View Full Version : Swedish allotment history

02-05-06, 11:35
Wikipedia has a new article about the Swedish (and Finnish) allotment system, i.e. the system which made it possible to maintain a permanent army.

Most of us Finlanders have these soldiers in our ancestry and many of the familynames eminate from the soldier names they got when entering service.

The article is found here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_allotment_system)


03-05-06, 04:21

Great post to Wiki - and its references - esp. the references.

Question for you, if you wish.

How would you translate (or explain) »knekthopen», in the following context (from Pörtom historia, s. 465):

"Matts Jönsson [Styv]. Han var 1595 nyss hemkommen ur »knekthopen» och var därför några år befriad frän tiondeavgiften."

OK, 1595 = end of Russian war; and tax relief linked to »knekthopen». So, before the 1600's allotment system.

Dictionary (in separate words) = [roughly] "the soldier group" (knekt + hop + en). Not very satisfying.

Have discussed this with some people in Finland, but no real good explanation of exactly what »knekthopen» was.

Google returns some 2 dozen refs using the term (most from one of Topelius' books); but not defining or explaining it.



03-05-06, 09:04
"Soldier group" is in my opinion an exact translation. Knekthopen could, however, in this context refer to the armed forces in general. It could also refer to a unit of armed men, company, platoon or the equivalent.


04-05-06, 08:09

Thank you for your response on » knekthopen ». Since that term appears to be fairly general (the military generally, or a military group, company-fana, etc.), the next question is, in what unit, did Matts Styv serve ? The answer could apply to many others, as well.

The specific question is the existence of two fanor of Ostrobothnian cavalry (apparently as its sole military organization) in the 1500's - specifically during King Johan's reign and the Russian War. The answer has historical relevance (to both the Russian War and the Klubbe War), and might have genealogical relevance (in early family histories) to many people who a members of this forum.

This one may be something of a "Killer Sudoku"; but here is the background.

Source of the Question -

John P. Maarbjerg, The Economic Background to "The War of Clubs", 17 Scand. J. History; p. 22:

"East-Bothnia, as part of Norrbotten, was nominally under the Swedish Helsingelaw and was exempted from conscription. By appealing to this law, the East-Bothnians had managed to wrest a promise from King Johan of relief from quartering of troops as well. They were required to form and supply their own militia, however, and had agreed to raise two companies of about 200 horsemen each."

In Table 1, p. 12, Maarbjerg sets the number of Ostrobothnian hemman in 1560 at 3224; citing Hans Forssell, Bidrag til Sveriges inre historia (Uppsala, 1869), vol. 1, Appendix 1, Table C.5, for the number of hemman.

Unfortunately, John gave no source for the Ostrobothnians' agreement with King Johan. However, the Wiki article on the Swedish "old" allotment system notes: "Many people disliked forced conscription, though, and the peasantry in some provinces soon wrote contracts with the state to provide a certain number of soldiers in exchange for being spared from conscription."

Perhaps, Finnish references exist which identify the agreement more exactly; and, perhaps, provide more information about the Ostrobothnian cavalry units ?

The Ostrobothnian Companies' Present Significance -

Assuming the above facts are correct, and that the two cavalry companies were actually fielded, some 3200 farms supplied 400 cavalrymen at any point in time. Since the Russian War (the "Long Wrath") lasted so long (1570-1595), the total number of cavalrymen was certainly much larger. But, at the least, at any given point in time, 1 out of 8 hemman would have had a cavalryman serving.

Ostrobothnian ancestries with pre-1600 ancestors include most of the few 1500-talet farm families in each "locality" - not too surprising, since they had a limited choice in spouses. Hence, more probably than not, people with those ancestries would have at least one cavalryman as an ancestor or a relative. Proving that, in any particular case, would be difficult; though not impossible.

Before anyone assumes that is fact, several questions must be answered in the affirmative:

1. Was there an agreement between the Ostrobothnians and King Johan (if so, date and text) ?

2. Were the two cavalry companies actually organized ?

3. How long did they exist ?

4. How were the companies organized ?

5. Can we identify people who probably served in them ?

The first three questions can only be answered by someone with access to Finnish resources. The last two questions can best be answered by someone with the same access.

Possible Methods of Organization -

The New Allotment System was a product of the later 1600's. Åkerblom (Pörtom historia, "Det fasta knekthållet", ss. 480-481) dates the formal Knekthållet in Pörtom to the reign of Karl XI (in the 1680's). The Old Allotment System, as it existed in its developed form under Gustavus Adolphus, also cannot be applied blindly to Ostrobothnia of the 1500's. However, the Old Allotment System, as it existed in its primitive form under Gustavus Vasa, might apply (at least in part).

Again, a salient question arises from Maarbjerg's statement that Ostrobothnia, being under Swedish Helsingelaw in the 1500's, "was exempted from conscription". Is that statement correct ?

Assuming that his statement is correct, the method of organization must have been "voluntary". In short, we would not likely find many infantrymen in 1500's Ostrobothnia - unless they chose to enlist (and, if so, in what unit ?). Since Maarbjerg speaks of cavalry, the Swedish practice under Gustavus Vasa seems relevant.

