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