Swedish Sailor’s Home (Sjömanshus)


With the Baltic Sea to the east, and the North Sea to the south west, there is a good chance that someone in your Swedish ancestry was a sailor. There are many records associated to sailors. Båtsmän were sailors in the Swedish navy and the military kept track of enlisted personnel. But what about sailors on ships for trade and distribution?

It can be difficult to follow a sailor in the church records because of the constant traveling from one place to another. In this case you can look in the records of the Sailors Home (Sjömanshus.)

The first sailors’ home in Sweden was created in Stockholm in 1748. The purpose was to care for sailors who were too old or otherwise unable to work. In 1753 a sailors home was founded in Göteborg. Eventually they were established in all Swedish ports that had rights for international trade. In 1796 there were 38 international ports in Sweden and Finland. Over time the government became involved with the sailors’ homes, but there was no legal requirement to have a sailor’s home in a Swedish international port until 1864. Altogether there have been about 50 sailor’s homes.

A sailor would register with the sailor’s home at the “home port” and make donations with the agreement to eventually receive retirement care. The records of the sailors’ homes have been preserved in the regional archives. The earlier registration records have less information. In later years you will find the sailors name, birth year, birth place, social standing, place of residence, registration numbers, and when they ended active employment.

The easiest way to search these records is through ArkivDigital as they have digitized sjömanshus records from 37 cities. FamilySearch has a few sjömanshus collections on microfilm. Otherwise you will need to contact a regional archive to do a search for you.

There are some databases that were created from sjömanshus records which may help. The Sjömanshus (also called Sjöfolk) database is available through Riksarkivet SVAR by subscription at http://sok.riksarkivet.se/sjomanshus. It has information from the sailors’ homes in Härnösand, Gamlakarleby, Västervik, Hudiksvall, Söderhamn, Gävle, Karlskrona, Oskarshamn, Visby and Örnsköldsvik.
The Demographic Database of Southern Sweden (DDSS) has a Sjömanshus database for Karlskrona for the years between 1871 and 1937 available at: http://tinyurl.com/klq3k48

* Clemmensson, Per & Kjell Andersson. Släktforska vidare. Natur och Kultur/LTs förlag, Falköping 2003 p. 126

* Riksarkivet, Specialsök: Sjömanshus (sjöfolk) at http://sok.riksarkivet.se/sjomanshus, Stockholm 2014

* Image from: Arkiv Digital, Sjömanshuset i Karskrona EXII:1 (1836-1908), AID: v490445.b8

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Swedish Genealogy in Cities

Chances are at some point you will find a Swedish ancestor that lived in a city. You’ll find that genealogical research in cities is different than in rural areas. The parish was still responsible to keep the vital records of birth, marriage, and death, but there are unique differences due to city life. This article will help you understand those differences and offer some resources to find your ancestors in the cities.

Historically the largest cities in Sweden have been Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, and Norrköping. When you rank the cities by size, you’ll find the order of largest to smallest varies according to time period. Stockholm was the largest city beginning in the late 1500’s and has been ever since. Before 1850 Stockholm and Göteborg were the only cities with a population over 20,000. Between 1850 and 1930 the population of Stockholm increased to 500,000, and Göteborg to about 250,000. In the same time period Malmö breaks 100,000 and Norrköping hits about 70,000.



Life in the Cities

Life in cities is built upon manufacture, distribution, and trade. In Sweden the government controlled the privileges of a town or city to participate in these activities. All the larger cities were ports for trade. These cities also had a stronger military presence.
The cities had a wider diversity of people from other countries. These people brought other languages, traditions, naming customs, and religions. Although Sweden had the Lutheran state church, they allowed other groups of people to practice their respective faith. As the natural resources and opportunities vary by location, you find that towns and cities became known for certain products.



Challenges of Research in Cities

There are many challenges to finding your ancestor in the cities. Here are some of the big ones:

Population Size

Simply put, the larger the community.. the harder to find the person that you’re looking for. Sometimes in the larger cities, it can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Every city started out as a small village. Over time people moved to the cities for opportunities. Once in a city, a person might move for a better job or better housing. Workers in cities were not tied to the land. There was job stability and in-stability. Many workers had to renew an annual contract. Relocation was common, and just like today having connections was important. All these situations lead to the questions of “where did this person come from?” or “where did they go to?”

