SweGGate Facts Glossary Swedish (Juridik)

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Swedish dictionary:  "Juridik" section

This page has more detailed explanations of words listed in the legal dictionary.
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Please note that the letters å, ä and ö are sorted after z in the alphabet

Important Laws Becoming "of age" Consanguinity  
Marriage Marriage impediments Divorce Morgongåva
Hor, Lönskaläge Punishments    


Important Laws
A brief summary of laws important for genealogy research.
The collected Swedish laws are from old times divided into sub-collections named balk. Examples:
Giftermålsbalk about marriage, later renamed äktenskapsbalk. Missgärningsbalk Later combined into brottsbalk = criminal offences
Ärvdabalk about heritage Straffbalk
Jordabalk about real estate Utsökningsbalk  
Byggnadsbalk about building Rättegångsbalk about court proceedings
Handelsbalk about trade Föräldrabalk Added in 1950 dealing with parenthood and child custody
Kyrkobalk about churches and clergy. Appended 1751 (kyrkoförordning), removed 1686 (kyrkolag)    

Beside these "regular" laws there have been a multitude of separate rules and regulations issued continuously as need arose. The laws were translated to Finnish language about 1600 and then as new ones were issued. (Finland was Swedish territory until 1809) 

Year Law Comments
1350 Magnus Erikssons stadslag First collection of laws for the entire nation but only for cities. 
1350 Magnus Erikssons landslag First collection of laws for the entire nation but only for rural areas (all except cities)
1442 Kristoffers landslag Replaces Magnus Erikssons landslag.
1571 Kyrkoförordning (förordning = regulation). Collection of new laws about church and clergy reflecting the new conditions after reformationen - the radical changes instigated by king Gustav Eriksson Vasa when Sweden changed from Catholicism to Protestant / Lutheran faith  
1686 Kyrkolag First separate collection of church laws. Many of these were earlier included in the above collections. Decided by the church 1686, effective from 1688. Some parts were very slow to be implemented. Contains many separate and detailed laws, among those the directives to priests to keep parish records for births (= dopbok), marriages (= vigselbok) and deaths (= dödbok). Also directives to teach people to read and learn the catechism as well as conduct examination of their knowledge yearly (= husförhör) and keep records of the results (= husförhörslängder = HFL).
This law also contained many laws and regulations which today are regulated by worldly authorities but at the time were decided upon by the church judicial system (domkapitel)
1726 Konventikelplakatet (konventikel = small religious meeting). Law against ANY religious meeting beside the Svenska kyrkan (the State church). Valid until 1858. Swedish citizens who converted to another faith could be punished by expatriation.
1734   Large collection of laws, decided in 1734, effective from 1736. Does not contain regulations about churches or religion since kyrkolag of 1686 was still in effect.
1862 Kommunallagar Separate collection of laws valid for one kommun. This is the first time a clear separation is made between church and "worldly" issues. Two new local government assemblies are created, kommunalstämma for the worldly issues and kyrkostämma for church issues. Those replace the age-old sockenstämma which decided everything in the socken ("parish"). See more here.
Becoming of age 
Early times: Women never obtained the legal status of being "of age" except as a widow (since the middle ages).
Unmarried women had their father or, in his absence, another male close relative as her legal guardian - förmyndare. When she was about to marry he had to give his approval. In this context he is named giftoman.
From late 18th century an unmarried woman could become of age 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 became of age automatically at the age of 25. In 1884 the age limit was lowered to 21 as for men.

Married women did not become of age. The husband was her guardian until 1920. This meant that he could dispose of all her belongings as he saw fit. If she owned a farm he became the legal owner when they married.
He was also the only guardian for their children. (in effect until 1950). 

a Widow was considered of age since early times but lost that status if she remarried.

became of age at 15 in very early days. 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).
Consanguinity = Blood Relation
Blodsband (modern) or older blodsförvantskap. Also named konsanguinitet (just as the English consanguinity) derived from Lat con = with and sanguis = blood. This expression reflects the old misapprehension of blood as carrier of heritage. The rules about blood relationship play a role in various legal issues such as:
-- Certain degrees of consanguinity constitutes an impediment to marriage - read here.
--  the view on extra-marital sexual relations - termed "hor" and "lönskaläge", incestuous relation included. 

Definitions used :
rätt upp- och nedstigande släktskap   = straight up and down relation in the family tree i.e. parents, grandparents, children grandchildren etc..
syskonskap  = siblings
svågerlag  = related as in-laws. Persons related as in-laws are termed besvågrade. (svåger = brother-in-law)

Marriage - legal aspects
more later
---  Morgongåva
old spelling morgongåfva literally translates to "morning gift".
This is nowadays a physical gift which the husband gives his wife on the morning after the wedding.
In modern terms the morgongåva may be regarded as an insurance on the husband's life with the wife as the beneficiary.

It is a tradition known in all Germanic peoples since oldest times. The background is that the wife had then no right to inherit her husband's estate so this was a specified pledge / promise of future inheritance rather than a physical gift. It was
regulated by law so it was a legally binding promise. The size of a morgongåva was of course never specified in the law - only that a registered morgongåva was legally binding and as such recorded in the marriage book which served as the official, legal document.
The size of a morgongåva was usually specified in terms of lod silver or in cash currency value (e.g. daler smt, Riksdaler Smt etc).
Lod silver (old spelling silfver)is a specified weight of pure silver where one lod corresponds to 13.17 grams in today's measurements.
Common values for farmers not owning land or only a small farm was 10 - 20 lod silver. The real value of this is complicated to calculate at different times but represented a substantial value to an average person.
The husband did not actually have to own the amount specified in the morgongåva at the time of the wedding (he was not expected to pay up front) - technically it was often based on what he would later inherit or acquire.
In Sweden this law was in effect until 1920 but lately limited to the rights of a widow with no children. If the couple had living children then they inherited their father and were by tradition obliged to care for their mother's needs.

