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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