The Church in the Cities
A priest in the Swedish Lutheran church was responsible for keeping birth, marriage, and death records for all the people that lived within their parish boundary. These are called Territorial parishes because they have a geographic boundary. In the larger cities, there are congregations that gather for other reasons such as language, or the military. These parishes are called Non-territorial parishes because there isn’t a geographic boundary within the city. In most cases there is a city parish (Stadsförsamling) for people who lived in the city, and a rural parish (Landsförsamling) for the people who lived near the city.

Because there were so many people to keep track of, the parish priest and his staff struggled to keep accurate household examination and moving records. As the population increased and the number of members within a parish increased, the diocese would split the older parish to create a new parish. Statistically there were higher rates of illegitimate births in the cities. This was especially true between 1778 and 1917 when a mother could give birth anonymously. Residency in the records is listed by Rote (like a neighborhood), streets, or even households within a building.

Naming customs
After moving to the city, many people changed their surname for practical reasons. There were too many people with similar names. To change a surname was easy, just start using it. Over time your new surname would become what you’re known by with your friends, family, employer, on the church records, and with tax authorities. The challenge is finding what the patronymic surname was before moving to the city. Also, there was a wider variety of given names in the cities, many of which came from other countries.

There were many situations that led a child to the orphanage. It could be the death of parents, a single parent unable to provide for a child, or a temporary situation of failing health, or imprisonment. Whatever the case, children were taken to orphanages for care. All cities were required to have an orphanage according to the law of 1624. There were public and private orphanages. See the article Orphanages in Sweden on the FamilySearch Wiki.




The larger cities had an increased military presence made up of professionals, and non-professionals in the army or navy. They lived in military quarters and belonged to military church congregations. The question is “where did they come from” and after their service “where did they go to?”

Records in Cities

There are many records available to search for your ancestor in a Swedish city. Here is a short list:


Here are some resources for genealogical research in Swedish Cities:







  • Indexes for parishes in PDF,  through Stockholm Stadsarkiv website at: Kyrkoarkiv



  • 1926-1939 Överståthållarämbetet,  available through Arkiv Digital.





  • Index of Marriages for Kristine parish 1624 – 1774, FHL Intl book 948.69/G1 H2b v.3


  • Rådhusrätt register 1719 – 1798, FHL microfilm Intl 216069 – 216070








  • Tax records index for all tax obligated 1727-1945 at the Norrsköping Stadsarkiv. Contact the archive for assistance.



Resources for Other Cities

1. PLF (Person-och Lokalhistoriskt Forskarcentrum) on CD for all cities in Småland (Jönköping, Kalmar, and Kronoberg Counties.) These include: Borgholm, Eksjö, Gränna, Huskvarna, Jönköping, Kalmar, Oskarshamn, Vimmerby, Västervik, and Växjö


2. Demografisk Databas Södra Sverige (DDSS) for Skåne (Malmöhus, Kristianstad), Blekinge, and Halland Counties. These include entries from birth, marriage, and death records of: Båstad, Helsingborg, Höganäs, Karlskrona, Kristianopel, Kristianstad, Malmö, Ronneby, Vä, Ystad, Åhus, and Ängelholm. Within DDSS there is the Halland Marriage Database that will help for the cities of Falkenberg, Halmstad, Kungsbacka, Laholm, and Varberg.


3. Indiko (Demografiska databasen Umeå universitet) for Linköping, Skellefteå, and Sundsvall.


4. Födda, Vigda, Döda i Ådalen, CD available at FHL or can be purchased through Riksarkivet for Härnösand and Sollefteå.


5. Register of births, marriages, and deaths in Jämtland 1642-1860 on FamilySearch.org, 1686-1875 on microfilm INTL 1644180 for Östersund.