So, from the Wiki article:

"In the 16th century, the system was changed with regard to both cavalry (1536) and infantry (1544), to provide an army that could be quickly mobilized. This was still done by forced conscription for the infantry, and tax exemptions for those who financed horsemen. ... The forced conscription of the foot soldiers was called utskrivning (literally "writing out"), and was based on a grouping, called a rote (similar to an English "file" or "ward"; in the eastern parts of the Swedish realm, this became the Finnish ruotu), of ten men from an estate or a few farms, fit for military service and between the ages of 15 and 40. One randomly chosen man from each rote was forced to serve in the province's or county's regiment in case of war."

Assuming Maarbjerg is correct, the forced conscription system was not legally possible in 1500's Ostrobothnia. Which brings us to Wiki's explanation of cavalry recruitment:

"The organization of the cavalry was based on a slightly different grouping. This grouping was known as a rusthåll (literally "arm household"), a bigger farm or estate (practically a peasant manor) that could support a horseman with his horse and equipment in exchange for tax exemption. The horseman who volunteered for service was often the estate master himself or a close relative. This option resembled the medieval origin of frälse, knight class. In particular cases, the estate owner received some taxes from neighbors, to augment his own tax exemption: as the burden of a cavalryman with horse and equipment was deemed considerable, compensation needed to be commensurate."

Only someone with Finnish resources can confirm whether the Ostrobothnian companies (if they were organized) were organized on this basis (i.e., the 1536 pattern of Gustavus Vasa).

Historical "Ancestors" of the Finnish Cavalry -

The Finnish regiments of the 1600's are quite famous. Briefly, there were three major regiments; e.g.,


"...De var: Åbo och Björneborgs läns kavalleriregemente (1000 nummer) Nylands och Tavastehus läns kavalleriregemente (1000 nummer) Karelska eller Viborgs och Nyslotts läns kavalleriregemente (1000 nummer) samt Finska Adelsfanan (155 nummer)..."
Åbo och Björneborgs läns Kavalleriregemente. ... Uppsatt 1632 som Åbo och Björneborgs läns kavalleriregemente (1690-talet indelt). Dess förste chef var Hans Eckholtz. .... Regementet härstammar från de finska ryttarfanor som sattes upp i Finland på 1500-talet."

Same at:

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%85bo_och_Bj%C3%B6rneborgs_l%C3%A4ns_kavallerir egemente

[Edit Note: For some reason, this link will not "take" - a "Felaktig titel" mesage. As I write this, I am looking at the article ! Anyway, go to the Swedish Wiki Huvudsida and Sök on "Åbo och Björneborgs läns kavalleriregemente" (without quotes) - it will find you the article. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

There are two references here to older (pre-1600) units: the Adelsfanan Cavalry and the Finska Ryttarfanor.

Adelsfanan Cavalry -

The Adelsfanan Cavalry was a "noble" unit - at least its officers were nobles. By Gustavus Adolphus' time, there were 3 Swedish companies and one Finnish company (of 155 men, see above).



"Adelsfanan var till ursprunget knuten till adelns rusttjänst, inrättad 1280. Fast organiserat blev adelsrytteriet dock först genom Erik XIV 1565. Från 1571 börjar namnet adelsfanan användas. När det svenska kavalleriet (fanorna) organiserades i regementen behöll Adelsfanan sitt namn. Samtliga officerare var adliga. .... Under Gustav II Adolfs tid hade adelsfanan 3 kompanier i Sverige och ett i Finland."

As Maarbjerg points out in another context (p.3), most noble estates were in Finland Proper and Nyland (179 manors, ca. 75% of the total, in the 1560's - and roughly the same for the next 75 years). Ostrobothnia had only two noble holdings (plus, the large Crown estates at Pedersöre and Mustasaari). His source was Eino Jutikkala, Yrjö Kaukiainen & Sven-Erik Åström, Suomen talushistoria, vol. 3 (Helsinki, 1983), Table 1.1.

So, the rather small Adelsfanan unit (155 men) amounted to somewhat more than 1 man per 2 manors. Its method of organization seems largely irrelevant to Ostrobothnia.

Svenska Ryttarfanor -

The Swedish cavalry of this type certainly date back to Gustavus Vasa, as we find in the history of one of the Lifeguard regiments.


Sveriges numera enda kavalleriförband med tillgång till hästar räknar sina anor från de två kavalleriregementena i Stockholm Livgardet till häst,K 1, och Livregementets dragoner, K 2.

Livregementets dragoner härstammar från de uppländska och sörmländska ryttarfanor som sattes upp 1536 av Kung Gustav Wasa. Dessa två förband slogs senare samman och fick namnet Upplands Ryttare. Efter många fina insatser under de krig Sverige utkämpade upphöjdes förbandet att ingå i Konungens Liv- och Hustrupper 1667 och erhöll då namnet Livregementet till häst.

