Bridge to Sweden

Newsletter no 34
January 2014


Winter in Norrtälje

Photo: Marie Louise Bratt

Gott Nytt År!
--- that is Happy New Year!  The first snow has already fallen - and unfortunately melted. But more is expected soon. Luciadagen, the Lucia day, on December 13, has arrived and passed too, and so has Jul (Christmas), and we now have a New Year.

You might now be ready to start your research for Swedish ancestors once more. After finding their birth records you will probably go to the household examination records, husförhörslänger. Learn more about these very interesting and helpful documents below.

Then let's talk about trips to Sweden! Your are right, we stopped our trips, but we changed our minds when some of you wrote asking about trips. We could not resist and decided to start our trips again. More below! 

Småland is a favorite Swedish province of mine, and so is Öland. We have traveled in both provinces many times with Americans, Canadians and others, whose ancestors emigrated from there. Learn about these beautiful areas below.



(household examination records)

These records are so useful that I want you to get familiar with them. They ressemble the US and Canadian census in a way. However it was the parish minister who prepared them during his yearly visit with each family. He probably shared some gossip with the residents while having coffee with the family, but his purpose was more serious. He recorded (had to, by law) important information about each family member, and even about any lodgers, farmhands and maids living in the household. He wrote down names, dates and parish of birth and marriage and death. He even checked every household member's ability to read and write, plus her or his  knowledge of cathechism - probably not popular! You can find the grades each person received in these records too!

The heading of each column is printed, which makes them easy to read, but not to understand if you don't know Swedish. Just above the headings you'll find the page number and the name of the farm. Below it is often another place name, the cottage (torp). Note that every farm and little torp has a name!

Here are the most common headings:

Personernas namn - the persons' names
Yrke - occupation
Födelseår - year of birth
Födelsemånad - month of birth
Födelseort - place of birth
Socken - parish (this is now rarely used, the common word these days is församling)
Äktenskap - marriage
Gift - married
Enkling (abbreviated enkl.), enka - widower, widow (now spelled änkling/änka)
Koppor - smallpox (checked if vaccinated against smallpox)
Hitflyttad från - moved here from (followed by the name of another parish or the page number in the present book)
Död - dead
Bortflyttad till - moved away to

The columns that follow have the dates for various examinations and for communions. The last column (bortflyttad) is important in that it gives the place the person moved to, and also the date of the move. You might find Nord Amerika, or simply another parish in Sweden. The most difficult part, very often, is to read what the minister wrote!

You will first find the father's name, perhaps Anders Jönsson, then his wife (hustru, abbreviate H), Katarina Persdotter, with their dates and places of birth. Below are the children, sometimes in order of years of birth, but at other times divided into boys and girls. 

Each book covers around 5 years. So after finding your family in one book, you will want to find them in the next one. Did they move and where to? Did any of the children die? Where did the children go as they grew up? Did the children marry and have their own families?

The husförhörslängder were kept until about 1895, when they were replaced by församlingsböcker. The Family History Library (the Mormon Church), has filmed most of these records, and you can find these copies at their centers. However, these days most records are on the Internet, mostly on sites that require payment. Here are a few of these sites: Arkiv Digital, Riksarkivet and Ancestry. 

The original records have been transferred from the parishes to Landsarkiven (the regional archives):


 There you can find not only husförhörslängder, but also birth, marriage and death records, and much else.

If you are one of those people who have other things to do, such as going to work or take care of a family, you might want some help with all this research. Then please contact me!



Småland or Öland this summer?
Småland and Öland are two separate provinces (landskap), located next to each other right on the Baltic Sea (Östersjön in Swedish).   The province of Småland is divided into three counties (län): Kronobergs län and Jönköpings län are located entirely in Småland, but  Kalmar län includes parts of Småland as well as all of Öland.  On this map you will find Småland, with Öland being the oblong island to the right.

Huge numbers of people emigrated from Småland and Öland during the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s. The emigration actually started already in the mid 1800s, but stopped when the first world war started, in 1914. Why did they leave this beautiful part of Sweden? The reasons were most often poverty and hunger, especially around 1870, when there was a very serious crop failure. Many hundreds of thousands emigrated from here, perhaps also your grandfather or grandmother. Whole families left by sailing ships, and later on  by steam ships, to America. Some died on the way over to what they hoped to be a much brighter future.

Some of Sweden's favorite books were written by Vilhelm Moberg and tell us about emigrants from Ljuder parish, in Småland. The series of books give good idea of how things happened: The Emigrants, Unto a Good Land, The settlers and The Last Letter Home (all in English).

What is Småland like today? Woods and lakes, stones of all sizes. Farms, mostly small. Small towns, many along the shore of the Baltic Sea. Some emigrants came from the rural areas, others from rather small and beutiful towns such as Kalmar, Växjö, Oskarshamn and Jönköping. Here you can, even today, comfortably walk from one side of town to the other!

Kalmar has been an important port for a long time. Many young men from the area sailed from Kalmar. It's an old town with a Castle, Kalmar castle. Kalmar is the central town for Kalmar län.

Växjö is located in the middle of Småland and is the center for Kronobergs län. It has grown considerably, and is now a university town.  Linnéuniversitetet is there, named from Carl von Linné (Linneus), who was born in Småland.  Like in many Swedish towns, Växjö has had several huge fires, which destroyed most of the town, the latest one in 1843.

Jönköping, beautifully located on lake Vättern, was the center of what in Sweden is called frikyrkor, free churches, basically churches that were not part of Svenska kyrkan, the Swedish protestant church. Jönköping is the center for Jönköpings län.

If you would like to find old records from Smålandor Öland, the birth and marriage and death records are only some examples, you need to contact Vadstena landsarkiv, where the originals are located. The archives are actually located in Vadstena slott (castle). Their website is unfortunatly in Swedish.

One of our guests, Richard, wrote about his trip to Småland. You might want to read our newsletter from 2007 about his experience, Richard's trip to Småland.



I wish you a very Happy year 2014! I hope to hear from you now that the festivities have slowed down, and  you have perhaps again started to focus on your Swedish research.

A final request: if you know someone who might want to read this newsletter, please send it on to her or him. If you no longer want to be on my mailing list, let me know, and I'll remove your name right away.


Marie Louise Bratt