Ortnamnsregistret (Place Name Index)

When researching in Swedish records you will often come upon place names that are unknown to you. You check neighboring parishes, the farms and villages in the parish you are working and nothing. What can you do? Google can be a good start, but some places are so unique that even Google may not point you in the right direction. So where should you turn? Sweden’s Institute for Language and Folklore’s Place Name Index (Institute för språk och folkminnens Ortnamnregistret).

The Place Name Index is a database of 3.7 million (!) identified entries for place names, primarily in Sweden. These are not all unique and many of the names are for places in nature like lakes, hills, forests, tarns, and swamps. Some are landmarks. But many are built locations like farms, cottages, and houses.

The database and search screen is entirely in Swedish but you should have few problems as it is very straightforward and easy to use. You can either search the entire database by selecting “Sök i hela Ortnamnsregistret” or select the county you are working in.

Once you select either the whole database (hela Ortnamnsregistret) or single county (i.e., Värmlands län) the following search box open. Here we have selected the whole database, but this can sometimes result in providing too many results to analyze effectively.

It is often easiest to leave all the settings alone and simple use the Place-name (Ortnamn) search box. Enter the place you are looking for and use the wild card % as necessary. You may use more than one wild card and remember spelling varies greatly. So consider all possible spelling variations.

So let’s say we are trying to figure out the following location in a marriage record in Grangärde, Dalarna, Sweden.

Some of it seems easy the first two letters are Rä or Kä, the middle portion is problematic, is that ndås, mlåf, sdåh, or what. But the last two letters appear to be la or le. Ignoring the middle portion gives us a few variations to try among them Rä%la.

This Rä%la search gives us 32 likely results and we see in the Parish (Socken) and Location (Lokal) columns that most of the results from Grantärde Parish are a village (by) named–Rävåla. An almost perfect match. Note: The extra letter between the å and l is the superfluous h that is often found following å or o. From here it is easy to check to confirm if the individual was actually from this location.

This location database is extremely valuable not only for it vast depth of information but for the simplicity and flexibility of the search function. I use it on almost a daily basis. And if I suspect that you find it useful too.

Best of luck!

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