I have not pursued Googling the Svenska Ryttarfanor.

Finska Ryttarfanor -

The only Net reference I found on those units was concerning the Åbo och Björneborgs läns Kavalleriregemente: "Regementet härstammar från de finska ryttarfanor som sattes upp i Finland på 1500-talet." An intriguing reference, indeed.

Hopefully, there are some references in Finland (or in Finnish) to these 1500's Finnish cavalrymen. Whether they included any Ostrobothnian units is not evident from the brief reference I found.

It is beyond my competence as to whether, in the 1500's context, ryttarfanor = ratsusväkijoukko (troop of cavalry, cavalry troop), commanded by a ratsumestari (cavalry captain); etc ?

Some Possible Ostrobothnian Cavalryman -

The most famous Ostrobothnian cavalryman of that era was probably Jaakko Ilkka. E.g., Mikko Oinonen, Cudgel War (20 May 2002); Yli-Hakola, Aila. The Descendants of Jaakko Ilkka - A Family History, Jaakko Ilkan sukuyhdistys (15 Nov 2001); both on the Web. His compatriot Bengt Persson Pouttu also seems to have been involved in the Ostrobothnian cavalry (see bio at Kokkola Nuijasota website, which does not discuss the Ostrobothnian fanor - unless I missed it).

I expect that many people could find some relatives or ancestors (or, at least, prior owners of ancestral farms), who possibly served in the Ostrobothnian fanor. Matts Jönsson Styv is one example. Another from Pörtom is Jöns Nilsson Lång (bonde på Lång, 1560-1585); of whom, Åkerblom says: "Hans togs sannolikt ut i krig, så att hans hemman blev öde."

Some other "possibles" that I found (of otherwise low historical profiles) were the Virkila brothers of Kaustinen (Erkki, Matti and Mauno; all sons of Prusi Matinpoika Virkkala, aka Brusius Mattsson Wirkkila). All three died in the course of the Russian and Klubbe Wars - leaving Prusi and his grandson Juho (Jöns Månsson Wirkkila) as the post-1600 survivors. See, Ilmari Wirkkila, Erik Cainbergin, "Suomen ensimmäisen kuvanveistäjän" sukutietoja, Genos 29(1958), s. 102-104.

Conclusion -

The foregoing raises interesting, though somewhat specialized, questions. The answers, however, might well have more generalized impact on many early family histories.



04-05-06, 10:43
In don't think my knowledge is sufficent to help you on this topic.
But try the following link:


It contains a list of low rank officers and non-commissioned officers in Finland between 1570 and 1600.

Regrettably it is in Finnish and the names are unduly translated also. Hopefully it wil be of some guidance anyway.


04-05-06, 20:05
Hej Sune,

Great reference. Finnish is not a problem.

The "ratsu" words used in article's 1500's context seem to be equivalent to the 1500's Swedish "rytt" words (something I wasn't sure of in the 1500's context).

The article (indirectly) gives the "Order of Battle" for Klas Fleming's army (company grade officers and the highest non-coms). It also includes some higher rankers: e.g., Aksel Kurki and Arvid Horn.

Aksel Kurki (Anolan isäntä)
Suomalaisen lippueen vänrikki 1578-79, luutnantti 1581 ja ratsumestari 1583-95. E.m. vuonna osastoon oli yhdistetty kaupunkien ja kruununväen asettama lippue. Sotaeversti 1598-99, kenraalisotaeversti 1602. K. 1630.
Ramsay 1909-16, 246-247; Tawaststjerna 1902, 24-25, 27.

Kurki's cavalry squadron (ratsulippue) was in the Pörtom area ca. 1595-1596 - and is thought by some to have been the cause of the abortive "tax revolt" by the Swedish-speaking bönder of that area (Vasa south to Närpes), which preceded the main outbreaks of the Klubbe War.

Kurki's outfit was from the Satakunta-Birkaland area. The reference to him as "Suomalaisen lippueen vänrikki 1578-79" supports the idea of the Finska fanor - underlying the later Åbo och Björneborgs cavalry regiment.

So, Kuriki's squadron was not part of the Ostrobothnian companies. However, your reference gives more than one Ostrobothnian company - as lippukunta ("company"). That seems generic (could be either infantry or cavalry); as opposed to ratsulippue (having clear meaning).

Unfortunately, this great historical reference will not be very helpful for genealogical purposes, since few farm names are given. However, it seems a good start.

T.s.m - many hours could I spend following up on the names and units. Maybe a post sometime collecting the Ostrobothnian units (maybe names in Swedish also ! - ha, ha).


PS (after writing above)

Briefly searched and found reference to equivalence of Finnish and Swedish cavalry terms in 1500's:


Ratsuväen taktisena ja hallinnollisena yksikkönä oli 1500-luvulla ja edelleen 1600-luvun alussa lippue (fana), johon kuului keskimäärin 300 ratsasta. "

in middle of webpage "Someron historialliset kartanotat" at


Not my Ostrobothnia, but quite a bit of history.