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DDSS Website for Swedish Genealogy

Background of DDSS

The DDSS database was started in 1996 by the staff at the Regional Archive of Lund. It is a product of 3 databases called the Demographic Database of Southern Sweden (DDSS), the Skåne Demographic Database (SDD), and the Malmö City Archive Birth Register Database. The goal is to create one database that has all the birth, marriage, and death information (up to 1894) for the parishes within the geographical area that the archive is responsible for. The regional archive of Lund has responsibility for the counties of Skåne (Malmöhus 1669-1997, and Kristianstad 1719-1997), Blekinge, and Halland. Although Halland belongs to the area jurisdiction of the regional archive of Lund, the data for Halland is being registered into the Svensk Lokalhistorisk Databas.

The DDSS database was created by volunteers (many of which are unemployed or unable to get employment), genealogists, and the staff at the regional archive of Lund. Because the data is also for academic use, every entry is reviewed by an experienced genealogist. Although this ongoing project has had economic challenges at times, the database has continued to grow. As of April 30, 2014 the database has over 1.5 million searchable entries from about 400 parishes. Over 23.6 million visitors have visited the website since 2003.

About the DDSS Website

The DDSS website offers many useful and interesting databases. The largest database is the Demographical Database for Southern Sweden. It has:

  • A birth and christening database which includes data from the DDSS, Malmö City Archive Birth and Christening Database, and the Skåne Demographical Database (SDD.)
  • An engagement and marriage database which includes data from the DDSS and SDD.
  • A death and burial database which includes data from the DDSS and SDD.
  • A migration database that is created from the parish moving-in and -out records of 9 parishes. This data came from the SDD.

The DDSS website allows you to search data from the three sources (DDSS, Malmö City Archive, SDD) at the same time. There are some restrictions to the data which are:

  • No birth or christening entries are listed that are younger than 100 years
  • No engagement or marriage entries are listed that are younger than 70 years
  • No death or burial entries are listed that are younger than 70 years
  • No causes of death are listed that are younger than 100 years


Other features include:


  • First names, last names, titles, place names, and causes of death can be searched using a standard or non-standard spelling. If you want to search using a non-standard spelling type a quotations mark (“) before the word. The DDSS website offers a good page of search tips, see DDSS Search help.


  • One of the great search tools is the wildcard. You can use the asterisk symbol (*) to replace one or more characters of a word. It can even be used multiple times in the same word.


  • There are 2 ways you can find what parishes are included in the database.  1. You can click on the county that is shown on the DDSS home page. Then click on the Härad or City on the next map, and then browse down the list of parishes.  2. You can click on Databases, choose a birth, marriage, or death database and then use the drop down menu to see if a specific parish in included.


  • The registration for a parish always begins with the records of the late 1800’s, and then progressively works back earlier in time. The earliest parish records are done last.


  • You’ll find there is some inconsistency to the extracted data, for example some birth entries include godparents and others do not. This is because the birth data has been contributed by multiple organizations that had different rules in the extraction process.



The website also offers:

  • A database which includes most of the marriages in the county of Halland, called the Vigselregister Halland which is available on the DDSS website. This database was created by the Hallands Släktforskarförening (Hallands Genealogical Society.)
  • A database called Sveriges Skepplistor, which is a database of Swedish ships between the years of 1837 and 1885. The data is from published ships lists that are in the Regional Archive of Lund.
  • The Karlskrona Sjömanshusdatabas (Karlskrona Seaman’s Home) is a collaborative effort by ArkiVara in Karlskrona, the Municipality of Karlskrona, and the Regional Archive in Lund. They are extracting the registration records from the Karlskrona Seaman’s Home between the years of 1871 and 1937. This pertains to all seamen who registered and donated money to their future care, and retirement.
  • The Öknamnen i Örkened database (Nicknames in Örkened) which is a database built upon the nicknames that were associated to the people and place names in Örkened parish in Skåne County. Historically many people had nicknames in their local parish. The goal of this database is to register the different nicknames used in Örkened parish, discover their origin, and associate these names to the people and places they belonged to.
  • A transcription copy of the ministerial book of Osby parish (C:1) from 1697 – 1690 in PDF.