Symbolically the morgongåva is a "return gift" for the dowry.

A similar arrangement was often made in old times for widowed members of the Royal family - especially widow queens. It was named livgeding (from German Geding = arrangement, settlement) and was the right to collect taxes and similar income from a specified geographical area - similar to förläning. This practice was prohibited by a law issued in 1720.

After the laws changed in the 19th century giving a widow the right to inherit from her husband this law had essentially played out its role but the tradition lives on (still does) as a physical gift given by the husband to his wife when they wake up after the wedding night. It is usually a valuable gift - very often an expensive piece of jewellery.

---  Hemgift  = dowry
Hemgift (dowry") is in most aspects the opposite of the "morgongåva". The hemgift  represents the belongings of the wife at the time of wedding since until abt 100 years ago the husband automatically became the guardian of his wife and hence the "care-taker" of all her belongings. This right included the rights to her coming heritage as well so when she later inherited anything after her father that became the property of her husband.
So in Sweden dowry has no likeness to the recently debated custom in India where the dowry is paid by the bride's family to that of the groom. The only remote similarity is that the family of the bride is (was) expected to pay the wedding costs.
Äktenskapshinder - Impediments to marriage
Around 1940 the following impediments were listed in äktenskapsbalken (the marriage laws). Most of them have been in effect for several hundred years (unless otherwise specified)

1  Age
A man must be at least 21 years old and a woman at least 18 years. This was not the case in early days (middle ages for example) when children could marry at very early ages.

2  Lack of consent
by the giftoman (guardian for a person under the age of 21) or guardian for a person declared incapacitated. 
Regarding guardians for women in old times see this section.

3  Mental illness
specified diagnoses, severe conditions.

4  Epilepsy
was considered hereditary and hence constituted a legal impediment to marriage since mid 1700's (probably the 1734 law). That law was in effect until 1969 despite the fact that almost all epilepsy has been known to have non-hereditary causes since the 1930's.

5  Venereal disease
in contagious phase.

6  Consanguinity
to close relationship such as:
a/  straight up and down relation (parents and children)
b/  siblings
c/  child of sibling <-> sibling of parent
d/  straight up and down svågerlag (parent-in law <-> son/daughter-in law)

7  Valid current marriage
Polygamy was not practiced in Sweden - at least not in historical times. Should this occur (e.g. spouse is missing and believed dead but later returns) the second marriage is invalidated.

8  Less than 10 months after separation
from previous marriage. This applies only to a woman and was intended to avoid paternity issues.
Earlier this was one year for women and 6 months for men.

9  Adoption
A person cannot marry a child he/she has adopted.

Numbers 1, 3, 4, 6c and 6d are dispensable i.e. exception can be allowed by a government authority.
Numbers 6a, 6b and 7 result in annulment should marriage have taken place.

Earlier regulations
First cousins were not allowed to marry before 1845.
In the catholic period divorce was not allowed. After the change to protestant faith in early 16th century (the "Reformation") divorce could be obtained only if a spouse committed adultery or was "abandoned" (for a long period). Even so there were strict regulations about the procedure including attempting reunion, being warned and living separately for at least a year. The official document was issued by the domkapitel (the governing board in a diocese) and was named skiljobrev (skiljobref).
In 1810 the divorce rules eased a bit and, among other changes, the divorce could be effective in shorter time in cases of adultery or serious physical abuse.
Hor, Lönskaläge  (adultery)
Lönskaläge is the older legal term for commonly and in later law texts is named hor.
This was often the most frequent type of case in the old häradsrätt (local/district courts). Repeat offence usually resulted in stricter punishment.

enkelt hor (simple "hor")
was defined as sexual relation between one married and one unmarried person. Since early times the penalty was death but in most cases converted to a heavy fine. From 1653 it was always a fine.

dubbelt hor (double "hor")
was defined as sexual relation where both persons were married but not to each other. Since early times the penalty was death but in many cases converted to a heavy fine. From mid 18th century the death penalty for this crime was abandoned.

For both the above crimes there was usually an additional penalty imposed by the church - to "stå uppenbar skrift".

was always considered a more serious crime than hor / lönskaläge. The definition relies on the definitions of blodsband (consanguinity) and applies to sexual relation between relatives up and down the family tree, siblings as well as besvågrade"

The definitions also influence the view on extra-marital sexual relations - termed "hor" and "lönskaläge", incestuous relation included. In early times this rendered a death penalty but was almost always converted to a heavy fine and to "stå uppenbar skrift" (see below). From 1653 the penalty for "enkelt hor" (sex between one married and one unmarried part) was always a fine. The death penalty for "dubbelt hor" (both parties married but not to each other) remained in effect until mid 18th century but as before converted to a fine before that.

From 1865 hor was still regarded as an offence but no longer punished. After that the mother could sue the known/assumed father to settle a paternity issue. It was defined in the law until 1937.

Old forms of punishment for crimes
coming later
Stå uppenbar skrift = offentlig kyrkoplikt
uppenbar = obvious, public.  offentlig = public.  plikt = (old) punishment
meant that the sentenced person had to stand on a special podium - horpall - visible to the congregation at one or more Sunday masses. Their name was announced by the priest. Often they had to stand in front of the church door before the Sunday mass with naked shoulders and carrying a bunch of twigs (symbol of whipping)
This punishment was from 1741 replaced by a ceremony in the church vestry (enskild kyrkoplikt) with only the priest, the offender and a few selected persons present. 1855 this type of punishment was completely abandoned.

Explanation by F Haeffner unless otherwise stated.

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-05-04 11:01 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2003