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A census is a count of the population taken by a government primarily for taxation or military purposes. No regular census records (in direct comparison to the U.S. Censuses) are found in Sweden. Population registration was done through the household examination records (husförhörslängd), the annual Mantals tax (mantalslängd), and the real estate tax on the farms (jordeböcker).
The Mantals record got its name from the word mantal, which in early days indicated the size of the farm being enough to sustain one family. Around the year 1630, it took on the meaning of a measure for the assessing of taxes, and thus a farm is measured in ½ mantal, ¼ mantal, etc.
The mantalslängd contains the names of the persons (often just the name of the head of the household) who were supposed to pay the so called mantalspengar, a tax to be paid by every person between the ages of 15 and 63. It was kept in two copies one by the exchequer archives (Kammararkivet) and one by landstyrelsens arkiv (county archive), the latter being kept at respectivelandsarkiv. The latter has been microfilmed and is available at the Family History Library.
Theoretically, all people in Sweden between 15 and 63 would be included in the record. However, this is not the case. The soldiers were exempt from this tax and only wives are mentioned, very often only indicated by soldathustrun (soldier’s wife) and no name. Also, the children and the servants,pigor (maid servants) and drängar (farms hands) are not mentioned by name but only checked off in a column. Thus, we do not get the full benefit from these records that they would have had, if they would have listed the names of all persons.
Swedish census records can be a helpful source because they were taken before church records were kept. You can sometimes use census records to extend your pedigree chart beyond what is recorded in church records. The earliest census records in central Sweden are from the 1620s. They have been microfilmed up to the 1860s. The Family History Library has the Swedish census records that have been microfilmed. They are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
SWEDEN, [COUNTY] - CENSUS
Searching Census Records
The columns listing the different people living on the farms are listed in different orders in different records, but they usually contain the following headings:Bönder or Männer (men), Hustrur (wives), Söner (sons), Döttrar (daughters), Mågar (sons-in-law), Sonhustrur (daughters-in-law), Drängar (farm hands), Pigor (maid servants), Inhyseshjon (tenants) and Summa (total).
When searching census records, remember:
- After 1652, only people between the ages of 15 and 63 were listed. The earliest records sometimes only contain the given name of the head of the household, while other family members are listed as numbers in columns.
- After 1841, people between 17 and 63 were recorded. After 1887, the ages were 18 to 63.
- Soldiers did not have to pay taxes, so only their wives and children are listed.
- Until 1810, noble families and their servants were also exempt from paying taxes and are usually not recorded.
- Spellings of names and places may differ from that in other records.
- If someone is dropped from the roll it means that he either died, or moved away or was more than 63 years of age. The records usually do not indicate the cause. The records were not kept annually but sometimes with intervals of 5-10 years or more. No age of the person mentioned is given in the records.
- It should be noted that in the 1800s the records contain some additional information from certain areas of the country, especially the province of Skåne, where we find the names of all persons living on a farm listed, their birth dates and relationship. This makes it a census record and an invaluable help when the clerical survey record is missing.
- In searching these records it is well to have studied the names of the farms and villages in the parish and surrounding areas before using the records. They are no in the best shape many times, and the old script may be difficult to read. However, by knowing every place name it is much easier to read the names of the farms, etc. and find the place. You will save yourself a lot time and headache by knowing the geography of the area.
Similar records were also made for tax purposes, fees on the grist mills, etc. They are all included in mantalslängden. Very few notes of personal interest are included; however, we may find such pleasant notes as this one from Tuna parish in Orebro county, for the year 1820: “Undertecknad dricker vin och Caffe” and about his wife it is stated:“dricker The, nyttar sidenkläder”, which means “The undersigned drinks wine and coffee, and she drinks tea and uses (wears) silk clothes.” Thekomminister (curate) Godd of Nöbbelöv parish in Skåne writes about himself, his wife, and sister-in-law; “Use silk, coffee and whiskey and a pocket watch; the latter only by myself.” Insights gleaned into lifestyles found in no other genealogical records.
When you find your family in one census, search that same location in the earlier and later census records for other family members.
A good guide to the census records is: Gösta. Mantalsskrivningen i Sverige före 1860 (Census Records in Sweden before 1860). Göteborg, Sweden: Göteborgs Universitet, 1968. (FHL Book 948.5 X2l.)
Another source with information specifically for census is:
Johansson, Carl-Erik, Cradled in Sweden
Available Census Records