Swedish Church Jurisdictions for Family History Research

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Why Church Jurisdictions?[edit | edit source]

As you search for your Swedish ancestors, you will spend the majority of your time in the Swedish Lutheran Church Records. After all, they contain the household examination, birth, marriage, death, and moving records. But there are times when a parish record has gaps, was not well kept, or is even missing for the years you need. In situations like this, you may need to search the rest of the parish record collection (that was never microfilmed or digitized), or search records created by other church administration levels. This article will help you understand the administrative levels of the Swedish Lutheran Church. Knowing this will help you to identify the records to search.

Medieval - 1650's[edit | edit source]

To understand the administrative structure of the Swedish Lutheran church we need to look back to its origins. In the late 900’s, Roman Catholic Christianity was brought to the area that would become Sweden by people who had contact with Christians in other countries (although missionaries, and others had visited in the 800’s.) By the late 1,000’s the Christian belief was widely accepted with a gradual transition from the pagan beliefs. The first diocese in Sweden was Skara (with its first bishop in 1014.) It took another 150 years before Sweden had its own arch-diocese in Uppsala that was established in 1164 (yet still subordinate to Lund.) Until the middle of the 1100’s most bishops were from England or Germany which influenced how the church was organized.[1] During the 1100 and 1200’s parishes, deaneries, diocese, arch-diocese, and the church province were created. At the same time monastic orders and convents were being established. 

With the reformation, Sweden was no longer a church province after it broke away from the Roman Catholic Church at the Västerås riksdag of 1527. Even then, it was decided to keep the administrative structure of Parish (församling also called socken), Deanery (kontrakt), Diocese  (stift), Arch-diocese and Cathedrals (ärkestift och domkapitel.)

1650's - early 1900's
[edit | edit source]

The chart below represents the organizational structure of the Swedish State Church from the 1650's up to the early 1900's. See the table below the chart for English definitions and links for information about the records associated to each jurisdiction.

Swedish Church Jurisdictions 1650s to 1900.jpg
Administration Levels Definition
Kunglig Majestät The Swedish Government and Monarchy
Stift med domkapitel (konsistorier) Diocese with its Domkapitel (consistory council, bishops court.) To learn more about the Stift in Sweden see the article Swedish Stift
Läroverk School System
Kontrakt Deanery
Pastorat A Pastorat (translated means Parish) is the geographical area that a minister has responsibility for within the Swedish Lutheran Church. It is made up of one, more congregations (församlingar) depending on the circumstances. To learn more about the Pastorat in Sweden see the article Swedish Pastorat.
Församlingar The word församling translates to mean congregation, but the meaning also refers to parish (socken.) To learn more about the socken in Sweden see the article The Swedish Parish (Socken).

Records[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Medieval Scandinavia, Christianization and Church Organization, p.111

References[edit | edit source]

Asker, Björn, Hur riket styrdes, Förvaltning , politik och arkiv 1520 – 1920, Edita, Stockholm 2007   (further reading chapter 8. Kyrkan, skolan och sjukvården)

Clemmensson, Per & Kjell Andersson. Släktforska vidare. Natur och Kultur/LTs förlag, Falköping 2003

Swedish Wikipedia Community., Stift (kyrkligt förvaltningsområde). Wikipedia, 2012 at: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stift_(kyrkligt_f%C3%B6rvaltningsomr%C3%A5de)

Sawyer, Birgit and Peter. Medieval Scandinavia. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993