Category: Sweden

Categories: Europe (en) | Northern Europe | Scandinavia

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Counties of Sweden 2007 overlaying former provinces, which are named

This is part of the Sweden Project.



Sweden is a country on the Scandinavian peninsula in northern Europe. It is 528 447 and has about 9,5 million inhabitants. Its length is 1 572 km and it is 499 km wide. It has 25 provinces (landskap), 21 counties (län), 290 municipalities (kommuner) and 13 dioceses (stift).[1]


Provinces (in Swedish: landskap)

The provinces have roots dating back to prehistoric age, and up to medieval times they were self-ruling countries with their own laws.[2] Today the provinces serve no administrative purpose, which instead the counties do. The provinces do however still play a strong cultural role in people's lives.[3]

Counties (in Swedish: län)

Counties were created during the time of Birger Jarl and Magnus Ladulås (13th-14th century) when they reformed the system for paying taxes.[4] There were different kinds of counties. A castle county payed taxes to the castle.[5] Then there were counties for members of the Royal family, deposit counties for people who had loaned the state money, and counties that in return would give military favours.[6]

The number and borders of the counties have more or less been the same since 1810, but three major changes have been made since the 1960's. In 1968 the city of Stockholm and the county of Stockholm were merged into Stockholm County. In 1997 the counties of Kristianstad and Malmöhus were merged into Skåne County, and in 1998 Göteborg and Bohus County, Älvsborg County and Skaraborg County were merged into Västra Götaland County.[7]

The state is represented on the county level by the County Governor who is the president of the County Administrative Board.[8]

Hundreds (in Swedish: härad)

See Judicial Districts below.

Parishes (in Swedish: socken)

Parishes were formed in early medieval times when people in Sweden began building churches. The parish was defined as the geographical area where the residents all visited the same church. As some areas became more populated, parishes were divided and new ones were formed.

Up until the 1860's the parishes also took care of much of the administration for the state on the local level, keeping records of who were born, married, died, where they lived and other information. Those are the records that allow us to do genealogy research for the general population in Sweden as far back as the 17th century.

For more information on the parishes, see

Municipalities (in Swedish: kommuner)

In 1863 the first local government acts were implemented. This meant that the responsibilities of the parishes were split into the ecclestial responsibilities of the church and the wordly responsibilities of the municipalities. Besides the municipalities, which were initially coterminous with the parishes, there were also incorporated towns and market towns. Altogether there were around 2.500 municipalites in 1863. Reforms in 1943, 1952 and 1962 plus some later border changes reduced the number to what it is today.

The municipalities constitute the lowest level of local government in Sweden. They are responsible for many public services, such as schools, emergency services and urban planning.[9]

Judicial Districts

There used to be leets called hundreds (härad) and each hundred comprised a number of parishes. The hundred served as a military division, the court of first instance as well as electoral constituency (1436-1866).[10] Today Sweden is divided into 48 judicial districts.

Research Resources

General Information


There are several companies that provide access to different kinds of records. The main source for genealogy in Sweden are the church records where the church kept track of who was born, who got married, who died and where they lived.

  • Arkiv Digital provides the church records in color. The following Free Space profile can be used to cite this source: ArkivDigital.
  • Riksarkivet provides the church records and censuses that have been digitized. The welcome page can be found in both Swedish and English.
  • Ancestry provides digitized copies of microfilm of some church records as well as emigration and passenger lists.

How to do Genealogy in Sweden


Alphabet and Language

The modern Swedish alphabet has 26 letters, plus 'å', 'ä' and 'ö'. These last three vowels appear at the end of the alphabet, so you don't look under 'a' for entries starting with 'å' or 'ä'. Look after 'z'. Also, the use of certain letters, such as 'k', 'v' and 'w', changed over the years. You can find out more about Swedish orthography at Wikipedia.

If you have an English keyboard adding the Swedish letters could be done by pressing Alt and certain numbers. This works with Windows 7. Apple probably has something similar (please contact Johansson-1906 and I will add information).


Swedish records used both Swedish and Latin. You can find a table of common Swedish words translated into English on Family Search's Swedish Genealogical Word List. There is a list of Latin words and abbreviations, with English translation on Family Search's Latin Genealogical Word List.


  1. Nationalencyklopedin on Sweden
  2. Nationalencyklopedin on Provinces
  3. Wikipedia on the provinces of Sweden
  4. Wikipedia on Swedish Counties
  5. Wikipedia on Castle Counties
  6. Wikipedia on Swedish Counties
  7. Wikipedia on Swedish Counties
  8. Wikipedia on the administrative divisions of Sweden
  9. Wikipedia on the municipalities of Sweden
  10. Wikipedia on Hundred

People or pages in Sweden

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This page was last modified 09:30, 16 November 2017. This page has been accessed 5,218 times.