Mapping 19th Century Land Occupancy in Sweden

I was cruising along in the ArkivDigital site looking at Swedish records for Höks harad–and “what to my wondering eyes should appear” but something that looked like a map! You know I love visual representation of events. As an architect, I absorb information visually quicker than I do from narrative and I absolutely retain it better.

These “maps” illustrate ownership of parcels of land in Sweden over time. It is unclear who drew these maps or for what reason but a quick check with Kathy Meade, the North American representative for ArkivDigital, indicated that these maps are so rare, Höks harad may be the only jurisdiction that produced such diagrams of ownership.

Each map represents one farm. The beginning date  of occupancy is the middle of the 19th century. The transference and division of the land is then visually recorded until early in the 20th century. Sometimes there were numerous splits and sometimes there is no subdivision of land and the transference is direct from one to another to another. Included are the names of the land occupant (probably did not “own” the land), their spouse and some critical dates. These diagrams show the 19th-century phenomenon of splitting the land into ever smaller segments until the early 20th-century phenomenon of greater consolidation of those same land segments.

Below are three of the farms of my ancestors. It is interesting to think about what is the “family farm in Sweden,” since each of these three is a strong contender. (note: they are within 2500 yards of one another.)

Slide1Högaryd: This is the farm of residence of my great-grandparents, Bengt Peter Andersson, Johanna Jönsdotter, his wife, and family at the time of emigration. (Bengt Peter’s name is circled at left.) [1] They moved to the Högaryd farm at the time of their marriage and assumed the farming responsibilities from Johanna’s father, Jöns Bengtsson. After they emigrated in 1881, the farm responsibilities were transferred to Bengt Svensson and his wife, Petronilla Jönsdotter, a couple whose relationship to the family is unknown. Petronilla is not the same-named sister of Johanna, as Johanna’s sister emigrated with her husband, Sven Persson, with Bengt Peter and Johanna in 1881.

Slide1Hankshult/Handskhult/Handskholman: This is the first home in Hishult parish of Anders Helgesson and Anne Maria Eriksdotter Beekman, my 4 times great grandparents. They occupied the farm starting in 1752 and three generations of land occupancy occur before the first identified land owners show on this map (circled). The land originally passed to Anders and Maria’s daughter, Margreta. Although I cannot (yet) find Margreta’s birth record in any parish record, land inheritance, especially to a woman is strong evidence of a very close relationship. [2] Since Margreta’s earliest appearance in the record with Anders and Anna Maria is when she is about 2 years old and prior to that the family did not live in Hishult parish, I am confident that Margreta is a biological daughter but this confidence needs to be backed up with analysis. The land occupant shown is Torkel Bengtsson, the uncle to my emigrant ancestor’s father Jöns Bengtsson.  If this all seems rather confusing–it is. I have first cousins that marry in two successive generations.

hishult rishultRishult: This farm transferred through Pernilla Andersdotter, the wife of Johannes Nilsson (circled). Pernilla is the grandchild of Bengt Andersson and Johanna Troedsdotter, the grandparents of my emigrant ancestor, Johanna Jönsdotter. through another line.[3]

I find it interesting that in all three cases, the land transferred to the next generation through the women. In the United States at this time, the laws shifted property to the husband upon marriage. This started to change in the years 1840-1850 in the US but seems to be acceptable in Sweden even prior to the mid 19th century.

I keep a fan chart showing the relationships close at hand at all times so I can figure out who is who, and even then sometimes I get confused!

Isn’t this a great find?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: talked to the Swedish Club about an opportunity to conduct genealogy classes to their members. Did my first Skype call to a friend who is active in the Federation of Genealogical Societies and spoke with her about how to be involved. I retired from the University of Washington–and yes, it feels weird but I hope not weird for long. And, I can tell, retirement for me does not mean I will be sitting back eating bon bons.  Presented my Swedish Taxation presentation to the Scandinavian Special Interest Group and my Myths presentation will be given tonight to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State. And, I am getting ready for my Winter Genealogy Junket.

The hardest part of this assignment was doing the citations.  Tell me what you think?  Could these be improved?

[1] Hök Haradsratt, Register: Skummeslöf, Östra Karup, Hasslöf, Ysby, Waxtorp, Hishult, Knäred, Ränneslöf (Halland County, Sweden), records of farms, C111c: 1, image 246, Hishult parish, Högaryd farm no. 1; ArkivDigital ( : accessed 11 January 2016). AID v109251.b256.s387.

[2] Hök Haradsratt, Register: Skummeslöf, Östra Karup, Hasslöf, Ysby, Waxtorp, Hishult, Knäred, Ränneslöf (Halland County, Sweden), records of farms, C111c: 1, image 226, Hishult parish, Handskholman farm no. 1; ArkivDigital ( : accessed 11 January 2016). AID v109251.b256.s387.

[3] Hök Haradsratt, Register: Skummeslöf, Östra Karup, Hasslöf, Ysby, Waxtorp, Hishult, Knäred, Ränneslöf (Halland County, Sweden), records of farms, C111c: 1, image 257, Hishult parish, Rishult farm no. 1; ArkivDigital ( : accessed 11 January 2016). AID v109251.b226.s351.


5 comments on “Mapping 19th Century Land Occupancy in Sweden

  1. a gray says:

    Having once been a Trust Officer in the Real Estate Trust department of a bank, I wonder if these charts represent the actual physical division of land ownership of if they represent a division of income or inheritance. What do the tax records indicate?

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Allen, Well, first, land ownership was usually not really possible as the land was held by the nobility at the estate level during this time period. A farmer like my ancestors would have (at best) had inheritance rights, i.e. they could have passed the land on to their heirs. But, I also have an ancestor who gave up a larger parcel of land for a smaller one so he could gain inheritance rights. The diagrams do not appear to represent division of income. You can clearly see the mantal size (a unit of land measurement) in each box and if there is a split then the sum of the mantals equals that from which it was divided. Having said that, it appears that in most cases, the land moves from person to person in successive generations implying inheritance. Since the Swedish “probate records” are really a household inventory (how much personal property you have, not real property), there is (at least in my probate docs) no mention of the land. I am going to Salt Lake City next week and one of my research questions is to have someone look at these and translate the markings. I am especially intrigued by the red boxes–why were they singled out (land reform?). Should be fun. Jill

      • a gray says:

        Landownership and inheritance rights are interesting topics, but they are also topics which are often poorly understood and subject to gross generalization. I found this true during the course of my life managing and acquiring property in this country. After reading your comment about Swedish land ownership, I went off searching for information about medieval and early modern Swedish landownership. I found one source that appeared to provide some answers. The review of the book Domestic Secrets: Women and Property in Sweden, 1600-1857 ( might provide some insight into the inheritance of property in Sweden in the early modern period. The book is pricey, but after reading the review, it looks like something that might hold answers to questions that many researchers might not even think to ask. The review alone is worth reading.

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