Researching Scandinavia: What Records Are Available?

Are you ready?

  1. We’ve covered patronymics and how to follow them.
  2. If you have a name and correct birth date and/or parents’ names and place, you are either already on your way to jump in or need to use a search engine to see if indexed records are already online pertaining to your ancestor.

Exactly what kinds of records can be found in Scandinavia?
Lots of absolutely fabulous ones!

Census records – Denmark and Norway have both taken censuses that stretch back into the 1600s, although not on a regular basis. However, because Danish women continue to be identified by maiden names after marriage, those censuses contain bits of information I wish every census included. Take a look:

This is my 2X great grandfather, Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, who I used as an example earlier in this series. I know the image and writing aren’t the easiest to read, but look at the green arrows. The first is pointing to Frits’s wife’s name. She is enumerated as married and names Margrethe Jensen f. Bruun. f. Bruun in English means born Bruun! It’s her maiden name! Happy dance time!

The arrow in the last column is pointing to exact towns of birth! Frits was born in Kjobenhavn (Copenhagen), but Margrethe was born in Frederikshavn, which is on the coast hours away from Copenhagen.

Sweden did not taken censuses in the way that we think of them, every ten years. They did something even better. See the next item:

Household Examination Records – All three countries have fairly complete parish church books, which include many types of records, including Household Examination Books. Each parish minister was expected to visit each household to determine whether the inhabitants knew their catechism, had received communion within the year and otherwise keep tabs on the family.

This image isn’t the easiest to read, but when you look at them directly online, they can be enlarged and most are fairly easily read.

Four lines down is the Molin family. Each person is separately listed, with exact date of birth and the parish where they were born. When towns are listed in the 5th column, that is the town where the person went to, followed by the year in which they left, likely to find work. When yet another town and year are enter, it means the person moved to another parish yet again. the various marks on the other side of the page refer to religious education. The last column is for comments.

When names are crossed out, it also can mean that the person died within the previous year. It looks like person #3 on the list, Elne, died on 7 February 1843 as there is a cross, the letter d. followed by 7/2 and the year. Remember European dating is in day/month/year order.

Guess what! The ministers were had to update these church books every year! Each baby’s birth was noted and, as often happened, it’s quick burial. The mortality rate was high.

Parish registers, aside from Household Examination Records, also  include records of christenings, confirmations, marriage banns, marriages, and burials. They also include lists of everyone moving in and moving out of the parish!

Yes, there are record losses, but many records survive in many parishes. It can’t get much better than that!

Probate Records – Deaths had to be reported within a few days of the event. Probate officials took an inventory and the record often named all the heirs.

Tax Records – There are tax lists, sometimes called Population Registers, at least in Sweden, which listed all taxable males. The last record I found for one of my ancestors was a listing in the 1785 Population Register.

Military Records – Published military records are available. Another of my ancestors was traced using laedgsrullers, a type of army registration system, a bit like a list of the old U.S. draft numbers.

Entire books have been written about the types of Scandinavian genealogical records available to research. However, I recommend checking the FamilySearch wiki for each.

Each country page in the wiki has advice on how to get started, where records can be found and hundreds of live links. FamilySearch Wiki is, by far, the most complete guide to researching in Scandinavia.

I hope this series has motivated those of you with Danish, Norwegian or Swedish ancestry to not fear the records. Just jump in and see where the search takes you.

For those of you not lucky enough to have Scandinavian ancestors, you are missing out on some of the best genealogical records found anywhere in the world.


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