Another option on the DDSS website is the Temasidor (Theme pages.) This part of the database offers tools, and presentations (in Swedish) on various subjects including:

  • Given names in a historical context
  • Last names in a historical context
  • A list of place names in Skåne and Blekinge
  • Occupations and Titles
  • Demographic Statistics

Use for Swedish Genealogy?


  • Search for birth, marriage, or death information for about 400 parishes in Skåne (Malmöhus and Kristianstad), and Blekinge Counties.
  • The DDSS is especially useful in the cities where there are parishes without a specific geographical boundary (non-territorial parishes.)
  • Search for migration information from 9 parishes in Skåne.
  • Search for a marriages in Halland County.
  • Search place names of the villages and farms in Skåne and Blekinge Counties.
  • See maps of the Härads in Skåne and Blekinge Counties.
  • A transcription copy of the Osby ministerial book from 1647 – 1690.


Database Information

Swedish Name: Demografisk Databas Södra Sverige, DDSS

English Name: Demographical Database for Southern Sweden

Purpose: To create a database of birth, marriage, and death information for all the parishes in Skåne (Malmöhus, Kristianstad), Blekinge, and Halland. It was created for genealogists, local historians, educators, historical societies, academic research in demography, and medical research.

Created by: The Regional Archive of Lund (Landsarkivet i Lund)

Format: Online at http://www.ddss.nu/

Cost: Free

Language: Swedish, English


  • The Demografisk Databas Södra Sverige (DDSS) website
  • Haskå, Guno. Släkthistorisk Forum: Person- och lokalhistoria i undervisningen. Sveriges Släkforskarförbund, no. 2, 2004
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Släktband Review, Season 1 Episode 3

Family Secrets
This episode begins with a man named Kjell Weber of Torslanda who shared 2 family secrets. One was a family story that had been passed down for generations. The story goes that the family name of Ödman went back to an English seaman whose last name was Smith. He was shipwrecked and came ashore to an island called Skaftö which is off the coast of Bohuslän by floating on a plank. Then he found an abandoned house (Ödehus) where he settled down and stayed. Smith eventually changed his last name to Ödman as a variation on the name of the house. Kjell found that an early generation had sons that simply took the name Ödman to replace their patronymic names. When Kjell shared this with his family, an Aunt was not happy to hear the truth. Elisabeth Renström summarized that this story had been passed down for generations, but it turned out to be just a story. The English seaman whose name was Smith had never existed and some of the modern family was not happy to hear the truth.

The episode transitions to another interesting topic, the naming patterns of given names in Sweden. Elisabeth Renström met with Margareta Svahn, a manager with the Dialect, Place Name, and Cultural Archive (Dialekt ortnamns och folkminnesarkivet) in Göteborg. Magareta shared some interesting points regarding “given names” such as:

  • In rural areas many people named their children according to “traditional given names” in the family. For example, they might name the first son after the father’s father and the first daughter after the mother’s mother.


  • You’ll see that some given names were popular in an area, such as many parents naming their sons Per, Anders, or Karl in a village.


  • By the 1700’s and 1800’s people started to use given names from other countries. Naming practices changed first in the cities, and then eventually in rural areas.


  • The first group in society to use foreign given names was the townsman, or citizen social class (the Borgare.)


  • Some illegitimate children were given unusual first names because 1. The unwed mother may have been employed as a household servant by the borgare (she was influenced by non-traditional names) and 2. Having a child out of wedlock had a negative social stigma so the mother might break from family traditions.


  • A child’s given name might have been influenced by the priest. There are examples where the priest was told by the parents what the name should be (even written on paper), but the priest didn’t like it so he chose something else.


  • The priest might have christened the child according to a proper form of the name. For example, the parents requested Kajsa but he recorded the name as Karen or Katarina. The child’s name is recorded in the birth record as Karen or Katarina but she was known throughout her life as Kajsa.


  • Although a child’s name was recorded in the birth record with one spelling, it doesn’t mean that anyone kept using that spelling in other records.


