Old titles in Sweden

When you do genealogical research in Sweden, you will encounter a lot of different titles on you ancestors. Some of them are still used today, others are not and quite a few of them are difficult to translate straight to English, without giving an explanation for how the title was used. Below, I have translated some titles and tried to explain how they were used and what they meant.

There are also a lot of different words for farmers and I have made a separate secetion, where I try to explain what the different titles means.

Most common titles:

B. or bonde
H. or hustru
Styf. s.
S. or son
D. or dotter
Dräng, dreng
Hemmason, hemmadotter
Trolovad, trolovningsbarn
Svåger, svägerska
Svärmor, svärfar
Inhyses, Inhyseshjon, Inhysesman, Inhyseskvinna
Änka, änkeman

Different farmer titles:

Brukare, hemmansbrukare
Tå, tåå, tä

Other titles:

Soldat, Båtsman

Most common titles:

B. or bonde = farmer
There are several different types of farmers as “skattebonde”, “frälsebonde” and so on and I will cover them below.

H. or hustru = wife

Styf. s. Anders: Styfson Anders = Stepson Anders
(In relation to the farmer, witch means that he is most likely the son of the farmwife).

S. Karl = Son Karl
He is the son of both the farmer and his wife.

D. Margaretha = Daughter Margaretha
She is the daughter of both the farmer and his wife.

Piga = maid, girl or daughter:
The common translation for “piga” is maid and refers to a woman who worked at a farm as help in the kitchen, milking the cows and/or goats, tending the garden, helping with the haymaking and other chores on the farm. But also an unmarried daughter in the farmers family could be referred to as “piga”. The place where a farmers daughter is mostly referred to as a “piga” in the books of Marriages,

Dräng, dreng = famhand, boy or son:
As for “piga”, the title dräng or dreng mostly referres to a man who works at a farm, but it could also refer to an unmarried son in the farmers family.

Hemmason, hemmadotter = Son living at home, daughter living at home:
This can also be found in the books of Marriages, when a son and/or daughter who lives at a farm with their parents are getting married, instead of piga or dräng.

Trolovad, trolovningsbarn = betrothed, children of betrothed parents;
The reason why I choose to use the word betrothed instead of engaged is because earlier, being “trolovad”, betrothed, meant something different, and much more, than an engagement means today. Being betrothed meant that the pair promised to get married and it was legally binding. In earlier times, it had the same legal status as a church wedding. Children born to a pair that was betrothed, but had not been married in church, was still considered to have the same legal status as children born within wedlock and can be found in the church records noted as “trolovningsbarn”. A betrothal was almost as difficult to break up as a church marriage was, especially if the couple had children and had to be settled in court.

Måg = son-in-law

Svåger, svägerska = brother-in-law, sister-in-law

Svärmor, svärfar = mother-in-law, father-in-law

This is impossible to translate staight to English, so I will try to explain how it worked instead. When a farmer and/or farmwife became to old to run the farm, they left it to a son or daughter/son-in-law to run it as the new farmer(s) instead. The parent(s) wrote a contract, “födorådskontrakt”, with the son or daughter/son-in-law, that stipulated how much wood, flour, milk, butter, clothing and other essentials the old farmers should recieve every year from the new farmers and continued to live on the farm, helping out with what they could. If the farm was sold, either the new farmer took over the responsibility for the elderly farmers, or the son or daughter/son-in-law took the parent(s) with them to their new farm. Another phrases for the same thing is “I sonens/mågens bröd” = In the “bread” of the son/son-in-law or undantag (exception).

Inhyses, Inhyseshjon, Inhysesman, Inhyseskvinna
Lodger, who lived for free at another persons house and helped in the household whith the chores they were able to perform. The farmers took turn to provide lodging to the poorest people in the village, who was unable to fend for themselves or had no relatives who could help them. Later, the villages built “Fattighus, fattigstuga” = Poor-houses, where the poorest and disabled could live.

Änka, änkeman = widow/widower
Could sometimes be spelled as enka, enkman, änkia, änkeman etc.

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Different farmer titles:

Skattebonde = Farmer who lived on the “Cronwns” land
This farmer owned his land and paid taxes to the “Crown”, a.k.a to the Swedish state.

Frälsebonde = Farmer who lived on a farm belonging to a larger estate.
Those larger estates was initially owned by the nobility ( = frälse, adel), but during the 18th century, the ownership to a lot of those larger estates was transferred to commoners:
The farmer paid rent to the estate in form of money, goods (like wheat or corn) and/or  day labor. Mostly, the lease of the farm (frälsegård) was inherited by a son of the farmer.

Hemmansägare = Owner of a “hemman”, a farm:
This title became more common during the 19th century and is often used instead of farmer. A farmer didn’t always own the land he farmed, but a “hemmansägare” did.

Several farms or a village was responsible for providing a soldier or naval soldier, a cottage and some farmland for him.

A farmer who provided a cavalryman or dragoon with a horse and other equipment. Usually the farmer got tax reduction for doing this.

Brukare, Hemmansbrukare = farmer:
Farmer or tenant, who not always owns the farmland he is farming or sometimes only owns part of the land he is farming.

Lägenhetsägare = owner of a smaller piece of farmland:
This title is common in the northern part of Sweden and refers to someone who owns a smaller piece of farmland.

Torpare = Tenant, cottager or crofter:
The tenant was allowed to build or rent a very small cottage on someone else farm and had to pay rent, usually in the form of labor on the farmowners farm. The land where the cottage was built was usually of poor quality. They usually had a small garden, perhaps a goat, (“fattigmansko” = poor mans cow), and a few chickens.

Backstugusittare = Cottager, tenant:
Backstuga is also a very small cottage, usually built towards a small slope or hill, where the hill or slope is forming the rear wall of the cottage. Just as the “torpare” above, the “backstugusittare” built their small cottage on someone else farm.

Tå(n), tåå, tä = The poorest farmland in the village:
In this case, the word tå has nothing to do with the word toe, as you would probably think at first sight (and after looking in a dictionary), but originate instead of a word refering to “fägata” = cow or critter path and this is where the poorest people were allowed to build their small cottages.

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Other titles:

Präst = priest

Soldat, båtsman = Soldier, Naval soldier
Both the soldier (soldat) and the båtsman (naval soldier) was provided with a small cottage with some farmland, see also Rotebonde, and when they didn’t serve in the army or navy, they cultivated their farms, just like the other farmes in the village. Note! A båtsman is not the same as a sailor and even if they usually lived quite close to the see, they were not experienced sailors.

klockare = sexton, ringer:
Responsible for ringing the church bell, taking care of the church in general, helping the priest. Sometimes, “klockaren” even helped the priest maintaining the church records.

Gästgivare = innkeeper

Mjölnare = miller

Sexman = One of six trusted men:
One of six trusted men in the parish who was responsible for the execution of the decisions the parish meeting had decided. Among their responsibilities were also to maintain the church buildings and the rectory. The “sexman” was choosen among the men in the parish and to be qualified for election, the man had to be trustworthy.

Tolvman, nämndeman = one of twelve trusted men;
Juryman at the district court. They should live in the “härad” = district and they should also be farmers and trustworthy, to be qualified for election

Häradsdomare = senior juryman:
The oldest or the most reputable among the jurymen at the district court. More of an honorary title.

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© Yvonne Carlsson

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