If you have a Swedish branch on your family tree, there are two things you need to know. First, you need to know at least the town from where your immigrant ancestor/s came. That’s because Swedish records were kept at the local parish church level until 1950. There are a number of ways you can look for that information if you don’t already know it. However, in this post, I will assume that you already know the ancestral village, town or city.
Second, where do you go next to look at Swedish records? There are few free resources available. FamilySearch has a limited number of records in its database. The two main choices, Ancestry – world, and Arkiv Digital, are both subscription sites.
I have but one Swedish branch on my tree, beginning with 3x great grandmother, Johanna Elisabeth Molin. When I needed to make a choice between Ancestry and ArkivDigital, I chose ArkivDigital. I don’t often recommend products or sites, but I have to make an exception for ArkivDigital. I’ll share both the reasons why and give you a glimpse of ArkivDigital and how it works.
First, why would I choose ArkivDigital over Ancestry? There used to be another company with digitized Swedish records. That was Genline, which was bought out in 2010 by Ancestry. Genline’s images are not near the quality of those on ArkivDigital. That is because Genline digitized microfilmed records. Some of those records weren’t of the best quality either, having been filmed years ago. ArkivDigital produces digital images from original records. Technology has improved so much that most of the images are excellent – they couldn’t be any better.
Second, Ancestry’s World Explorer subscription offers access for a month for $34.99 or $149 for six months. ArkivDigital offers subscriptions for one week, one month, three months, six months, one year or two years. To compare apples to apples, a one month subscription is 225SEK, which at today’s rate equals $26.47. A six month subscription is $91.17.
If you only need world access to search in Sweden, ArkivDigital is much better value for money. By the way, one week for ArkivDigital is the equivalent of just $10.00. That’s an even better value if you are unsure of how much information you might find about your family. If the week is devoted to genealogy, you can search a LOT of records in that time.
Not only is the image quality much better, but ArkivDigital has a much wider range of Swedish records. They have even expanded to the United States and are beginning to digitize records of Swedish immigrants.
Are you convinced ArkivDigital is the way to go? Here is how it works. The website displays the subscription time period and cost on the right hand side of its home page:
A free trial is offered on the home page, but it’s more like a free demo. Although the software is downloaded, it is set up so that you can only search for the name they give you in the place they say. However, if you click on Image Database on the right, you can see all of the counties. Click on a county link and a page will open with all the records they currently have available. The lists are quite extensive for every county in Sweden.
I have used ArkivDigital off and on for the past five years. It is very easy to use and to navigate the records – you don’t need to be able to read Swedish. To read the actual records, Swedish isn’t always needed either. For example, birth, marriage and death records follow given patterns with names, dates, parents and so on. If you are looking at probate records, understanding Swedish is a big plus, but again not necessary. I don’t speak any Swedish, but have found Swedish genealogy groups on Facebook have been fabulous. If you are in the Family History Library, the Scandinavian staff will translate for you. I imagine if you live in an area where there were many Swedish settlers, you would have local library staffs that could also translate for you.
What do the records look like? My Johanne Elisabeth Molin was born in Öved, which was in Malmöhus County at the time. Here are some of the Öved records.
First, I subscribed and then downloaded and installed programs on my computer. Then I opened ArkivDigital. Because I’ve used it before, a box opens on top of the search screen, asking if I wish to return to the image I was last at:
ArkivDigital Home Screen
Because I want to search Öved’s records, I will close that box. The screen totally changes to an alphabetical place listing.
Search for Öved
Notice that there are letters representing county codes (there are some villages with the same name in Sweden so knowing the county is important) and the Archive Type list is in English.
I will scroll down to Öved records. Handy hint needed here: The Swedish alphabet has some letters that we don’t have. If you are looking for words that begin with å, ä or ö, those letters are found at the end of the alphabet after the letter z. Öved will be near the end of the record list because ö is the last letter in the Swedish alphabet.
Scroll Bar to Bottom
I scrolled down as far as the bar would let me and Öved is third down from the top. County is M for Malmöhus and the record type is Parish/Congregation, which is what I am looking for. I click on Öved and I now have two view screens:
Öved’s Record List on Right
Records for Öved are numerous. I can’t capture the list in one shot, but they include Household Records 1799-1899, Congregation Records 1896-1941, Moving In and Moving Out records from 1773-1929, Birth and Christening 1708-1929, Banns and Marriage 1709-1949, Death and Burial 1708-1941, General Muster Rolls 1818-1885, Estate Inventories 1723-?, Population Register (a tax list of sorts) 1941, and Catechetical Records 1683-1894.
Not all of these records are inclusive of all years shown in the span, as some of these records are divided into sub-groups of years. This sampling of Öved’s records is typical of ArkivDigital holdings. There are parishes with records well back into the 1600’s and, like with some of U.S. county courthouses, there were a few fires and/or loss of parish registers.
I am just going to share one sample of a record so you can see for yourself what they look like. I chose “Birth and Christening Records” to share Johanne Elisabeth’s baptismal record. First, a screen like this comes up:
Index, of sorts
Some of the cities have started developing a name index to go with their records, but most of the time, this is the only index you get. It’s a general breakdown of pages in this record set. Google translate will tell you that VIGDA is marriages, FÖDDA is births and DÖDA is just like it sounds – dead.
Births/baptisms (sometimes both dates are given in the record, but sometimes only a baptismal date is included) in 1814 are found on BILD 51-BILD 55, which are images 51-55. Öved is a tiny place so there aren’t many pages per year. Johanna was born in November, so I am going to jump to Bild 54, which is near the end of the year.
Johanna Elisabeth, top right
There she is on the top right. The image in AD, as it is called, can be enlarged or reduced on your computer screen. Here is a cropped version of her entry:
Can I read all of this on my own? No, but I can understand that on 12 November 1814 Johanna Elisabeth was born and baptized. She was the daughter of Hans Molin and his wife Anna Christina Sandberg of Öved. The witnesses/sponsors at the church are the names listed afterwards. The words before their names are occupation titles, which I learned from the staff at the Family History Library.
Like with any records, sometimes the writer’s script is quite clear, as in this record, but other times, especially in records from the 1600s and 1700s, old German script was used. That is a separate issue from the quality of AD images. The image is excellent.
That’s all there is to it. When I close AD, it saves where I was and the next time I open to use it, the prompt box will ask if I wish to return to this record in Öved.
One more thing – I happened to find an old Genline image of the same record:
Genline Image, now Ancestry
This is the difference between AD filming original records in color and Genline/Ancestry offering black and white images made from microfilms.
If Swedish records are a necessary part of your research, go directly to the ArkivDigital website and check out all that they have to offer. Then sign up and subscribe!
DISCLAIMER: I do not work for or represent ArkivDigital in any way. I have received no compensation of any kind from them and this opinion is strictly my own.