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A gazetteer is a published list of place names. Descriptions given in gazetteers vary according to the purpose for the publication. They were created for different reasons such as to be a postal guide or to document geography. Gazetteers may describe towns and villages, parishes, counties, provinces, rivers and mountains, sizes of population, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as schools, colleges, and universities; major manufacturing works; and canals docks, and railroad stations.
In Sweden each farm has its own name. Some farm names date back to the Viking age or early medieval times. There are also names for villages. In many areas of Sweden there weren’t any villages at all, but only the individual farms. In many cases there are numerous farms and/or villages with the same name. A gazetteer helps to explain what a place is -- a farm, village, parish, county, etc.
In doing Swedish research it is important to pay attention to place names. Many people have similar names and it is often the name of the farm or village that helps identify an individual as being the relative.
A gazetteer can be used to determine which church parish had jurisdiction over a smaller place such as a farm or village. They are helpful in determining the county that has jurisdiction for the parish.
Being familiar with the names of nearby parishes and having a list of farms and villages within the parish may make it easier to understand and read the place names written in old handwriting.
In using gazetteers, remember that similar names were used in different areas of Sweden and more than one place may need to be checked. Modern spellings (after the spelling reform of 1906) may differ from the pre-1906 time period. Individual clergy and others wrote phonetically and as they thought it should be spelled. Some places may not be included because they are obsolete, very small, or they were simply omitted. Generally gazetteers can greatly facilitate genealogical research.
There are a number of Swedish gazetteers. The following gazetteers are useful in identifying specific place-names and are in different forms of media – book, CD/DVD, or website.
• Svensk Ortförteckning
• Geografiskt-Statistiskt Handlexikon öfver Sverige
• Svenska Orter
• Svensk Ortnamn 1999
Johansson, Carl-Erik. Cradled In Sweden. The Everton Publishes, Inc., Logan, UT . 1995.
Clemensson, Per & Andersson, Kjell. Your Swedish Roots – A Step by Step Handbook. Ancestry, Provo,Utah. 2004.