Learning new software or websites can always be tricky. This is a beginner’s guide to Arkiv Digital’s database of Swedish archive documents and how to use it. I also address a simple quirk of the Swedish language, where the letter E has occasionally morphed into a modern Ä.
What’s Arkiv Digital?
Arkiv Digital (I’ll call it AD from here) is a paid service that has modern photographs of documents held in Swedish Archives. They cover much of the same material that can be accessed for free at Riksarkivet, but in significantly better quality, and glorious colour.
When you navigate to the AD research app (app.arkivdigital.se) you’ll be required to log in. It’s don using your e-mail address and a password that the team at AD sent you when you purchased your subscription. If you can’t remember your password, there’s an option on the lower part of the screen called Forgot password. Use that to reset your password if you cannot find the email from AD or have forgotten it. I suspect it’s one of my most used functions! Don’t forget to change the language setting in the top-right of the screen to English.
When you’ve entered your details, click Login.
Understanding the Main Interface
There are three areas to the screen in AD. On the left you have the main Search menu where you can search for archives (all sorts of archives, including parish records), and people in indexed databases. Along the top of the screen, there are contextual menus – they will change depending on your selections on screen, and when you first log in this menu is restricted to a few settings. It also includes a box to use to go directly to an AD Shortcut. Each image in AD has an identifier which you can use in this box to go directly to the image. In the centre of the screen you have two buttons that correspond to the two search functions in the Search menu. Here’s what it looks like:
Doing Your First Archive Search
As I’m sure you know, the vast majority of researching your Swedish family history revolves around knowing where in Sweden a person came from. Check out How to Research Your Swedish Ancestors for a beginner’s guide on general method. In that post we got to know a little about Karl Johansson, so let’s see how we got to those Household Examination books that came in so handy!
To find the records for the parish of Elgarås (how it appeared in Karl’s emigration record), I click the button labelled New archive search in the top left. This opens up a new menu with a number of selections you can make. In the top box, Archive, you can type in the name of the parish you’re searching for. You can restrict the search to Archive type. There are a lot of these and it can be confusing to learn what they all mean. For now, we can leave it blank, and I can assure you that for all early parts of your research you’ll be using pretty much only the Parish/Congregation option. You can also select the Country to search in (the vast majority of material is in Sweden), and it’s also possible to specify the Swedish county and Swedish Province to search in, if you want to narrow down your search.
Let’s type in “Elgarås”, click Search, and see what comes up.
Well, that’s disappointing. All that came up as a small box in the Search menu saying that there were 0 hits. Something’s wrong. But we know that Karl came from Elgarås in Skaraborg county, so let’s clear the search box and select that county instead, then click Search.
Wow, that’s a whole lot of stuff! 412 archives at the time of writing, no less. Time to do some scrolling. There’s nothing for Elgarås under E. This is where it gets tricky and you have to remember changes in the Swedish language. You see, the letter E used historically, can occasionally (but not always, of course) have been replaced with an Ä. That’s the second-last letter of the Swedish alphabet. Scroll down to near the bottom of the list of records by using the scroll-bar on the far right of the screen. There’s Älgarås!
Click the parish name to bring up the available archives. They’ll appear in a new box on the right (headed Älgarås, and with two buttons – Volumes and Archive info), and below the Search menu, you’ll now find that Älgarås is listed there as selected.
We can now find the book we want to search for Karl in, using the pane on the far right. First, though, click the button labelled Archive info. This is a very important button for understanding the archive and the parish it belonged to. Many parishes are subdivisions of deaneries, or smaller parishes could belong to a larger parish. Details of this will appear here, so if you’re ever struggling to find what you need in the archives of the parish you’re currently in, then repeat the search in the other parishes listed here. Älgarås, for instance, was an annex to Hova, Älgarås, and Finnerödja deanery. Back to the Volumes. Scroll up until you find the book labelled AI:3 Household records 1856-1869 and click it, then click the orange button called > Open volume.
Congratulations! You’ve found and opened one of the books held in the Älgarås parish archives. On the left, below the Search Menu you’ll now see that book lised underneath the Älgarås archive box. On the main screen is the image of the book, and above it there’s a whole new navigation menu. More on this in my next post.
For now the search for Karl can really begin (again, more on that in How to Research Your Swedish Ancestors under the section Household Examination Records.
What’s your experience of searching in Arkiv Digital? Please let me know in the comments!