Swedish All Saints’ Day

I suppose every day is Swedish All Saints’ Day…

…for those of us searching for our ancestors and wishing to know more about their lives in Sweden.

All Saints’ Day in Swedish History

According to Po Tidholm & Agneta Lilja, of Celebrating the Swedish Way:

In the year 731 AD, 1 November was designated a day of remembrance for saints of the church who had no days of their own. From the 11th century, 2 November was dedicated to all the dead, of whatever standing, and was called All Souls’ Day. It was widely observed by the populace, with requiems and bell-ringing, but was abolished with the arrival of the Reformation. In 1772, Swedish All Saints’ Day was moved to the first Sunday in November and in 1953 to the Saturday between 31 October and 6 November.

All Saints’ Day commemorated in 2010 at Skogskyrkogården, an historic Stockholm cemetery.

In the 1900s, however, people began putting lighted candles on the graves of the departed on All Saints’ Day. This custom originated with wealthy families in towns and cities. But after the World War II, it spread throughout the country. Churches also began holding services of light to mark the day.

All Saints’ Day Today

The countless points of light from the candles and lanterns placed on graves form beautiful patterns in the snow and lend a special feel to the landscape. People also lay flowers and wreaths on graves on All Saints’ Day.

Until recently, shops and stores closed to mark the occasion. Although this is no longer the case everywhere, most Swedes take the day off, and those who don’t visit cemeteries usually stay home with family and cook an ambitious meal of some kind. Many churches organise concerts to celebrate All Saints’ Day.

Swedish All Saints' Day

Courtesy ArkivDigital for Lindesberg CI:4 (1708-1728) Image 110 (AID: v53502.b110, NAD: SE/ULA/10851)

Note the burial record above for my 8G-grandfather, Måns Persson. Born 28 Feb 1639 in Nyhyttan, Örebro, Sweden, he died in the same village on 30 Dec 1716. I doubt his grave is still marked, but if it is, I hope someone in Lindesberg will light it on November 3rd, when Alla Helgons Day is commemorated in Sweden this year.

Finding Swedish Death Records

For the genealogists who want to know how I found this record on ArkivDigital, I recommend the following resources:

Swedish All Saints’ Day is the perfect day to get started on those Swedish ancestors.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. hilma peterson 31 October 2015 at 4:21 PM - Reply

    Thank you. My grandmother’s maiden Name was Hilma Persson born in Soderham. Her father was Jan Persson married to Mathilda Von Dolwitz. I believe he too was from Vastmanland.

    • Nancy 3 November 2015 at 6:04 PM - Reply

      Hilma, I hope you are off to a good start with some of the links I provided. Don’t give up if you don’t find your ancestors in these databases. Check out the Swedish genealogy group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/27992586276/

  2. Patty Roy 31 October 2015 at 9:28 AM - Reply

    You can find Cradled in Sweden online here

    • Nancy 31 October 2015 at 11:19 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Patty! Valuable info.

  3. Cari Thomas 31 October 2015 at 5:25 AM - Reply

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for an interesting posting, even though I’ve yet to find personal ancestry in any Scandinavian country. Hope you’ll light a candle tonight for your M. Person, and your other Swedes.


    • Nancy 31 October 2015 at 12:10 PM - Reply

      I believe I will, Cari. You would like the Swedish parish registers – very similar to German!

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