etc.
1. Type the name of the parish (or county) into the Search box on the left of the ArchivDigital home page. If there are special characters in the name, they must be included. I find it useful to keep a list of places my family lived, including special characters, in a spreadsheet or text document; I just copy a place name and paste it into the search box. Here, I searched for Röke parish, which is in Kristanstads county. In the results box, click on the link for Röke parish.
2. The display will show dates related to the formation of the parish, its county, and other details.
3. Scroll down to show the records available for this parish and click the category of the record you want.
4. Next, find the appropriate date range for the record you want. The round “i” icon to the right of the row indicates you can purchase a CD with these records if you choose. The red shield icon indicates the data is available online. Click the shield icon to open the volume with the dates desired, which will pull up images of that book.
5. The records are usually arranged chronologically. Scroll through the pages to find the date range for the record you need, which may require trial and error. Use the “-1 page”, “-5 page” icons to go back (earlier) or the “+1 page” or “+5 page” icons to move forward (later) to navigate through the record. You also can use the image tools to adjust contrast if necessary, which can make the record easier to read.
6. Once you’ve identified your relative’s record, I recommend transcribing everything about that record (including any preprinted column headers), whether or not you know what it means. You can find translation aids later to help make out the entire record, but if you assume details aren’t important enough to transcribe, you might miss information. Keep in mind that the earlier the record, the more difficult it may be to interpret. The earliest records are written using Gothic script.
7. Be sure to follow up on all the clues the record provides for all family members. For example, if it’s a marriage record (like this one from the marriage/banns book for Röke parish), look for the birth records of the husband and wife, as well as their parents. Study later records for the births of the couple’s children.
Also keep an eye out for potentially confusing details in records. On this page (which is the right half of the record shown in Image 6, with contrast adjusted to improve readability), note that the third record is from 1939, while the others are from 1938.
From the October/November 2014 Family Tree Magazine