What Are The Swedish Mantal Tax Records? History & Genealogy Research Tips

Sweden Mantal Tax Records

If you are starting your Swedish genealogy research some records you may come across are tax records known as the Mantal Tax Records. These records can help give you invaluable insights into your Swedish ancestor’s lives.

The Swedish Mantal tax system was the tax system prevalent in Sweden for over 300 years. The Mantal tax was a tax placed upon Swedish households and people. The Mantal tax system was organized and structured.

Because of its structure and organization, the Mantal tax records information offers you valuable information when searching for your Swedish ancestors.

History of Sweden’s Mantal Tax and Tax Records

The Swedish word for Mantal tax records received its name from the word “mental.” In the early years, “mantal” indicated the size of a farm that was needed to sustain one family. Mantal measures both the physical area and also the monetary worth of the land. It was used to help to gauge the wealth or even potential wealth of the farmer or landowner.

In Sweden, in the 1630s the name started to be used to measure tax and for tax assessment. The Mantal tax system became a Swedish tax system that was used for over 300 years.

Gregory Fröberg Morris a Swedish Genealogy expert with FamilySearch has defined the Mantal as the following:

“The meaning of the word mantal has evolved through the centuries. Originally it referred to a unit of measurement in relation to the size of a household or the associated land. Later the same word was used as a combination word of “man” (referring to people) and “tal” (shortened from the word antal meaning number of) so another meaning was referring to the number of people.

Gregory Fröberg Morris

The Beginnings Of The Swedish Mantal Tax

In the 1600s the Swedish Government was no different than many other places in the world. The Swedish government wanted to find a way to expand their reach and influence around the world and income for government operations.

After all, about 200 years early in 1492, Columbus sailed and discovered America. Now ships were traveling all around the world trading in goods. The Swedish government also needed money to be able to expand and trade as they wanted so their solution was a taxation.

The Mantal’s tax started in 1625 with the Kvarntullsmantalslängder tax. The Kvarntullsmantalslängder or Kvarntull tax was a tax on milled grain. Every time a farmer would bring their grain in the mill to be ground, the government would take a certain percent of the ground mill as tax.

This tax of course was very unpopular. To avoid the tax, farmers started to use a hand mill to grind their grain at home so they would not have it bring to be ground at the mill. This became such a problem of tax evasion that hand mills were outlawed by the goverment in 1627.

In 1628 the Swedish people and the government came up with a compromise that instead of taking part of the grain as a tax, the people could instead pay the tax with money and keep their hand mills. Everyone over the age of 12 had to pay this tax.

In speaking of Gregory Fröberg Morris, a Swedish genealogy expert with FamilySearch wrote the following:

In 1625 the Swedish government approved a special tax to be upon every tunna (160 – 185 lb.)of milled grain. The payment was a percentage of flour that was gathered by the miller and local tax collector. This tax was called the “kvarntull” tax (kvarn is mill and tull is an imposed fee.) As a result, people started milling their own grain at home using a hand mill. In response, parliament outlawed hand mills in 1627 which was not very practical. In 1628 a compromise was agreed upon which allowed pastors and farmers to keep their hand mills in exchange for a monetary payment for that year.

Gregory Fröberg Morris

This Mantal’s tax has had different names over the years. Even though the names have changed, the tax has remained similar.

Here are some of the Swedish names that this tax has used:

  • Kvarnstullspenning
  • Kvarnstullmantalspenning
  • Mantalspenning
  • Mantalslängder

One of the more popular names is Mantal’s tax or Mantalslängder.

Mantalslängder – Tax paid with Money Instead of Grain

Once it was agreed that the people would pay their tax with money instead of grain, this is when the Mantalslängder or Mantal’s tax really began. This tax first started in 1636.

By 1640 the government came out with very specific instructions on how to gather this tax and exactly what would be taxed. In other words, as early as 1640 the Swedish taxation system was very organized and structured.

The government said that the following information must be written in the records:

  • place of residence of the person paying the tax
  • head of household
  • all the children living at home
  • any servants that lived with them
  • any renters in the household.

Mantal Tax Records – Before and After 1724

An important year to remember for the Mantal tax records is 1724. The reason is that before 1724 the recording rule said that the tax records be collected at the beginning of the year. But after 1724 the records were collected at the end of the year.

Here are some examples:

  • Before 1724 – For example, Mantal tax records in 1676 were collected in February of 1676, not at the end of 1676.
  • After 1724 – For example, Mantal tax records in 1738, the tax records for that year would have been collected at the end of 1737 or about November 1737.

It can seem to us like a very minor detail but the truth is that this small detail is very important. One of the reasons for this is that the taxation was estimated at and so was the person’s age. So the records at the end of the year help you to better estimate someone’s correct age or a birth year.

The Early Mantalslängder Records

The early Mantalslängder tax records were usually written in gothic Swedish, which can make them very hard to read. In the original gothic Swedish it can be easy to confuse the letters.

