Swedish Military Jurisdictions for Family History Research
Back to Sweden►
Why Military Jurisdictions?
Knowing what military jurisdictions existed when your ancestor served in the military in Sweden can help you find more evidence to build your family tree and may add interesting information about your ancestors for family history. This is especially true when the church records are inadequate. This article will help you understand how the national government organized their branches of military and lead you to the records that were created under the jurisdictions. Throughout time the military organization in Sweden has undergone both gradual and major changes depending on the military needs.
Medieval - 1630
From early medieval times, the area of modern Sweden was divided into provinces and into the Svea and Göta kingdoms. Wars were fought between the two with the Svear as victors. Wars were also fought with other kingdoms such as Russia and Denmark. During this time there was no permanent army. Men (often foreigners) were hired as needed to fight the wars. No military force existed during times of peace prior to the 1500’s. In 1521-1523, Gustav Vasa led Sweden in the Swedish War of Liberation and was successful in breaking away from the Kalmar Union and dominance of Denmark. Gustav Vasa was the founder of modern Sweden. He established a permanent army. His military forces were made up of enlisted men, both domestic and foreign born, with some from forced conscription of Swedish and Finnish men.
The system of organizing and financing the Swedish armed forces (the allotment system) began during the early 1600's. Each province was required to have an infantry regiment. The parishes were divided into “rotar” consisting of 10 men ages 15 to 40. From each rote, one man was involuntarily recruited to serve and received payment for his service from the government. Cities were responsible to supply sailors for the navy.
Using this system, Sweden was able to develop a successful military and by 1630 was emerging into a great power in Europe. Many wars were fought during the 1600’s and some records have been preserved from this early time period.
1630 - 1901
Sweden was engaged in the Thirty Year War (1618-1648) which was being fought in what is now Germany. In 1631 Gustav II Adolf defeated the German Keiser at Breitenfeld. From this point on, a period of continual success on the battlefield ensued. Many in high leadership felt that Sweden not only should defend itself but also expand the Swedish empire. By 1661 Sweden had become a great power in Europe and had become the third largest country in Europe (in land area), only surpassed by Russia and Spain. Sweden at its height included Bremen-Verden, Wismar, Stralsund, Pomerania, Bornholm, Estonia, Livonia, Finland, colonies in the Americas and Trondheim. Sweden had also gained Skåne, Halland, and Blekinge from Denmark and also Bohuslän from Norway. From this point on, Sweden was engaged in defending its possessions. In the Great Northern War (1700-1721) Sweden suffered terrible losses in resources, and manpower and lost some possessions. Sweden maintained a strong, well trained military throughout the years although they gradually lost their possessions in the Americas, the Baltic States, the German coastline, Finland, Bornholm and Trondheim.
Another major reorganization of the military took place in 1682. This was the “New Allotment System” (Det yngre indelningsverket) which lasted until 1901. Many were opposed to the forced recruitment of the old allotment system and paying the men in service was a great expense for the government. The new system divided the parishes into “rotar” and each “rote” (several small farms) was to recruit a voluntary soldier to the infantry and also to provide a croft with a small piece of land and whatever else the soldier and his family needed to subsist. The soldier would live on his land, take part in military training, and serve in active duty during times of war. The larger farms were called “rusthåll” and were not in the “rote” division. Each of these was required to supply and support a cavalry soldier similar to the “rote” and the infantry soldier. Cities and coastline parishes were responsible to recruit and supply men for the navy.
This system was accepted by the farmers. There were periods of war when more manpower was required and so drafting of some soldiers took place during this time period. By the later 1800’s, many felt that all men should have military training and serve in the armed forces for a period time (Beväringar). The reform of 1901 made it mandatory for all able bodied men to serve in the military (Värnplikt) which lasted until 2010. On May 19, 2010 the Värnplikt was replaced by a system built upon volunteer enlistment (frivilig militär grundutbildning also called GMU.)
|Kungen, Kunglig Majestät||The Swedish Monarchy and Government. Responsible for the commissioning of the “Generalitetet” (the highest officers in the military) and the Regementets staben (regimental officers)|
|Krigskollegiet||The Krigskollegiet was established about 1630 and was made up of the leading military officials in the Army with the Riksmarsken as the top official . The Krigskollegiet was responsible among other things for avlöning (paying salaries to officers) and also for utrustning (equipment).|
|Amiralitetskollegiet||The Amiralitetskollegiet was made up of the leading military officials in the Navy with the Riksamiralen. The Amiralitetskollegiet was responsible among other things for avlöning (paying salaries to officers) and also for utrustning (equipment).|
|Militären (Army)||The Army consisted of the infantry, the cavalry, and the artillery. Each kept their own records.|
|Civilt anställda (Army)||Hired civilians that provide various services such as doctors, priests, scribes, tradesmen, musicians, and other occupations.|
|Militären (Navy)||The naval forces consisted of units in the Örlogsflottan (Navy) and the Skärgårdsflottan , also known as Arméns Flottan –coastal defense units.|
|Civilt anställda (Navy)||Hired civilians that provide services such as doctors, priests, scribes, pilots, tradesmen, and other occupations.|
|Infanteriet||The infantry or in other words, soldiers on foot. There were various types of infantry soldiers such as the Fotsoldater, Grenadjärer, and Jägare. The term soldat refers to an infantry soldier. In the 1600’s the dragon was part of the infantry since he fought on foot after riding to the battlefield on horse. In the 1700’s the dragon became part of the cavalry since from this time on he fought while mounted on his horse.|
|Kavalleriet||The cavalry. There were several different terms used for a man in the cavalry such as: Dragoner, Husarer, Lätta dragoner, Kyrassiärer, Karabinjärer, and Drabant|
|Artilleriet||The artillery. The artillery was made up of volunteer men. There was only one regiment in the country up until 1794. At this time the regiment was divided into 5 regiments with 8 companies each. After 1830 a company in the artillery was called a “batteri”.|
|Örlogsflottan||The main navy consisting of commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers, and the ship’s crew – indelnings båtsmän and sjöartilleristerna (voluntary sea artillery men).|
|Skärgårdsflottan||The naval coastal defense. In the 1900’s became the Coast artillery. At times the Skärgårdsflottan was under the direction of the army and at other times under the navy (Örlogsflottan).|
- To print a PDF copy of this chart with the definitions see: File:Swedish Military Juris 1630 to abt 1900.pdf
- For a list of records associated to this jurisdiction see:
Asker, Björn, Hur riket styrdes, Förvaltning , politik och arkiv 1520 – 1920, Edita, Stockholm 2007 (chapter 9.Krigsmakten till lands och till sjöss)
Thorsell, Elisabeth, The Swedish Central Soldiers Register: A Soldier in the Family,http://www.etgenealogy.se/soldiers.htm
Hans Högman's Genealogy and History Site, http://www.algonet.se/~hogman/swegen.htm
Swedish Wikipedia Community. Värnplikt. Wikipedia, June 2012