SweGGate Theme Geography: Divisions Administrative

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 Administrative Divisions 

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Län Landsting Härad Fögderi Kommun
Köping Municipalsamhälle Socken Guide


  • Sweden is divided into 21 län (sing=plur) (counties) being part of the national government system. A län is headed by a landshövding (old titles länsherre or fogde). He acts as the extended arm of the national government.
  • For special coordination, mainly medical care and cultural development, the country is divided in landsting.
  • For local law enforcement there were härader (sing härad) - the area for a district court and fögderi = a police/taxation district. (Alternative names : hundare or tingslag)
  • For LOCAL government Sweden is divided into kommuner (sing kommun) since 1862. Those are self-governed bodies within a national framework of rules. A special form of kommun is the köping.
  • Socken is the old local government body, before the creation of kommuner in 1862. The geographical area is in most cases identical to that of the religious district församling.
Section Facts
Län The largest administrative division. Originally form the word förläning (a loan, usually from the king and often connected to a noble title). Fixed regions decided in 1634 becoming regions representing the national government. Present day borders have been mainly unchanged since 1718
England: county. US: if one state were Sweden then län corresponds to a county. 
Today 21 län after some
changes 1997-8, 24 before that. Often referred to by a 1-2 letter code or a number.
Map1 . Map2 . Table of all län with corresponding landskap (province).
Map of all län in 1906
Significance to the genealogist
Mainly to locate a place in modern geography. Some archives are organized by län.
Landsting Defined by a geographical area including several kommuner It is a form of local government, mainly for coordination of medical care and culture development. They have their own taxation rights by national law to finance these services. Most landsting closely match a län.
Significance to the genealogist:
They have no general genealogical interest except maybe you can find old medical records.
Area of jurisdiction
of one district (assize) court. The division is ancient (> 1000 years) and was the area using one place for matters of justice and government. The size is commonly that of a few to two dozen parishes. The place where justice was done was called a tingsplats and the event a ting.
The name of the division is härad in the southern and middle part of Sweden. In Uppland and some parts of middle Sweden they are called hundare but in Dalarna and northwards tingslag.
Please note that a few large härader were sub-divided into 2-3 areas, each with its own tingsplats. The records are kept separately for each tingsplats.
Later a formal court (häradsrätt) was created with about 7-9 lay members (nämndeman) presided over by a häradshövding (district court judge). The oldest nämndeman in a härad / tingslag had the honorary title häradsdomare (still a layman despite the "domare" title)
Larger towns /cities had their own courts, named rådhusrätt (rådhus = city hall, rätt (here = court)
These courts were replaced by tingsrätt in 1971 but the areas were in most cases unchanged, but in modern language called a domkrets.

Significance to the genealogist:
Archives from proceedings in those courts are preserved and named dombok (plural: domböcker). They are a bit harder to find since very few are transcribed, filmed or indexed but may solve special cases and may certainly add colour to your story.
This is where you may find who was sued for support for a baby born out of wedlock, who were arguing about inheritance, who was fined for selling alcohol without license, who did not pay his taxes etc. You may even find new members of the family tree since relations between appearing people are often mentioned

