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Using a Herdaminne to Research Your Swedish Ancestor

Using a Herdaminne to Research Your Swedish Ancestor

The mission of this blog is to help non-native Scandinavians learn more about the tools for genealogical research that are available in the Nordic countries. The Herdaminne is one such resource, and it’s a good one. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. If you have any ancestor that worked within the Swedish church system, put this resource at the top of your research list right now! As always, sources are available upon request, and I’m using italics in this post to note any Swedish words that I’m not translating (I want you to learn them!)!


What is a Herdaminne?

A Herdaminne is a personal history, researched and compiled in honor of the priests, ministers, bishops, and other clergy members who have dedicated their lives to the Swedish church since the middle ages. Herde is the Swedish word for Shepherd, and Minne is the literal word for memory, but can also translate to memorial or remembrance. This is a printed, collective work published in several volumes for each diocese, usually ordered by deaneries, and then by parishes. The purpose of these volumes is to preserve the collective history of the Swedish church – who worked there, what they accomplished, how the system worked, who got promoted, who were in charge, and what the status quo looked like in a particular diocese at a given point in time.

This type of personal history encyclopedia can be extremely valuable to a genealogist searching for a Swedish ancestor because it holds a wealth of information. Not only is it very user-friendly, but (like any other great work), it includes the sources that the information was compiled from, so that you can research further on your own. If you have a member of the clergy in your family, the Herdaminne should be one of your first go-to sources for information.


What Information Can I Find in a Herdaminne?

In most cases, you can find a very detailed biography, including the person’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, kinship, status, and other biographical notations. Many profiles also include a portrait or epitaph of the priest, which can be invaluable to a genealogist. Since the herdaminne is somewhat of an official release, the material found in the volumes are usually well-researched and any findings in them can be considered fairly reliable. As always, you should not rely solely on one source, but it can be a great starting point to find out more about your Swedish ancestor.

Here are just a few examples of the information you can find in a Herdaminne:

  • Full Name [Latinized]
  • Full Name [At time of birth]
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Death
  • Place of Birth
  • Place of Death
  • Official Title or Resumé
  • Status, Nobility, or House
  • Education
  • Notable Accomplishments
  • Kinship – Full Names of Parents, Spouses, Children, and other notable relatives
  • Publications (or other scholarly work)
  • Missions (or special assignments, especially foreign)
  • Portrait or Epitaph
  • Sources (upon which the information was based + for further research)

Naturally, not every biography will hold every bit of information on each person, but this list gives you a general idea of what you can expect to find. As always, the more well-known personality, the more information you will find.


Looking for a Relative?

The Herdaminne is a wonderful tool when looking for your ancestor’s relatives. A son might follow in his father’s footsteps and eventually become the new parish priest, or the daughter of minister might marry a minister from another parish. In those cases, you will find details like that in these volumes, allowing you to trace lineages forward in time. It’s not uncommon to find several related clergy members in the same volume. I have been very lucky in my own research where I found that little nugget I needed to move past a brick wall. Oftentimes, the researcher who compiled the profile will let you know in the reference material if there were any lost, missing, or damaged documentation, and that can save you a lot of time and frustration.


How Do I Find the Right Herdaminne?

To find the book that might include your ancestor, you first have to understand in what diocese that person may have worked, and during what time period. Sweden is currently divided up into 13 dioceses, but historically there have been more of them, so depending on when and where your ancestor lived, you may be able to find a volume for an area outside Sweden. One such example is Ingermanland, located on the border between Finland and Russia, which was Swedish-ruled between 1617-1721.

If you know what Parish your ancestor worked in, you can simply look up the correct volume for the correct diocese. If you don’t know what parish you’re looking for (for example, if you don’t know where your ancestor lived), you can look for the name in the indices of the volumes, and see if you can spot a match. This can be a very helpful strategy to locate an ancestor when you don’t know the exact place of birth.

