I saw these two (2) articles on FamilySearch‘s blog, https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/, earlier today. They are Norway Ancestry Records: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/norway-ancestry-records/ and Research Your Norwegian Genealogy: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/norwegian-genealogy-research/.
There is going to be some duplication between the two links. Also, don’t rely on online translation sites to give you an accurate translation – a suggestion made below. For individual words, online translation sites are pretty good at getting it right although they aren’t perfect. When it comes to translating sentences, paragraphs, it is unusual for them to get it perfect. In many instances, I found translation sites to be worse than YouTube Closed Captioning and Transcripts efforts.
First, Norway Ancestry Records –
Did you know that Norway is famous for keeping and protecting excellent records? If you have family history that extends back to Norway, you can likely trace your family lines for many generations using Norway ancestry records.
Norwegian Records on FamilySearch.org
If you can find where your ancestor lived in Norway, Norwegian parish records can help you locate vital information about your ancestor’s life and relationships.
For a time, a church warden or assistant typically made duplicate records for the parish so nothing would be lost. Look for both the primary record and a duplicate; one may be more legible than the other.
Search indexed Norwegian parish records on FamilySearch.org by the ancestor’s name. As you look, remember that names often did not have standardized spellings. The spelling of a name was determined by the recorder, so many variations resulted.
If the FamilySearch record is in an unindexed collection, you can look in the FamilySearch catalog to see if the record has been microfilmed, if it is digitized, or where a copy of the original record can be found.
Online translation tools can help you decipher what a record contains.
The most important records for family history are Norwegian church records, or “Kirkebøker,” kept by individual Lutheran parishes. A parish (sokn) is the local ecclesiastical record-keeping unit for vital records. Information about almost everyone who lived in Norway was recorded in a church record.
Lutheran Church records are the primary source for genealogical research in Norway. Lutheran priests, as officials of the state church, kept records of the following:
- Births, christenings (baptisms), deaths, and marriages.
- Membership lists (censuses)
- Records of move ins to the parish and move outs from the parish
The National Archives of Norway
Scanned images of parish registers are found in the National Archives of Norway in the Digital Archives (Digitalarkivet) collections. When you go to the archive online, you can quickly toggle the interface between Norwegian (Norsk) and English using a menu option in the upper right.
Search by location (amt) and the parish name or collection name. The Digital Archive has guides for using the archives, and you can find an online guide for parish lists, maps, and specific help for Norway genealogy at the Norway wiki page on FamilySearch.org.
If you have some information about your Norwegian ancestor, you can usually identify the parish from a major event in the person’s life or a relationship using online guides.
What Norwegian Records Contain
Prior to 1814, usually only the date of the christening was listed. If only one date was given, it was the christening date. Children were generally christened within a few days of birth.
The following information is usually found in the christening records:
- Name of the child
- Name of the parents (just the name of the father in some older records)
- Place of residence (name of farm)
- Names of godparents and witnesses
- Child’s birth date or christening date
- Home christening date if the child was christened at home
- Father’s occupation
- Records of stillbirths
- Indication of legitimacy or illegitimacy
- Smallpox vaccination date
Lutheran Confirmation (First Communion) Records
Pre-1815 confirmation records typically include the following information:
- First and last name
- Place of residence
After 1814, confirmation records usually include the following information:
- First and last name
- Head of household
- Birth or baptism date
- Place of residence and birth
- Notes on behavior and knowledge
After the 1830s, the names of parents were also given. See Confirmation (Konfirmasjon) online for more information.
Marriages (Viede, Vigde, Copulerede)
Information found in marriage records often includes the following:
- Names of bride and groom
- Marriage date
- Places of residence
- Whether bride and groom were single or widowed at the time of the marriage
- Names of bondsmen (two men who knew that the bride and groom were eligible to be married, often the fathers of the bride and groom)
- Date of the engagement and the three dates on which the marriage intentions (marriage banns) were announced
- Date of probate if there had been a previous marriage
After the 1830s, the records also typically included the names of fathers and birthplaces. Sometimes a separate record of a couple’s engagement (trolovelse) appears in earlier records.
Birth clinics and homes were established in the 1800s. They made their own archives of birth journals as well as birth indexes. The birth journals have been deposited in the city archives (Byarkiv), and the birth indexes are deposited in state archives (Statsarkivet), which will help you find elusive birth records.
