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Frequently Asked Questions

This page is far outdated and we plan to replace it soon!

How can I look for living relatives in Sweden?

Is it necessary to go all the way to Sweden to use the Swedish records?
Are any of these records online?
Does the Swenson Center have the Swedish parish records?

Is it possible to go to Sweden to do research?
What types of parish records exist?
Can I access Swedish records for every year that they were kept?
Why did the Swedes keep these wonderful records?
Some of the letters have double-dots or circles over them...

Why can't I find my ancestor's name in the Swedish parish records?
How can I find out where my ancestors were from in Sweden?
I know the name of the town my ancestor was from in Sweden; how can I find the parish name?
What else can I try?
Where can I find some information about the parish that my ancestors lived in?

How can I look for living relatives in Sweden?
1. Use the Swedish parish records to find the ancestors who stayed in Sweden (such as the immigrant's siblings or cousins).
2. Trace their descendants as far forward as the records are available, which can be the 1930s. Sometimes there are wide gaps in available years and it is necessary to write to archives for records after that. At the Swenson Center we use 1970, 1980, and 1990 census indexes to trace people closer to the present.
3. Look for potential living people online at Swedish people-finder sites like Eniro, Hitta, and Birthday.se.

Is it necessary to go all the way to Sweden to use the Swedish records?
No! Swedish parish records were microfilmed by the Latter-Day Saints decades ago and are available for the general public to view on microfilm at their Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Copies of the microfilms can be borrowed in their numerous branch libraries or "FamilySearch Centers" around the world for a nominal fee. It is possible that there will be a volunteer at your local LDS branch who knows how the Swedish records work well enough to help you place an order and use them when they arrive. Find your nearest Latter-Day Saints FamilySearch Center here.

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Are any of the records I will need online?
It is indeed possible to find many records online. At least three companies are scanning images of the original records and making them available by subscription. This page has regularly-updated links to parishes whose records are available to view online in one format or another. Not all of the links are in English. The LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City has subscriptions to Genline and SVAR for public use, and all of the LDS branches in the United States have Genline subscriptions for public use.

Does the Swenson Center have Swedish parish records?
The Swenson Center has access to Swedish parish record images using subscriptions to ArkivDigital and SVAR, so we have the potential to find quite a bit of information for you. See our Research Services web page for details. We also have several complete databases of inhabitants of Sweden, such as the 1880, 1890, and 1900 Censuses of Sweden.

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Is it possible to go to Sweden to do research?
It is definitely possible to go to Sweden to do research in various regional, national, and even privately-owned archives (Search Archives). Please contact the archives prior to going to Sweden in order to get their hours, find out if they require an appointment, and how much they charge to use their facilities. We recommend doing as much research as possible from the United States (or Canada) before going to Sweden. If going to the trouble and expense of traveling to Sweden, why not spend your time visiting with relatives rather than looking for them? (Keep in mind that finding living Swedish relatives can lead to a lifetime of friendships, but also be prepared for the possibility that the Swedes will not be interested in corresponding with their American relatives.)

What types of parish records exist?
There are chronological birth records that show the child's first names, the parents' first and last names, and the name of the farm on which they were living. From there you can go to household examination records or husförhörslängder, which are arranged geographically by farm, usually not alphabetically. The household records list all of the family members and their dates and places of birth, and tell of any movements within, into, or out of the parish. Those are the most-used types of records. The records are in the pastor’s original handwriting, which is sometimes difficult to read or is filled with his own personal abbreviations, but many people with no knowledge of the Swedish language learn to use these records and find it very rewarding to do the research themselves.

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Can I access Swedish records for every year that they were kept?
Because of the same type of privacy laws that we have in the United States, Swedish parish records are not accessible by the public until after 70 years have passed. The more recent records may still be kept in the individual parish offices, but more and more they are being moved to regional archives for preservation. Contact the archives for the region you need to see about more current records. Addresses of the regional archives (Landsarkiv) around Sweden.

Why did the Swedes keep these wonderful records?
Originally kept for taxation purposes, the Swedish church records eventually also became the way that the pastor kept track of how well each person knew the Catechism, through annual examinations called husförhör. In Sweden, until 1991, each parish pastor kept track of all of the parish’s inhabitants. Some date back to the late 1600s. Whenever someone was born, died, married, moved in or out of the parish, or even moved to another farm or other residence within the same parish, an entry was made in a record book. More details about the parish records and their history can be found on this Swedish Roots page.

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Some of the letters have double-dots or circles over them...
The Swedish alphabet contains three extra vowels that are situated in the alphabet in this order: ...x, y, z, å, ä, ö. If your parish’s name includes an å, ä, or ö, it is important to include that vowel when writing or typing the word. Spelling the name with just "a," "a," or "o" where a diacritical mark is required will affect your search results. How to type the Swedish vowels.


Why can't I find my ancestor's name in the Swedish parish records?
You may find it, but you may not recognize it as the name you have heard all your life. For example, if you knew your ancestor as Andrew Johnson, he had likely changed it from a Swedish version of the same name. The names Anders and Andreas were usually Americanized to Andrew. Expect variations and changes in spelling. Many Swedish immigrants Americanized their names when they got to the United States. Andrew Johnson was probably Anders Johansson or Johannesson or Jansson or Jönsson or Jonsson or Jonasson or ...? Even if your ancestor's name was Anders Johannesson, you may find it spelled a variety of ways in the various records. It was the discretion of the record-keeper to spell things the way he wanted. He may have preferred the spelling Johansson over all the others and used it every time. Your ancestor may have spelled his own name differently himself.

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How can I find out where my ancestors were from in Sweden?
If you do not know where they were from in Sweden, it is possible that we have records here at the Swenson Center that can be of help. If you have not already done so, please go to the Research Services page of our web site and read about the records we have on the premises, what one can hope to find in them, and how to access them.

I know the name of the town my ancestor was from in Sweden; how can I find the parish name?
Many times the town name is the parish name. A parish consisted of the church and the geographical area for which that church’s records were kept. There were often many (dozens of) villages and farms within a parish's boundary, but it is the parish name that one needs to proceed in Swedish records. Usually it was the name of the parish that the immigrant referred to when naming his hometown.

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What else can I try?
It might be worth your time to post a query to a Swedish genealogy web site or mailing list, to see if anyone has already done research on your family and will recognize your ancestors' names. Start at the Swedish web site Anbytarforum. It is monitored actively by many people in Sweden, including genealogists, and someone might recognize your names and dates, or have just the right bit of advice for you. Other good sites and lists are shown at the very bottom of our genealogical links.

Consider also contacting the local genealogical society in Sweden nearest your ancestral parish, or the society for your county or province. There is a list of many such Swedish societies here at the web site of the Federation of Swedish Genealogical Societies http://www.genealogi.se/. Click on Medlemsföreningar to see the list of their member organizations, which are arranged by province. Look for contact information on their individual web sites.

Where can I find some information about the parish that my ancestors lived in?
Besides the obvious internet searches, do not forget your local public library. The interlibrary loan department of your local library should be able to do a worldwide search for you. Have them search for the name of the parish and request any of the resulting hits for you via interlibrary loan (at least within the United States). The book you receive may be in Swedish, but there may also be some photographs of scenes from around the parish, or genealogies, or names of emigrants.

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Updated November 11, 2009