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The Härad (translated as Administrative County District or in older terms a Hundred) has roots back to early Germanic tribes. It is a geographic division formally used in England, Wales, Denmark, South Australia, in parts of the United States, Germany (Southern Schleswig, Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
It’s unclear what the name “hundred” was referring to anciently, but the Germanic system was mentioned as early as AD 98 by Tacitus (the centeni). The system was brought north to Sweden with the early migration of Germanic tribes.
Härad in Sweden
The härad in Sweden is referring to a smaller jurisdiction that in early times could have been associated to a population group or to a place that had a specific geographical boundary. Whatever the case, the härad in Sweden started with a judicial nature. All of the Landskap were divided into smaller areas called Härad throughout mid to southern Sweden, and Tinslag or Bergslag in Northern Sweden. In coastal areas they might be called Skeppslag. The härads would use a tingplats as the place of judgement. Sometimes the härad had its own tingplats, other times a tingplats was shared with other härads. Eventually the tingsplats evolved into the Häradsrätt (a local court at the lowest judicial level). In the cities they were called a Rådhusrätt. Where multiple härads shared a tingsplats they might have united the härads to become a Domsaga.
Because the jurisdiction of härad has existed for centuries, the function of it has changed considerably through the years. The härad was involved in the gathering of taxes through the office of the Häradsskrivare, and law enforcement through the office of the Kronofogden. The constituency of a härad had political influence through a representative of parliament. The härad also provided a place where local political decisions were made.
According to the Byggningabalken (the section on properties and code) of the 1734 Law the härad was responsible to build gästgivaregårdar (the inns used for the travel and postal system), roads, bridges, and mile posts. The härad also had supervision over the common land and fishing which provided income for the härad.
The Rättegångsbalken (the judicial section) of the 1734 Law stated that the härad was to build and maintain a court house, härad jail, a härads archive, along with the responsibility for a “häradskista” (a chest used to store judicial documents and tools for example the gavel and official seal.) Many responsibilities changed or were taken from the härad with the creation of municipalities and municipal ordinances in 1862. Other responsibilities followed as the population grew and society changed throughout the end of the 1800’s and into the 1900’s. By 1970 there were a total of 226 härads, of which 6 were skeppslag and 1 bergslag.
- The office of the häradsskrivare created the mantalslängd (mantals tax records), jordeböcker (real estate tax records) and the tiondelänger (the tithing records.)
- Wiki Community., "Härad". Wikipedia, January 2011.
- Släktforskarförbund Wiki Community., "Härad". Wiki-Rötter, January 2011.
- Clemmensson, Per and Andersson, Kjell, Släktforska steg för steg, Natur och Kultur/Fakta etc., 2005
- Nordstedts Engelska Ord., Härad, Nordstedts Förlag AB 2011