Norwegian Farm Books
In addition to wonderful parish registers, Norway has a very special source called “Bygdebøker,” or farm books. These books are filled with detailed local history and tremendous genealogical information. Some of the information in these books predates the parish registers.
Bygdebøker are the earliest way of identifying places and the locations of families. Compiled by local historians, they reveal who lived on which farms throughout the generations, who may have inherited the farms, who may have immigrated to what country, and when a person died.
Other Online Record Sources
Forebears is one such site. It offers a collection of links, including links to the following:
- Birth and baptism records
- Marriage and divorce records
- Deaths and burials
- Population lists
- Immigration and travel records
- Military records
Next, Research Your Norwegian Genealogy –
If you have hesitated to research your Norwegian genealogy, give it a try. Millions of online digitized records and many guides make tracing your family history easier than you can imagine. The key is to follow a good research strategy, learn about the available records, and make a record of where you look.
Develop a Research Strategy for Norway
Your family may know more than you realize. Ask your living relatives about your family history—they may even have stories for you to record. Look for names, dates, and places on documents that may be gathering dust in an attic, inside a family Bible, or in an old photo album. To get started, organize the information you find.
Knowing some Norwegian history, emigration patterns, and naming conventions through generations will also help you recognize your ancestors in the records. If your ancestors were born in Norway and immigrated to the United States, the first records you will likely find your family in will be United States census and Lutheran Church records.
Write down what you are trying to find and where you looked. Keep track of the records that you have searched and the dates your sources cover. This information will pay dividends as you search more records and make more discoveries for each of your Norwegian ancestors.
Jumpstart Your Norwegian Research with Record Hints
If you have entered a few generations into the FamilySearch Family Tree, exploring record hints can accelerate finding and verifying sources for your ancestors. Record hints can help with the relatives you know and can also provide details that lead you to grow your family tree.
To use record hints, go to the FamilySearch Family Tree and select an ancestor. To go to the person’s page, right-click the name. In the upper right part of the sidebar, look in the Research Help section. There, you will see a blue icon, along with your ancestor’s name and a record that the person may be mentioned in. To review and link the record to your ancestor, select it.
Norwegian Naming Conventions
If you are new to Norwegian research, names can be confusing until you become familiar with them. Up to the late 1800s, Norwegians predominantly used a patronymic naming system. The name acted as an important clue to someone’s place in the family tree. Norwegians had a surname and a given name, but names could also be nicknames, occupational names, or geographical names.
By the 1870s and 1880s, traditional naming patterns began to change. Siblings may have ended up with surnames that were family based but not alike. The surname a person chose when he or she immigrated to a new country also varied from person to person. Online guides can help you sort through naming conventions.
Become Acquainted with Norwegian Records
If you can learn where an ancestor was born or lived in Norway, you can use online maps and lists to identify the parish where records about the ancestor will likely be found. Norwegian parish registers are some of the richest sources of family history information.
Norway parish registers or “kirkebøker” (church books) will lead you to other records. They include records of christenings, marriages, and burials. Parish records may include lists of members (censuses), confirmations, marriage banns, and accounts of people moving in and out of the parish.
Search Original Norwegian Records
To look for birth, christening, marriage, and death records, start at FamilySearch’s Norway country page.
Browse the images, and use the Norway FamilySearch wiki page to help you recognize which records will help you. Indexed records usually have place-names, dates, and other details that will lead to more discoveries in other Norwegian records.
If you can’t find the records you need on FamilySearch.org, the National Archives of Norway is another great place to look. In the National Archives, Norway’s Digital Archives (Digitalarkivet) contains images from parish registers and other digitized source documents.
Get Help with Norwegian Genealogy
The genealogical community can be a helpful resource for getting started. For additional help, you can connect with online forums and other researchers doing family history. Here are some places to get started:
- Nordic Countries Group is a forum on FamilySearch.org for Scandinavian research.
- Norway Genealogical Societies will connect you to genealogical and historical societies in local communities. Many of these groups publish books and periodicals that will be of value to you.
- Find a family history center near you. This resource will put you in touch with experts and help you access partner sites that have additional records for Norway genealogy.