SweGGate Theme Geography: Land Skiften

Land, Land ownership and taxation

 a *** SweGGate StarGuide *** ® 

Part 3

Jordnatur = type of land The term Frälse Farm sizes
Farm types Farm people The great land reshuffles

The great land reshuffles

Introduction Storskifte Enskifte Laga skifte



In the 18th century many farms had their farming land distributed in many small lots in several different places. This came about through splitting up farms, e.g. through inheritance, with the purpose to give each one a piece of each type of soil. Each farm had a few lots of good soil, some less good, some meadowland, some marchland etc. These lots often became very small and caused several problems: Disputes over borders, need for more access roads and/or coordination of work (you cannot travel across the neighbour's newly sewn land etc).

Over time three different redistributions were performed but not all 3 in all places. The procedures were lead by a trained land surveyor and comprised mapping (in 19th century very detailed tables and charts), negotiations about redistribution and a new map being drawn. The land was often described in extreme detail, each small spot with different properties was registered separately with location, size, soil type and value. I have seen skifte where a small village of 4-5 farms was specified in almost 3 000 pieces.


Largely through the initiative of Jacob Faggot, copying organization from England, two laws were passed in 1757 and 1762. These regulated how to improve the organization of (redistribute) land in a village. For example each farm should have no more than 4 lots of any land type, like crop land, meadow etc.
Such a reorganization was named storskifte (stor = large, skifte = (v) shift or (n) piece of land, lot). Storskifte was performed only at the request of each village so only about half of the villages performed storskifte before the next land shuffle in the 1830's (Laga skifte)


This was a far more radical reorganization with the aim to collect all land for each farm in one area, hence the name "enskifte" = "en" = one, "skifte" = lot. The first enskifte was made by Rutger MacLean on the Svaneholm estate in Skåne province in 1783-86. In other areas of Sweden it was performed later - starting 1803 in Skåne province and in 1804 in Skaraborg county (Västergötland province). Enskifte was performed only in parts of southern Sweden and never became a nation-wide event.

 Laga skifte 

Following a revision of the laws for land ownership in 1827 a series of new land distribution proceedings were executed. The new directive was that each land owner should not have more than two lots (four previously). The aim was still the same: increased efficiency of farming. The law and instructions contained many rules about how the redistribution should be executed, many of them implemented to make sure that no owner would lose in the process, rules to compensate for unavoidable drawbacks etc. As before some farms had to be moved, usually by disassembling and reassembling in a new location.
Since this was the most profound change so far, the consequences were more obvious. On the positive side the intended effect - a more efficient farming. On the negative side may be considered the splitting of old villages - i.e. farm houses were spread out according to the new distribution.
The law of 1827 was in effect until 1928 and laga skifte procedures were executed for individual farms or villages whenever a member of a community requested that. Most of the laga skifte were however performed in the period 1830-50. After that coordination could often be achieved by mutual agreements or purchases of minor lots.

Genealogical consequences 
A huge advantage for genealogy research is the existence of the maps and documents from these proceedings. Those will tell exactly (to the last square metre) who owned what, the condition and value of every small part of a single farm as well as naming the owner. It sounds fantastic - and the material is - but it usually takes a lot of work if you want to go into detail and analyse the farm structures.
Another important factor is that some homes were physically moved from one location to another and this should be noted in our historical records.
Most of the text documents and maps are preserved and are archived at Lantmäteriet (the national Land Survey Office). Copies of maps and documents can be obtained for a fee through Lantmäteriet.

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-07-17 09:18 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2003-5