Fögderi In early times the name of a district defined for the combined functions of a kronofogde - a national government official with powers as chief of police, public prosecutor, distrainor etc. This office was in 1917 split up leaving only the distrainor function. The district definition was, and still is, also used for tax collection purposes.
Significance to the genealogist:
Very little. Most of the legal cases ended up in court so you will look in the dombok (above)
Kommun Area for local government (plur =kommuner) (from Latin communis = community). The best English word is commune to mark that it has no exact counterpart. England: similar to municipality, borough. USA: similar to township.
The kommuner were created in 1862 based on the older divisions
socken. Thus created were some 2400 rural kommuner plus small towns and cities. In 1952 the number was reduced to 816 through fusions. Another set of fusions in 1974 resulted in 277 kommuner
The kommun handles all local rule within a national ("federal") framework of laws. It collects taxes and provides all local commodities like basic education, social service, fire fighting etc.
The kommun "parliament" is the kommunfullmäktige and the minutes of their meetings are called kommunalfullmäktigeprotokoll (protokoll = minutes). At the beginning the assembly was named kommunalstämma.
Some genealogists provide the present day kommun name together with the församling (parish) name for localization purpose. It is easier to find one kommun among 277 than a parish among 2400. Most genealogists add the län alpha code in parentheses after the socken name. Also several socknar carry the same name but are located in different kommuner. Do not read this as necessarily belonging to that kommun in older times (before 1974 and 1952).
Several changes have been made in the last 3 decades - see details here.
Kommun. Maps of a specific kommun: go to each kommun site (Navigate from SweGGate "Regions"
Köping Area of local government. Originally köpunger, ancient Nordic language for a meadow where trading took place (plural köpingar). The term is used for a district, usually a small town or large village, which constitutes its own kommun and has some, but not all, of the city privileges (mostly concerning trade rules). The importance of these trade distinctions was greatly reduced when the laws of free trade were passed in 1864 allowing craftsmen to do business outside cities and köpingar as well.
Municipal- samhälle Administrative term. Denotes a larger village that has been granted special privileges by the national government, primarily concerning management of certain services like fire protection, public health ordinance. They are always part of a kommun.
To your genealogy search it makes a difference
Socken Old local government body, based on naturally occurring groupings from the middle ages (500 - 1500 AD). Those are the basis of all other divisions of later times. The word is derived from ancient Nordic sokn = find (a common place). The common goal was both administrative coordination and religious affinity. The divisions stabilized from 1521 on by directives from King Gustav Wasa. There was a close connection between worldly and religious life until separated 1862 with the creation of kommuner, replacing the civil functions of the socken and the församling separately handling the religious rule. The geographical area is therefore in most cases identical to that of the församling . Decisions were made at the sockenstämma (Community council meeting). The minutes from those (sockenstämmoprotokoll) often provide valuable clues and colour to a family history and sometimes new members of the tree.
In English the translation "parish" is most often used but you must keep in mind that socken is not a religious entity. I recommend you use the Swedish words socken and församling depending on context in your records and explain them in footnotes (/Hae)
The term socken is still used to describe a geographical area but after 1862 it has no ruling functions (cf
Each socken / församling has been assigned a unique ID number by the SCB.
Over time the borders may have changed so a farm or village may have been "moved" to another socken / församling:
In some rare cases the socken does not have the same land area as the corresponding församling. The area defined for land survey purposes is then named jordebokssocken, jordebok = land survey records.
Maps: Unfortunately there are very few maps showing the borders of a socken / församling.
Rote The word has many different meanings
In genealogy it is almost always a group of one or a few farms. This division was used to assign responsibility for various purposes. Plural rotar. Rotar for different purposes may overlap or be identical, i.e. a soldatrote may include the same farms as the corresponding skolrote. Examples:
soldatrote: drafting / paying for soldiers. cf indelningsverket. When you see the word rote without further specification this is the most common interpretation.
båtsmansrote: same as soldatrote, recruiting a båtsman.
stamrote: The largest or "leading" farm within each rote. Used mainly for soldatrote.
husförshörsrote: the farms having husförhör together. Hosting of the event was rotated within the rote farms.
: school district, the area served by one school / school master.
sharing poor support etc.
rote for social support: a poor person could be assigned a rote for their support. cf rotehjon.
In many of the HFL:s you will find the currently defined rotar.


Special Guide for this subject.
Topic Comments
I need I know Do this
corresponding landskap län name Select from Table of all län
corresponding län landskap name Select from Table of all provinces
län map län name Select from Table of all län
landskap map landskap name Select from Table of all provinces
Kommun tips  
I need I know Do this
all kommuner within län name Go to Sveriges kommuner och landsting
all kommuner within landskap name Go to SweGGate Landskap site
location, address, info kommun name Alpha list ALL kommuner in Sweden. >Go>
Socken, församling tips  
I need I know Do this
all socknar within kommun name Use "By Kommun" link
alpha code - num code län name Table of all län
location, info socken / församling name Use "By Name" link
How to use some map sites Geography guides

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-07-17 11:18 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2001-5