If you know the name of the parish, but don’t know if what diocese it belongs to, you can hop over to Wikipedia and take a look at their extremely helpful list of dioceses, deaneries, and parishes of the church of Sweden. That should point you in the right direction.


Using a Herdaminne to Research Your Swedish Ancestor

I’m a Perfect Pinnable!


How Do I Know What’s Been Published?

If you have an ancestor who was a member of the Swedish clergy, chances are you will find information on that person in one of these volumes. Herdaminnen exist for all areas in Sweden, the majority of them written between the early 1880s and present time. The dates these volumes were published should not be confused with the dates during which the priests lived, as some of the biographies go much further back – some even through the middle ages. The Federation of Swedish Genealogical Societies has a wonderful list of all known published Herdaminnen (compiled by Jan Appelquist; in Swedish), ordered by diocese and then listed alphabetically by author.


Where Can I Get My Hands on One?

Fortunately, in this digital age, a Herdaminne is pretty easy to find. If you want a hard copy, your local library may be able to get a copy on loan for you, but before heading out the door, check Worldcat.org to see which library may hold what you’re looking for – it’s a real timesaver! If you are living in (or visiting) Sweden, most libraries will hold copies that you can browse. You will find them in the history / local history sections.

If you’d rather buy a copy, you can purchase many of these volumes through speciality book dealers. I have seen them for sale through Alibris.com, and Amazon.com, just to name two. A few times, I’ve also seen them for sale by the various Swedish genealogical societies, so it’s worth checking their bookstores.


Don’t Mind a Digital Version?

It’s no secret that I’m a child of the digital age, and while I often purchase print editions of all books that I use, I prefer using the electronic editions when researching. Why? Because they’re searchable. It’s incredibly convenient to have quickly find what you’re looking for, and be able to have a mobile copy when you travel.

Many Herdaminnen have been digitized and are available in public domain. Here are the ones I know of:

The Internet Archive has a few electronic editions available:

You can also find a better version of Härnösands Stifts Herdaminne over at Umeå University Digital Library:

Blogger Jörgen Blästa has also digitized select parts of the same work here (listed by parishes)!

Project Runeberg, which is an amazing free digital library, has a few volumes from the bigger dioceses:

The HathiTrust Digital Library has many volumes available for download, and for some of the volumes (the ones still under copyright, and not in public domain), they offer a very useful search function, so that you can check for matches before you order it from somewhere else. At time of writing, these are the volumes and searches they have available:

You may also be able to find them for free or a nominal cost over at the Google Play store.

Know of any more? Let me know, and I’ll update this list!


Requesting a Digitization

If you can’t find a digitized version of your volume readily available, you can request a digital version from one of the major European libraries through E-O-D (Ebooks on Demand). There will be a cost for this service, but as a longtime customer of theirs, I can say that it’s absolutely worth the fee. The National Library of Sweden, Uppsala University, and Umeå University are all participants, as are the Royal library of Denmark, the National Library of Denmark, and Copenhagen University. You will easily find the correct volume through one of them. All you have to do is look it up in the system, request it, pay for the digitization fee, and you will be notified when it’s ready for download.


Swedish Words You Need to Know

I hope that you’ll take advantage of this amazing resource, but before you click over to check out some of these volumes, add the following words to your Swedish-English dictionary:

  • Herdaminne = Ministerial Biography / Personal History Volume (Singular)
  • Herdaminnen = Ministerial Biography / Personal History Volume (Plural)
  • Herde = Shepherd
  • Minne = Memory, Remembrance
  • Stift = Diocese
  • Kontrakt = Deanery
  • Socken = Parish

If you’re a non-native speaker, it will help you to have these words in your noted because you might come across them again!

What say you, readers? Have you used a Herdaminne in your research? What did you learn?


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  • Jana Last
    December 9, 2016 at 10:23 pm


    I want to let you know that two of your blogs are listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/12/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-december-9.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Caroline Guntur
      December 10, 2016 at 3:16 am

      Thanks so much Jana! I’m honored!