  • During Viking and early Medieval times people used Nordic names (such Asmund, Ingrid, and Sven.) Christianity brought a variety of given names, especially from the liturgical calendar such as Andreas, Johannes, Petrus that became Anders, Johan, and Per.


  • The time of Sweden’s wars and expansion in the 1600’s brought names from other countries especially France and Germany. Names from other countries become popular in the 1700’s (first in the larger cities) and then in the 1800’s throughout the rest of the country.


The episode switches to the topic of a project called Namn åt de döda 1950 – 2003 (meaning Names of the dead) that was led by the Swedish Federation of Genealogical Societies (Sverige Släktforskarförbund.) The information from this project was published on a C.D. database called Sveriges Dödbok (maning Swedish Death Book), which has multiple versions (latest is 1901 – 2009 that has about 7.1 million people in it.) The database includes other information such as birthdate, their personal i. d. number (if the person died after 1947), social standing, birth parish, and the residence parish at the time of death. The purpose of the database is to help people find information about when someone died without having to visit a regional archive or contact a parish. The legal responsibility for parishes to keep vital records stopped in 1991.)


Elisabeth Renström switches back to her interview with Kjell Weber who shared another piece of the family story, this time an ancestor guilty of murder. The ancestors name is Karl Johansson who was a guard at the city jail in Göteborg. One evening in the spring of 1847 Karl and a friend went out for a walk. They went down a darkened street where they ran into 3 other men, one of them being in the military. The men began to mock and insult each other, all of the men participated but it was mostly between the military man and Karl. Court documents do not show what the insults were about, but the insults turned into a fight. The story goes that suddenly Karl breaks into an insane rage; he picked up a wooden shovel that happened to be nearby and began to beat one of the 3 men who was the slowest.


Karl beat the youngest of the group, a young man named Daniel Jacobsson who worked in one of the cigar factories to death. One of the witnesses who testified in court, was a laborer named Andreas Kristensson. He described how Karl came out from a doorway with the shovel in hand to chase the young man. The city court records show that another witness described the yelling, and sounds of the blows. It was dark and somewhat unclear who actually did the beating, but another witness said it was Karl.


Karl was convicted for murder and condemned to the death by beheading. The conviction was appealed to an appellate court, but the conviction was upheld. It was appealed again to the Swedish Supreme Court with a request for mercy from the King. The King upheld the conviction but the penalty was changed to 28 days on bread and water (which was equivalent to a death sentence), public confession, and 10 years at a labor prison. Karl served his time at the labor prison in Malmö between 1848 and 1858. After his release, Karl returned to Bohuslän where he found work as a laborer, eventually married and had a family.


Kjell shared the story of the English seaman, and other stories that had been passed down to illustrate how family’s keep secrets, and other things are only partially true.


The episode ends with some research advice from Thord Bylund and Kathrine Flyborg:
–  You start with building your family tree as far back as you can.
–  Eventually you can’t go further back, so you work on collateral lines or pick an early ancestor and work your way down the descendants.
–  The research in the 1800’s is usually the easiest to work in.
–  Another research activity is to gather family photos, and then collaborate with extended family to identify the people in the photos.


What do we learn for Swedish genealogy?


  • Some family stories are simply wrong, and some family members will not be happy to hear the truth.


  • There is a rich and interesting history to the given names in the Swedish culture.


  • The records in Sweden are very good. As you search the records you will find family secrets, or discover the truth of a family story.


Source: Släktband by Gunilla Nordlund and Elisabeth Renström

Season: 1 – Genealogy Courses and Other Useful Topics

Episode: 3 Släkthemligheter

Date of publication: 21 November, 2004

Published by: Sveriges Radio P1

Language: Swedish

Link to episode: Släktband 1:3 Släkthemligheter

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Type Swedish Letters Å, Ä, and Ö for Genealogy

Swedish Letters

The Swedish alphabet has 29 letters, A through Z plus Å, Ä, and Ö. Sometimes you will see other letters with marks above them such as é, á, ü, or ÿ, but these letters are considered variants of e, a, u, and y. Because the letters å, ä, and ö are letters in the Swedish alphabet, you should use them in your genealogical data entry, searching for Swedish genealogical websites, or using databases from Sweden. Here are some examples in correct spelling:

