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All ways are good except the bad ones

One of the fascinating things with the old Swedish church records is that it was a long time before they were standardized. For example some of the early ministerial books record all events of birth, marriage and death in chronological order while others have sections for births, marriages and deaths year by year - and yet others have separate sections covering the whole timespan recorded in one book. The early books usually had births, marriages and deaths in the same book; later separate books became more and more common.

There is often a bit of figuring to do before you get the hang of how a particular set of records are organized. Sometimes a vicar will have some pretty inventive ideas, like the vicar in Julita, where the household records from 1783 to 1815 are separate for menfolk and womenfolk: three volumes for the men and three volumes for the women, which makes it a bit more taxing than usual to understand the family structure in a particular village.

The first birth book for Hille parish, covering 1688 to 1724, is organized alphabetically by the given name of the child. This is no problem when you want to look up the birth record for a person whose name and approximate birth date you know. It probably makes it difficult to scour the book for all the children of a given couple.

  • Hille kyrkoarkiv, Födelse- och dopböcker, SE/HLA/1010072/C/1 (1688-1724), bildid: C0031280_00058 Riksarkivet SVAR

On the other hand, the first three ministerial books for Norrala (covering 1674 to 1777) are topographically organized, which is neat, as you get all the events (mainly births and marriages) related to one village gathered in one place. On the other hand it makes it a challenge to find a person who lived elsewhere later in life, when all you know is that [name] was born in 1759 in Norrala parish.

Something that is very common and very frustrating in early records is the miserly treatment of women. In many places the name of the mother does not appear in early birth records. Sometimes even records for children born out of wedlock only list the father!

  • Births in Tengene 1689:
    13 December döptes Anders, Bengt Linnards son, ett oächta barn (Bengt Linnardsson's illegitimate son Anders was baptized 13 December)

And death records for women in the same places often present them as "the wife of" or "the widow of". Or they are mentioned by their given name only, as hustru Brita, with no patronymic and so no clue to their parents. In these cases the marriage record may be the only place where their full name is included. Which makes it extra frustrating when marriage records only list the names of the bridegrooms wed a certain year:

If you have more examples of oddly organized records, please make a comment on this page!

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Ways of organizing
Ways of organizing


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