The Swedish genealogy records are easily available online. You can even use some of them for free. But you have to read them in Swedish. One of the first thing you’ll notice is that the Swedish letters å Å, ä Ä, and ö Ö are commonly used.
The question is, to which degree do you have to use them? Do you have to care about the difference between a, å and ä, or o and ö?
They are different letters
Yes, you do have to care about the umlauts and over-ring. In the Swedish alphabet the letters a, å, and ä are different letters, just as o and ö are distinct.
It may be easier to simplify the spelling of letters that aren’t on your keboard. But at some point you need to know the Swedish spelling, to keep your family history accurate. Otherwise you’re collecting incomplete information. It will leave people guessing what you mean. Try to have the right spelling somewhere in your notes. If you can’t type the Swedish letters on your keyboard, simply copy the correct spelling from the internet (or take them from this text.)
They are in different places in the alphabet
The biggest practical impact it has on your research is when searching alphabetically. In the Swedish alphabet, the letters å, ä, ö are at the very end of the alphabet. This is different from German, where ä is listed with a, and ö with o.
Note also that the Danish and Norwegian alphabet ends with æ Æ, ø Ø, å Å. The sounds of these letters are the same, but they are in a different order.
Different letters, different meanings
Take the Swedish words lov and löv. The word lov has tripple meanings. It can refer to permission, holidays and praise. The word löv translates to leaf or leaves. Knowing the correct spelling will also give a clue to the pronunciation. The pronounciation of lov is as law with an extra v at the end. The ö in löv is like the vowel in her.
Another example is the words bar, bår and bär. They look so similar. But the word bar translates to the verb carried, or bar, the high counter, or bare as in naked. The word bår is a stretcher, nothing more and nothing less. If a Swede is talking about bär, they are either referring to berries or the verb carries.
Bar is pronounced similar to bar in English, bår is close to bore, and bär sounds almost the same as bare.
Want more resources on the Swedish language for your family history? Download the free Swedish Genealogy Word List.
Not using the Swedish characters can lead to things you haven’t considered. If you skip the umlauts and the ring on some of your locations, it brings to question all of your other placenames. It’s obvious that Varmland refers to Värmland. But if you write it like Varmland, then it’s hard for others to know if the names you use for the villages are correct.
When you’re in an app, the Swedish letters are treated as the regular Latin letters. So you can search documents for Swedish words without using Swedish letters.
When you search a document for far (father) it will also find every får (sheep) in the text.
You may even find the Swedish spelling of place names by using the same method in search engines and online maps. Enter the name with the regular Latin letters and see what comes up. It works under some circumestanes, so it’s worth a try.
So there you have it. This is all you need to know about the Swedish letters. With these tips you can easily tackle å, ä and ö in your Swedish family research.