First Names:
Ake is Åke
Goran is Göran
Hakan is Håkan
Jons is Jöns
Par is Pär

Last Names:
Aberg is Åberg
Akerberg is Åkerberg
Backman is Bäckman
Oman is Öman
Ostman is Östman
Soderberg is Söderberg
Wahlstrom is Wahlström

Place Names:
Akarpsgarden is Åkarpsgården
Algsjon is Älgsjön
Ostergarden is Östergården
Sodra Fagelas is Södra Fågelås
Vasteraker is Västeråker


Here are some options to type the letters Å, Ä, and Ö on a English keyboard:

Use the 10 keypad in Windows
Hold down the Alt key and type one of codes below into the 10 keypad. When you let go of the Alt key, the letter will appear.
Å is 143
å is 134
Ä is 142
ä is 132
Ö is 153
ö is 148


To get the umlaut above a letter:
1. Hold down the Option key, and type u (the letter u).
2. Let go of the keys (don’t hold them down for step 3).
3. Type the vowel over which you want the umlaut to appear.

Hold the Shift key down in step 3 Above.
Option+A = å
Shift+Option+A = Å
Option + u, then a = ä
Option + u, then shift + A = Ä
Option + u, then o = ö
Option + u, then shift + O = Ö


Copy and Paste from a Swedish Website (Windows)
1. Find a Swedish website
2. Highlight a letter using the mouse, then with the mouse pointer on the highlighted text, do a right click on the mouse and choose copy (or hold down the Ctrl key and press the letter c).
3. Move the mouse pointer to the place want to paste. Click one time so the curser is active. Right click on the mouse and choose paste (or hold down the Crtl key and press the letter v).


Keyboard Settings (Windows)

Another option is to change the language input for your keyboard in Windows. In this method, you use the Control Panel to activate the Swedish keyboard. After the keyboard is activated you should see an icon in the lower right corner of your screen that looks like EN. Click on the EN to see a list with the option of choosing English or Swedish. Choose Swedish. The EN should have changed to SV.

As long as the icon is SV, you are using the Swedish keyboard. While in the Swedish keyboard mode the Å, Ä, and Ö can be used on your English keyboard as follows:
• Ä is the ‘ (or “ ) key
• Å is the [ (or { ) key
• Ö is the ; (or : ) key
For the upper case or lower case of each letter, use the Shift key as usual. While the Swedish keyboard is active, some keys on your English keyboard are rearranged too (especially on the number keys across the top.)


Here are instructions to change the language keyboard in Windows. Choose the operating system below:

Windows 8
1) Swipe (or move your mouse pointer) to the lower right corner of the screen and click on Settings
2) Change PC Settings
3) Tap or click on Time and language
4) Tap or click on Region and language
5) Tap or click on Swedish and then on Options
6) Tap or click Add a keyboard
7) Browse to the input method to keyboard, and click it


Windows 7
1) Click on the Windows symbol in the lower left corner of the screen
2) Control Panel
3) Look for Clock, Language, and Region. Click on the small link below the title that says Change keyboards or input methods
4) Change keyboards…
5) Leave it on the General tab and click on Add
6) Scroll down and click on the + symbol next to Swedish
7) Then click on the + symbol next to the word keyboard
8) Then click in the little empty box next to Swedish. This should create a check mark in the box.
9) Click on OK, Apply, OK, OK
10) Close the Control Panel box


Windows Vista
1) Click on the Windows symbol in the lower left corner of the screen
2) Control Panel
3) Regional and Language Options
4) Click on the Keyboards and Languages tab
5) Change keyboards…
6) Leave it on the General tab and click on Add…
7) Scroll down and click on the + symbol next to Swedish
8) Then click on the + symbol next to the word keyboard
9) Then click in the little empty box next to Swedish. This should create a check mark in the box.
10) Click on OK, Apply, OK, OK
11) Close the Control Panel box

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