5 Great Resources for Medieval Genealogy Research in Sweden

Medieval genealogy is virtually impossible to dig into without having access to a few good books and databases. As most of the records that are preserved concern the upper social layers – the nobility – which also spent a lot of time being concerned with their heritable status there’s plenty of material.  The following are my top 5 picks for where you should spend your money if you’re serious about researching your medieval ancestors in Sweden.

1. Äldre Svenska Frälsesläkter (ÄSF)

The definitive standard work on medieval families in Sweden was written between the late 1950:s and the first decade of the 21st century. On research days I would open one or the other the the five volumes in this set about a million times (no exaggeration)! A number of experts contributed articles, with the latest few volumes curated entirely by the eminent genealogist Hans Gillingstam (†). All the most senior Swedish families, those of the marshalls and stewarts of the realm, down to the families of related, but less notable, squires are included. The complete set, in 5 parts, can be purchased from Riddarhuset, and I cannot recommend it enough.

2. The Swedish National Archives’ Database of Charters (SDHK)

This is the stuff that ÄSF is partially based on.  The database contains summaries and/or the full text of about 44,000 preserved charters from earliest times down to the first quarter of the 16th century.  Although I don’t know if this encompasses every preserved charter, it certainly covers the vast majority of everything that survived the disastrous 1696 fire at Stockholm Castle. It’s fully searchable, both in original text where this is available, and in the modern-Swedish summaries. Many of the earlier charters also have images of the originals. You can access Svenskt Diplomatariums Huvudkartotek at no cost.

3. Monographs on Specific Families

A lot of prior research has already been done and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  There are monographs published on a number of families that have been written as doctoral dissertations or as commissioned works over the last century or so.  They should, of course, be used with care and it is up to you as the genealogist to verify, as much as is possible, that the information is correct.  The benefit of a good family monograph is of course that it also covers related families and you may be able to harvest information about a much wider family network than the title suggests.  Good examples are Gillingstam’s doctoral dissertation “Ätterna Oxenstierna och Vasa under Medeltiden”, Sjögren’s “Släkten Trolles historia intill år 1505″, Sjögren’s (again) “Ätten Posses historia intill år 1500“, Thott’s “Ätten Thott under medeltiden“, and Mattsson’s “Som spindeln i nätet. Kristina Laurensdotter av Aspenäsätten, centrum i sin egen släktkrets“. Many of these are out of print, but can sometimes be found on antiquarian websites.

4. Journals

The journal Personhistorisk Tidskrift has been published since 1900 and as the title suggests contains articles of a personal/biographical nature. It contains numerous articles on the early parts of later noble families, as well as deep-dives and detailed research on medieval families. Back issues are available for free to download from Personhistoriska SamfundetSläkt och Hävd is the official journal of the Swedish Genealogical Society, and has been going since the 1950:s. As with Personhistorisk Tidskrift there are countless important articles for the medieval genealogist published here, and no research library should be without a complete set. Unfortunately, these do not come free but can be purchased on DVD/USB from Genealogiska Föreningen. I would be remiss to not mention Släktforskarnas Årsbok and Svensk Genealogisk Tidskrift. The former is published annually, with thematic issues, and some volumes have articles of interest for the medieval researcher.  The latter, Svensk Genealogisk Tidskriftis published biannually and also regularly contains articles that pertain to earlier periods. All of the above also contain droves of material for researchers interested in more modern eras, and are well worth a read.

5. Riksarkivet’s Medieval Sweden series

This is a fairly recent series of volumes which cover a limited set of hundreds in each book.  Each hundred (a judicial-topographical division) is subdivided into its parishes, and within that the medieval history of each farm or village is researched in detail. As much of medieval genealogy is concerned with understanding land ownership, these books are invaluable for the researcher – and they’re free! You can read more on Medieval Sweden DMS and download the published volumes from Utgivning DMS.

Closing Thought

Although all the above sources are published and written in Swedish, if you have a particular article you’re interested in, or a small section of text that you need to understand, then get a translator or Ask For Help.  It’ll be worth it to understand more about the person rather than just the date and who they connect to.

What are your favourite sources for medieval genealogy, and how have they helped your research? Let me know in the comments.

EDIT: This post was edited on the 11th October 2018 to update §4 to include mention of Svensk Genealogisk Tidskrift, on the recommendation of Olle Elm.

7 thoughts on “5 Great Resources for Medieval Genealogy Research in Sweden

  1. Allie Thompson 11th Oct 2018 — 8:23 am

    In all your work in Swedish records, did you ever need (or want) to go into earlier records for the inhabitants of Skåne before 1658? If so, would you be willing to share where to go and what to look for? Thanks.+

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    1. Matt, the Obsessed Genealogist 11th Oct 2018 — 9:23 am

      Hi Allie! I’ve not done much on primary records in Skåne – mostly I’ve been around the area in North Halland around this period. As the transition from being a Danish province to a Swedish one happened around this time, any research efforts for earlier periods should be directed towards sources in the Danish archives. The Danish National Archives – Rigsarkivet – http://www.sa.dk – has a well stocked online section of primary material from this period and earlier. I’ve used the series “Tegnelser over alle Landene” before to find letters from the mid 16th century, for instance. There may also be notes in Swedish or Danish secondary sources. Are you researching anyone in particular?

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      1. Allie Thompson 11th Oct 2018 — 9:38 am

        Thanks for your quick reply. I’m just following my immigrant ancestor’s line. So far I’ve found they aren’t ALL the “poorest of the poor” that a great aunt declared them to be, but I doubt that I’d ever find records going too far back as they wouldn’t be from a noble line. So far I’ve gone back in one line to a death record that tells age and marriage information that puts me into the late 1500s, but it stops there. I have been given the names of her parents and residence information with early dates, but need to learn to use the correct records to verify.

        I guess my next step (after I finish digging as far back as I can with the info I have) is to learn to work with Danish records.

        Again, thank you for your time.

        Allie

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      2. Matt, the Obsessed Genealogist 11th Oct 2018 — 9:48 am

        You’re welcome! If they’re commoners it’s unlikely that you’ll get much beyond the 1600-limit unless they were priests or nobility, but it can sure be fun trying – and you’ll always learn something.

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      3. Allie Thompson 11th Oct 2018 — 9:52 am

        You’re right about that!! In my late 70s when starting this and figure I’ll never live long enough to do what I’d like, BUT it sure keeps the old noodle working!

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      4. Matt, the Obsessed Genealogist 11th Oct 2018 — 9:57 am

        That’s great! I started at 20, that was 20 years ago, and I know for sure I’ll never be done 😁

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      5. Allie Thompson 11th Oct 2018 — 9:58 am

        👌

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