Legal Age in Sweden
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If you look up the Swedish word "myndig" (or myndighets ålder) in a Swedish - English dictionary the translation will probably be "of age." But the term "of age" in English can be taken multiple ways such as maturation or a spiritual time of passage. In genealogical records, the word myndig usuallly refers to when a person is of legal age, and is granted specific legal privileges and responsibilities. In the past women and men did not share the same legal status. This directly effected how and when people were recorded in the Swedish records.
Legal Status of Unmarried Women
In the middle ages the daughter received an inheritance only if there were no sons. Birger Jarl (around 1250 A.D.) wrote the first law giving daughters in Sweden the right to inheritance but the law gave them only half the amount that sons would receive.
According to the Law of 1734, an unmarried woman in order to marry had to have consent from her legal guardian (förmyndare) who acted as her sponsor (giftoman). As a rule it was her father or if he wasn’t living, then her oldest brother. While unmarried, the woman was under her father or another legal guardian and then after her marriage the husband became her guardian. A woman only gained “legal status” as a widow but if she remarried she lost that right again to the new husband. This was the case until 1856. The necessity of having a “giftoman” at the time of marriage was done away in 1870. From the year 1856 an unmarried woman age 25 or older, could get “legal status” after approval by the local court. From 1858 such an application was automatically approved for a woman aged at least 25. After 1863 an application was no longer needed and unmarried women recieved legal status at the age of 25. In 1884 the age for “legal status” was lowered to 21 which was the same age as for men. In 1969 the age requirement was lowered to 20 and then again in 1974 it was lowered to 18.
Legal Status of Married Women
In 1874 married women received the opportunity by law to manage their own private property and control their own wages. Prior to this the husband could dispose of all her belongings as he saw fit. If she owned a farm he became the legal owner when they married.
In 1921 Married women were "of legal age" at age 21. Prior to this (1856 to 1921) a woman could become of age if unmarried but then would become not of age (omyndig) again when she married.
Legal Status of Men
In medieval times the legal status of "manhood" was granted at age 15, which is not surprising given the life expenctancy was much lower than today. In 1721 the age was set at 21 and remained so until 1969 when it was lowered to 20 (men and all women). In 1974 it was again lowered to 18 (men and all women).
Svenska Akademiens ordbok - SAOB spalt: M1708; tryckår 1945. See http://g3.spraakdata.gu.se/saob/show.phtml?filenr=1/160/58.html
SweGGate StarGuide – Swedish dictionary: “Jurdik”. Appendices. See http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~swewgw/Fact/Dict/facdic_jur_app01.htm
Bengans historiasidor. Bjälboätten Vol. IV. Birger Magnusson – den siste jarlen. See http://wadbring.com/historia/sidor/birgerj.htm
Wikipedia, Den fria encyklopedin - Myndig. See http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myndig.