Research Your Norwegian Genealogy

May 24, 2019  - by 

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.

An image of a record hint on a familysearch person page.

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

Date formats and handwriting for both Norwegian and Latin differ from today’s systems. The FamilySearch wiki has guides that will help you.

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.

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