Using Swedish Church Records at Ancestry.com

For Swedish family historians, church records form a great foundation for research. Ancestry.com Sweden, Church Records, 1500-1937 includes nearly 18 million images scanned from microfilm/microfiche of the original church records. Included are the following (detailed descriptions of each are available on the search page for the church records):

Birth (Födde) and baptismal (Dop) records
Marriage records (Vigsel) and banns (Lysning)
Death/burial records (Död)
Household examination rolls/clerical survey records (Husförhör)
Moving-in (Inflyttning) and moving-out (Utflyttning)
Parish books (Församlingsbok)

Browsing the Sweden Church Records on Ancestry
The Sweden Church Records collection at Ancestry.com is a browseable collection – you won’t be able to search it by your ancestor’s first and last name, but you will be able to look at actual document images organized by county, parish, book type and year.

Before diving into the collection, gather as much information as possible about the Swedish ancestor you’re researching. Specially, you’ll want your ancestor’s name, the parish where he or she lived, and a date, such as birth, marriage, and death or an emigration date.

Finding a parish name in American records can sometimes be tricky. The first place to search should be in the passenger list marking your ancestor’s arrival. Look for parish clues in birthplace or hometown; also note the location listed with any relatives in the homeland, if your ancestor’s passenger list includes this information. You’ll find more details about using passenger lists in our guide, 10 Things to Know: Passenger Lists. Note, however, that urban Swedes were more likely to list their city than an individual parish in American records.

You may also find clues to the parish name in letters, postcards, photos, the family bible and other documents found at home, as well as other records from Sweden available at Ancestry.com. Take note of the location associated with any correspondence you may find that was sent to your ancestor from relatives back home.

To find birth or marriage information, use U.S. records including census and naturalization records as well as passenger lists and other documents. Also note any details you find on a death certificate from the United States – place of birth may be listed there, too.

Begin Your Search
Sweden Church Records at Ancestry.com are organized by county, parish, record type and year range. To browse the collection, do the following:

1. Choose the county where you ancestor came from (if you don’t know the county, search the Internet for the parish name + Sweden)
2. Choose the correct parish within that county
3. Choose type of book, for example births if you want to find birth records
4. Choose the year range that corresponds to the type of record you’re seeking.

Completing these four steps will take you directly to the first image in the image set; move forward image by image by clicking the arrows for next page until you find the person you are looking for.

Searching the Sweden Church Records on Ancestry.com
You can also opt to search Sweden, Church Records, 1500-1937 by location – approximately half of the household examinations have been indexed with names of the crofts, farms and villages where people lived.

Type the place name into the Location box; if the place you’re seeking has been indexed, the search result will show you available images that contain that place name.

Note for Genline Users
If you’ve researched your family via Genline in the past, you may have GID-numbers associated with your finds. Search for a specific GID-number at Ancestry.com by typing it into the GID-number field, then click search.

FAQs about researching Swedish ancestors:
I don’t have much information about my Swedish ancestry. How do I begin finding more information?
First, you should talk with your relatives, especially the older ones, to gather as much information as possible. The two biggest challenges for many descendants of Swedish emigrants are locating the ancestor’s parish of origin and identifying the ancestor’s original Swedish name.

If you are new to Swedish genealogy, consider a book like, Your Swedish Roots (Ancestry, 2005) by Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson. This book provides a step-by-step guide to tracing Swedish families.

What other records can I find in America?
Many Swedish immigrants joined Swedish-American churches, primarily Lutheran but also Baptist, Swedish Covenant Church and Methodist. These churches kept very detailed records that often included information about where in Sweden the immigrant came from.

The Swedish-American church records have been microfilmed and are available at the Swedish Swenson Immigration Research Center in Rock Island, Illinois and the Swedish Emigrant Institute in Växjö in Sweden.

What if my ancestor’s name changed in America?
It wasn’t uncommon for Swedes to change their name after immigrating to the United States so knowing a bit about Swedish names can help you in your search.
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.

Clergy may have 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.

Townspeople may have taken family names deemed "nature names,” which consisted of two parts, such as Dalberg -- Dal means “valley” and berg means “mountain.”

Soldiers were given names while in the military, as 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 emigrated 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, upon arrival in America, married Swedish women would usually adopt their husband’s surname.

Also understand that names and spellings for the same individual can differ from record to record. Compare birth dates and other family information to verify that you are tracing the correct person. To learn more about following a name, read 10 Tips for Translating Names on the Ancestry.com Immigration site.

I don’t know Swedish – can I still use these records?
While Sweden, Church Records, 1500-1937 are in Swedish, the records themselves are mostly tables of dates, names, and places. There are some key words used repeatedly in the church books, however, that researchers may want to become familiar with. You’ll find a list of some of the most commonly used terms in Swedish genealogy records here.