The records will usually have the following:

  • Name of residence
  • Head of the household
  • Ages of the people in the household
  • The total amount of tax collected per person.

Who Created these Mantalslängder Tax Records?

As you imagine being the person who needed to collect and access this tax or being a tax collector was not a popular job. People did not like to be taxed and so many times the tax collectors were not welcome in their home or on their farm.

Mantalskommissarie 1652 – 1812

Between 1652 and 1812 people known as the Mantalskommissarie had the duty to collect the tax. This is a job that did not pay well and was extremely stressful work. The Mantalskommissarie had to visit every single farm in a parish area and every parish in his district.

The Mantalskommissarie would need to go together with a member of the local law enforcement to visit these farms. He would need to keep records of who could pay and who could not pay. Also if anyone was behind in their tax payments.

When the Mantalskommissarie completed all his visits and he had his master list, then he would need to make 3 more copies of the entire list. The copies of this list were for the district, county, national, and his own personal list.

The rules at the time said that the Mantalskommissarie had to have all these records completed by a specific time. So the people who were collecting this information on the tax had a stressful job in many ways, as they were always under huge time restraints to produce the records on time.

Häradsskrivare from 1812

In 1812 the Swedish government dissolved the post of the Mantalskommissarie and gave the position to the local district recorder of the area or Häradsskrivare. This of course became more effective as the local government office was already working hand-in-hand with local law enforcement.

What Was the Role of the Local Swedish Pastor And The Mantal Tax Records?

The Pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church played a central role in helping verify these Mantal tax records. Before 1723, by law, the Swedish Pastor had to be present at the homes and farms when they were obtaining these tax records.

As you can imagine the Pastor of the local Swedish Lutheran Church was busy with a lot of things and going to collect or access tax was not something they wanted to do. The Mantal tax placed the Pastors at the forefront of the very unpopular tax collection assessments and payment.

Between 1724 and 1812 the pastor was no longer required to attend this meeting for the tax. This was a problem because the pastors knew everyone in the parish and had the household examination records (Husförhörslängder) for everyone in his area. So there was no real check and balances if the tax records were really correct especially when compared to the Household Examination Records.

In 1812 another law was passed that helped correct some of the issues from the previous tax registration meetings, The law of 1812 stated:

  • Pastor or Representative Present – The Pastor or a church representative of the Swedish Lutheran Church needed to be present during this tax registration meeting.
  • Household Examination Record – The household examination record also needed to present so that the tax record could be compared against the household examination record. This Mantal’s tax law forced the Parishes to preserve all the Household Examination Records and not throw them away as many had done previously as now the tax authorities needed them to check their records.
  • Pastor’s Review – The Pastor had to review the final copy of the Mantal’s tax against the household examination records and ensure they were accurate.

Mantal Tax Collection In Sweden’s Larger Cities

Collecting the Mantal’s tax in Sweden’s larger cities proved to be more difficult. This is because there could be young people who were renting a place and not living with their families. There were so many people moving about that the pastors did not know the people in their pastor areas as much as they did in the countryside.

To help solve this collection problem there was a tax form (Mantalsuppgift) that was instituted. People were to fill out this form and then to send it to the magistrate’s office and then a copy was also sent to the county office.

These Mantalsuppgift forms existed in the 1700s and but were not really common until the 1800s

On these Mantalsuppgift forms the following information was given:

  • Property Owner Name – The name of the property owner was listed for those that were renting.
  • Head of household Name – Head of the household was listed for those who were servants in a house.
  • Business Owner Name – The name of the business owner was listed for those who worked with the company.

Many times the Property Owner, Head of Household, or Business Owners would fill out these forms for their renters, household staff or employees. The reason they did this was so that the people were not double taxed.

When you are doing your genealogy research and you see a Mantalsuppgift form and a Mantalslängd form and the information on the forms is not the same, then go with the information on the Mantalsuppgift form as that is usually the more correct form.

Who Was Actually Charged Tax and How Much?

Who was actually charged the Swedish Mantal tax changed from year to year. Also how much they had to pay changed.

Ages You Had To Pay the Swedish Mantal’s Tax

Here is who had to pay the tax over the years and at what age:

  • 1635 – 1651: Everyone over the age of 12 or in other words anyone that was able to work.
  • 1652 -1748: All adults. At the time the age of adults was from 15 to 62 years old.
  • 1749 – 1757: Between the age of 15 to 21 you were considered to be half-grown and charged half the tax. Between the age of 21 to 62, you were considered to be an adult and were required to pay a full tax.
  • 1841: The lower age limit was changed from 15 to 17 years old.
  • 1858 – The lower age was changed from 17 to 18 years old.
  • 1864 – The upper age of 62 was changed and people needed to pay the tax as long as they were able to pay tax.

