Sweden Household Examination Records (Husförhörslängder)
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A Household Examination Record (or Husförhörslängd) is a church book containing information about all the people who lived in a specific parish. Every parish was subject to the legal requirement of maintaining a household exam beginning in 1686. It's believed that many parishes discarded the earliest household exam records when the content no longer seemed relevant. This changed when the government established the Tabellverket in 1756 to gather demographic statistics. The creation of the Tabellverket and the regulation to assist with the Mantals tax in 1812 re-inforced the need to preserve household examinations. The purpose of the Household Examination Records (also known as Clerical Surveys) was to help the Lutheran State Church in its responsibility to keep track of the people. It also served as an opportunity to teach church doctrine, reinforce disciplinary authority, and promote a healthy society. The Household Examination Records are a key source in Swedish genealogical research.
Where can you find Household Examination Records?
You can access Household Examination Records on:
Searchable Household Examination Record Databases
- FamilySearch: Sweden, Household Examination Books, 1880 - 1930
- ArkivDigital: Population of Sweden 1840 - 1947 (All-in-one by subscription or free at a FamilySearch center)
- MyHeritage: Sweden Household Examination Books, 1840 - 1947 (by subscription or free at a FamilySearch center)
As part of the church law of 1686, the parish priest was to "keep certain rolls of all their listeners, house to house, farm to farm, and know their progress and knowledge of the assigned sections of the catechism, and diligently admonish children, farm helpers and servant maids to read in book and with their own eyes see what Gods bids and commands in his Holy Word." Although keeping a Household Examination Record was mandated by the church, not all parishes began keeping them at the same time. The actual process was carried out by organizing the parish into “examination groups” that would meet at a designated time and place annually. Once everyone was gathered the priest would go through a planned protocol. You can see an example of the typical protocol here. The examination results were recorded in a book, along with other information which can vary according to the priest. Although the Household Examination was an annual event, the priest would use the same book for about 5 to 10 years before starting a new one. In 1894 the household examinations were replaced by the Församlingsbok which had less religious emphasis. The Swedish Church was a state church and retained the responsibility for keeping the official population records until 1 July 1991.
What will you typically find?
The contents of a Household Examination Book varied according to time, place and the minister. As you search the books you might see:
- The name of the farm, village, or rote (registration area).
- Names of household members including any pigor (female workers) or drängar (male workers).
- Birth date or age
- A score for catechism knowledge
- Dates of partaking communion
- Dates of participation with the Household Examination
- Moving information
- Death date
- Marriage date
- Disciplinary notes
- Vaccination against smallpox
- Reference to military conscription
- Search every Household Examination Record that your ancestor appears on (from birth to death). You will pick up valuable clues along the way, find children who died young, and establish correct family member relationships.
- Earliest household examination rolls may not contain the name of every family member, as the purpose of the form was basically to record the results of a person's religious examination.
- All birth, marriage, or death dates found in Household Examination Records need to be verified in the actual birth, marriage, or death records.
- The format of Household Examination Records was never standardized throughout the kingdom although the questions asked in the examination were somewhat similar.
- The Household Examination records are usually organized by farm, village, or rote. Often there is an index at the beginning or end of the book with associated page numbers. The place names are usually listed in Swedish alphabetical order. When there is an index, you cannot assume all place names in the parish are listed. One place may have multiple pages in the book.
- Farms may be organized in the same order in the different Household Examination Records. If there is no farm index, you could use other household examinations to help you identify the order the farms appear in the volume.
- Sometimes, individual farms or homes may be numbered in Household Examination Records. If this is the case, use the house numbers to help you identify a family through multiple Household Examination Records.
- Use gazetteers to identify place names within the parish you’re working in.
- Pay attention to relationship titles, occupations, and remarks. See the word list for Vocabulary for Household Examination Records.
- If a person moved within the parish, they will be listed on multiple pages of the same examination book.
- Take the time to look at the whole page, or even browse forward or back a little for more clues.
- If a person disappears from one book to another they either moved or died.
- The crossing out of a name usually indicates the person no longer lives at that household (either moved or died).
- Dates are written in the European order of day, month, and year.
- Sometimes multiple generations are listed with the same household.
- In 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1890 the household information was extracted from the Household Examination Records. This information was sent to a central office for statistical purposes. The product of these efforts is essentially a census. Many of these censuses have been extracted into databases which can be searched online through SVAR (the National Archives).
- The Family History Library created a basic key words list to help with reading the column headings (for when they exist in the actual records.) This copy has been given out at the Nordic Reference Counter for many years. To print your own copy see: Swedish Parish Register and Household Exam Roll Headings
- Arv och anor: Folkbokföringen-historia och reform, Karl-Gustaf Andersson , Författarna och Riksarkivet. Västervik, 1996, p.18
- Cradled in Sweden, Carl Erik Johansson , Everton Publishers Inc. Logan UT U.S.A., 1995, p.117
- Your Swedish Roots, Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson, Ancestry, U.S.A. 2004, p.80
Johansson,Carl Erik. Cradled in Sweden. Logan: Everton Publishers Inc. 1995
Clemensson, Per & Andersson, Kjell. Your Swedish Roots. Provo: Ancestry, 2004
Swedish Wikipedia Community. "Husförhörslängd.", Swedish Wikipedia, March 2009 < http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husförhörslängd>