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The country is divided into counties (lan), districts (härad) and parishes (kommun or socken). Districts are subdivisions under the county, each consisting of up to 20 parishes. They are judicial units governed by a district chief (häradshövding) and a council (nämnd). The council consists of 12 trusted and reliable men of honor and stability (tolvman or nämndeman).

The parishes are divided into wards or files (rote) consisting of a few farms which had to furnish one equipped soldier for the army, and in return nobody in that ward was drafted. The ward usually gave the soldier a cottage and a few acres of ground, which he farmed when not on active duty. This was in olden times.

Each parish was subdivided into villages and/or farms. Each village and farm had a name. So a large parish would have many smaller villages (by, byar) and farms (gård, gårdar, hemman), each with a different name. This helped to keep track of people with the same names living in the same parish - they were identified by the farm or village where they lived.

The farmers used the patronymic system of naming which meant that a child was known as the son or daughter of a certain man. The son of a man with the first name of Anders would have as his last name = Andersson, and the daughter = Andersdotter. The children also had a Christian name preceding the patronymic name. Now people have adopted a permanent last name (since ca 1900).

The main officials of the parish were the minister (präst, kyrkoherde) and assistants (komminister), curate and chaplain (kaplan, cappelan). They were members of the clergy. Laity were parish clerk (klockare), church warden (kyrkovärd), monitor (sexman) and ward master (rotemästare) - he collected the church tithing.

The church warden (kyrkovärden) took care of the property of the church. He took up the collection for church maintenance, carried wafers and wine to communion. They were men of trust as they handled money and had to give an account of it.

The parish clerk (klockaren) assisted in keeping records, rang the bell in the steeple, assisted in teaching the 3 R's to children (and some adults).

The prefect or monitor (sexman) was in charge of church discipline. He had to witness church inventory; assist nobility, clergy with maintenance of the infirm in the parish. He could sentence offenders to sit in stock and assist the sheriff in putting offenders there. He collected fines assigned by the parish minister to those who held weddings and other family feasts for more than two days. He kept track of youth in the church during Sunday services; served as a doorkeeper, preventing people from leaving the church out of order. He collected fines from those who didn't keep their part of the cemetery wall in good order.

When a person moved from one parish to another, he was given a certificate of moving (flyttningsattest). This had to be presented at the new parish when moving in. The information given was the name, birth place and date, whether he could read and knew the catechism, attended house examinations (clerical surveys) and took communion.

Church law regulated the parishioner's ability to read Luther's catechism. Ministers had to keep records of the parishioners in each house and farm and know their progress and admonish children, farm helpers and maid servants to read. In the 1600's a law was passed that required parish clergy to keep records of services they performed for their parishioners. This was the beginning of official record keeping.

Examinations were held once a year (husförhörslängd). There were three groups: those who knew only the catechism; those who also knew the explanations of the Creed, Lord's Prayer, baptism and communion; and those who understood the meaning and could answer questions and knew the scriptures.

Before marriage, a declaration of intention of marriage or banns (lysning) was published in the papers or read in the church. This had to be done three weeks in a row. After that the couple could marry if no one objected. Marriages usually took place in the home parish of the bride.

Children were christened about a month after birth. Usually two godparents attended. They were a second set of parents in the event something happened to the parents. Grandparents weren't chosen for this purpose as they were too old. Usually aunts and uncles who were around the same age as the parents were chosen.

Translated from Swedish by June Pelo 1984


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