How Much and What Was Taxed

Over the years exactly what and how much was paid in tax also varied over the years. Here is how much the tax was and what was paid in the tax:

  • Original taxation – The original taxation was 1 mark (24 öre) paid 3 times per year. This would also vary according to the area. People would also exchange agricultural goods for tax.
  • The late 1700s – A luxury tax was added to use tobacco, window glass, silk, wigs, and wallpaper.
  • Monetary System Change 1776 – In 1766, there was a large reform of the Swedish money system. So the payment now for the new money system was 12 skilling.
  • 1855 – In 1855, the tax was changed to 37 öre
  • 1863 – The tax changed to 40 öre per man and 20 öre per woman.

Swedish Tax Exemptions

Swedish law also allowed for some tax exemptions. Some of the people who were give tax exemption were:

  • Beggars, destitute, or dependent on someone else.
  • Nobility and their household and employees in the household. The nobility did pay tax, but a different kind of tax.
  • Soldiers were exempt but not their wives or children.
  • Farmers – In 1770 a new law was given that farmers who owned their land with 4 registered children were exempt.
  • Tradesmen – In 1810 the law was also expanded to exempt the tradesmen who had children and the youngest was under 8 and oldest under age 15.
  • Foster children – In 1786 they had a law that if someone took an orphan from the public orphanage in Stockholm, that child was exempt from paying taxes until they were 18 years old. Later the age was raised to 21 years old. In 1804 the tax exemption went up to age 25 years old. They were trying to encourage people to be foster parents.

With all these exemptions it is estimated that maybe 35 to 45% of the population is not listed on these Mantal tax records. They maybe on another list that we do not have.

In 1766 a new rule was passed that stated all people should be registered in the Mantal tax records regardless of their tax status. Despite the fact this tax rule was put into place in 1766 it really did not become implemented until the 1800s.

This is important to know since during the 1800s there were many places in Sweden where the parish burned down. So if you’re not able to find anything in the Household Examination Records you may need to check the Mantell tax records to see what you can find.

The Swedish research site Arkiv Digital has been doing a very good job of trying to get the Mantell tax records online in areas where the parish down. So if you’re not able to find any Household Examination Records for your ancestors you might want to try the Arkiv digital Mantell tax records. You can find out more about Arkiv Digital by clicking here.

Tax Evasion Issues and The Mantal Tax

There is no doubt that it was tempting for many people to lie to some of the tax authorities, especially during the time period when the pastors were not present at the tax registration and they tax authorities did not check the Mantal tax records against the Household Examination Records. You can find in some of the older Swedish court records court cases about people who had lied on the Mantels tax records and were taken to court.

Of course of the most common law broken was probably be about the age of a child. The parents may say a daughter or son was only 13 when they were actually 15 and needed to pay tax. Or they may lie about how many people were actually in the household.

The people who were caught cheating on their taxes were punished by law but also they also lost their reputation. During this time period when people lived in very small communities and relied upon each other’s trustworthiness having a good reputation was extremely important. This is how the Mantal tax in many ways got into the Swedish culture.

The Mantal tax also helped stop vagrancy in Sweden as vagrancy was against the law. If you were somewhere where the authorities didn’t know you they might ask you where are you registered for your Mantal tax.

If you were known to be a vagrant the authorities would round you up and send you to a work house. At the workhouse you would be locked up and put to work. So in many ways the Mantal tax helped protect the people who paid the tax from being sent to the workhouse.

Tips For Using The Mantal Tax Records in Swedish Genealogy Research

Here are some tips when looking at the Mantal Swedish tax records and a few things to remember:

  • No standardized form – Particularly in the early years there is no real standardized forms.
  • Check every year – You should check all the years you can on the forms. Check local and national. The local records usually have more detail than the national records.
  • Information similar between years – The information may be similar from year to year but it is important you check all of them as you may miss important if you do not.
  • Same person’s names may differ – The names may be similar but vary from year to year for the same person. Ie Johannes, Johan, Jan.
  • Animals – Some records would actually record the animals the farm had, especially in some of the northern areas.
  • Other information – Some forms will also track in-laws, lodgers, and others who are also in the household. With this information, you can start to piece together the lives of your Swedish ancestors.

The Swedish Mandel tax records are an amazing research record and tool to help you in your Swedish genealogy research. In many ways those are researching Swedish genealogy are lucky because the Swedes kept some very good records which take help you find your Swedish ancestors. The Mantal tax records are example of one such record.

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You can discover more by reading our blog Why Do So Many Swedish Last Names End in Son? by clicking here.

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The purpose of genealogy is for the study of family, family history, and the tracing of our lineage or our ancestors. The purpose of genealogy goes far beyond the dates, names, and places of our ancestors.   This is because as you do your genealogy you begin to learn more about your family and yourself.  Genealogy helps to unite and link families together as you are discovering things about your family that you did not know.   

You can find out more by reading our blog What Is The Purpose of Genealogy? by clicking here.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I live in Hanoi, Vietnam. I love to share with you about my family history and the many parts of the world our ancestors have lived.

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Sweden Mantal Tax Records