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The Hidden Treasures in Swedish Archives

Guest blogger Eric Stroschein was recently in Stockholm, Sweden connecting with relatives and researching his ancestry. This is the third in a series of articles from his visit to the old country. You can read his first article here.

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Genealogy has been an evolving endeavor for me over the years. I, like many, began my journey by collecting names, dates of events, and places to build my gangly family tree. I was obsessed with building my chart bigger, better and fuller. As I matured in my research, I realized that my tree, although full of names, dates, and places was pretty darn boring and was just plain naked.  I wanted to know these individuals, I wanted to know their trials and tribulations. Did their lives parallel mine, what were their interests, what were their tragedies? I wanted to make my family tree full of stories, and I wanted to put leaves on my naked family tree.

Nowadays, many records can be found online and Swedish records are no exception. With ArkivDigital, Genline (Ancestry.com), SVAR, and FamilySearch many of the parish records can be found at your fingertips and even in high definition color. One thing I have experienced over and over again, is that nothing beats boots on the ground research. Not only can it fun but you get a feel for the records, their arrangement and context unlike any picture on the web. The added bonus is you have access to a massive amount of records that are not available online.

The National Archives of Sweden known as the Riksarkivet is an incredible place to find records to fill in your family stories. The archives is one of the oldest public agencies in Sweden. Its lineage can be traced back to a set of laws and record keeping practices put in place by Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna in the early 1600s. The Swedish government collects records relating to their history, culture, and people. The Riksarkivet has a large genealogical and biographical collection as well as government records, land records, tax lists, maps, and pictures.

Parish records make up about seven percent (7%) of the Riksarkivet collection and they are the most widely used records by genealogists and rightfully so. The parishes have been keeping detailed information about the citizens of Sweden since the passage of the 1686 Kyrkolag (Church Law). By law the parishes were required yearly to supply copies of all birth, death, marriages, and moving in and out records to the Swedish government. This simple act created duplicates of many records dramatically reducing the phenomena of “Burned Counties.” Truly this is one of the greatest resources for Swedish researchers. Yet these still don’t tell the stories. Birth, death, and marriage were only a fraction of information the church kept. Diocese records hold even more information. The Diocese kept records on the diocese council, records relating to divorce, visitations, poorhouse, public education, and much more. For the most part these records are only available at the Riksarkivet, some have been filmed by others.

The other 93% of the archives holding is a treasure trove of stories waiting to be rediscovered. Besides the vast genealogical and biographical collections, they hold records dating back to the mid-1500s dealing with land purchases (Lagfartsböcker), probates (Bouppteckningars), taxes (Skatter), mantal taxes (mantalslängd), military (Militaria), censuses (Befolkning) and  many more. Also included are court records of the city (Rådhusrätter), rural areas (Häradsrätter), county (Lagmansrätter), appeals (Hovrätter), Council of the Realm and Monarchy (Kunglig Majestät I riksrådet), and The Supreme Court (Högstra domstolen). There are so many court records it would make even the Legal Genealogist envious.

Sweden’s national archives system is set up very similarly to the United States National Archives Records Administration (NARA). They have a main archives with many regional archives. All of the very important records including the ones relating to the monarchy are deposited in the main archive and each regional archive keeps records relating to their designated zone. When I visited Riksarkivet, the main building in Marieberg, Stockholm was closed to research due to remodeling and will reopen in October of 2016. As an alternative I had more research to do in one their other archives in Arninge, Stockholm. The Archivist of Sweden has moved his office here.

When I arrived I was greeted by a very friendly and helpful staff. I was in search of some very specific records about land surveyors that should be located here. The Archivist of Sweden, Jan Dahlström, came out and greeted my wife Karen, my cousin Tedd, and me. Jan spent more than two and a half hours with us going over our research and explaining the arrangement of military records at Riksarkivet. He was extremely helpful. Because I took the time and followed excellent advice and connected with cousins abroad I discovered just prior to leaving for my trip to Sweden he is a third cousin once removed to Tedd and me.

Sweden is very proud of their heritage and it shows. The have one of the oldest modern archive systems in the world. Many records are held at the Riksarkivet but there are a plethora of archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories throughout Sweden open to researchers. Each one holds a multitude of stories waiting to be discovered. Being on the ground in Sweden, researching in the numerous repositories, will completely change a researchers perspective on their genealogy and research. The bonus, it is in an incredibly beautiful country with very happy and helpful Swedes that graciously played along with this American butchering their language. “Did I have success?” you ask, I found so many stories for my family history that it will take me years to corroborate, research, and clarify them.  My wife and I are already planning our return trip to Sweden where I can collect more leaves to put on my tree.

 

If you missed previous articles in this series start here.


Eric Stroschein is a Forensic Genealogist. He specializes in resolving difficult genealogical questions. Eric is very active in Swedish genealogical research and has resolved many difficult problems for clients. He is especially adept at finding the origins of Swedish immigrant ancestors. Learn more about him at GenerationsDetective.com.

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