Swedish Jurisdictions and Maps

The country of Sweden is divided into various jurisdictional levels. The parish and county levels are the most often referred to and used in genealogical research. However, many other levels exist.

The basic hierarchy from smallest to largest division for genealogical purposes is:  parish-district-county-province-country. The parish is the basis for recording of birth, marriage, death, moving-in and moving-out records, clerical surveys and other similar information. But, when researching probate records, it is the district (härad) that one needs to know.

Counties are subdivided into parishes and districts, so the county names are the first primary jurisdiction when using a library catalog to find resources. The counties are also the reference point for accessing records of civil registration and parish recorded emigration. The old historical provinces (landskap) encompass two or more counties and can often be the localities referred to by ancestors as their origin.

Civil Jurisdictions

For civil records, Sweden is divided into counties (län), districts (härad) and parishes (kommun - contemporary; or socken - historical). 

County (län) - Sweden is divided into 21 counties (län). Counties and their borders were established by law on 1634. Counties in Sweden are basically similar to individual states in the United States.

  1. Stockholm County
  2. Uppsala County
  3. Södermanland County
  4. Östergötland County
  5. Jönköping County
  6. Kronoberg County
  7. Kalmar County
  8. Gotland County
  9. Blekinge County
  10. Skåne County
  11. Halland County
  12. Västra Götaland County
  13. Värmland County
  14. Örebro County
  15. Västmanland County
  16. Dalarna County
  17. Gävleborg County
  18. Västernorrland County
  19. Jämtland County
  20. Västerbotten County
  21. Norrbotten County

You can review maps and other details about Swedish counties at Wikipedia. If you need to know more detail, you can find it in this article about the administrative divisions of Sweden.

The Ecclesiastical (Church) Jurisdictions

The Church of Sweden, since the Reformation of 1527, divided Sweden into dioceses with a bishop as the presiding authority for each. Within each diocese, there are subdivisions known as parishes (församlingar). There are other subdivisions within each diocese, but it is the parishes that are the most important subdivision to know with regard to genealogical research.

Before 1862, the original word for parish in Sweden was socken. It represented both a civil and a ecclesiastical jurisdiction over a geographical region. Later in Sweden's history, a stronger division was made between civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. As a result of this division, civil parishes ended up being called kommun (municipalities) and the ecclesiastical (church) parishes were called församlingar.

It is in the församling (ecclesiastical parish) that genealogists will find the registers of births (födelselängd) and christenings (doplängd), marriages (vigsellängd), deaths (dödslängd) and burials (begravningslängd), among other important genealogical records.

Jurisdictions and Genealogy Research

Not to confuse the issue, but rather to illustrate how challenging Swedish research can be, sometimes an immigrant Swedish ancestor might have reported an old province (landskap) name as his or her place of birth in United States records. Unfortunately, some old provinces (landskap) represent some very large geographic areas. A genealogist could be faced with searching thousands of birth records within the old province for an ancestor's birth.

So, when researching an immigrant Swedish ancestor, it is not enough to know the old province (landskap) name. It is important to learn the county (län) of birth for your ancestor. THEN, since some counties can be very large and vital records were kept on the parish level, it may also be important to learn the name of the county (län) AND the parish of birth for your ancestor in order to identify the ancestor in Sweden's birth records.


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