Norway Handwriting

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Gothic Handwriting[edit | edit source]

Gothic handwriting was not called such until the last half of the 1800s. Earlier it was customary to call it Danish or Norwegian script. But when the modern handwriting, Latin script, became the national script then the old script had to be called something else.

The word Gothic was originally a belittling expression which means barbaric. It comes from the humanists of the Italian renaissance. Their fondness for the antique had its counterpart in that they did not like the slender, pointed forms which had predominated in architecture, fine arts, and literary works up to their time.

That which came to be called Gothic script is a rather narrow and angular script which was in use from the end of the 1200s to the end of the middle ages. Many of the same strokes are again found in the newer Danish or Norwegian handwriting. Therefore it was not unnatural that this later handwriting was also named Gothic. To prevent confusion it is now usual to call the Gothic script from the middle ages older Gothic script. The later script is then called the newer Gothic script. It was developed in Germany as the foundation of the older writing of the early 1500s and came to Norway a few decades later.

History of Handwriting in Norway –800 to 1600 A.D.[edit | edit source]

While books and documents have been written in Norway since the early 1000s A.D., only a few fragments from Latin Missals have survived to this day. The writing in these books was called Carolinian Miniscule. It consisted of letters of various heights in a four-line pattern. The Carolinian Miniscule writing was a standardization of numerous handwriting styles and was created at the time of Charlemagne about 800 A.D. It became popular in France, Germany, and Northern Italy and dominated the German handwriting scene for nearly 300 years. It came to Norway with the missionary liturgy books from England.

In the 1200s the letters began to be more slender and to be written closer together in a more vertical style. It foreshadows the change over to Gothic Script which was fully developed by about 1300. By the 14th century the Gothic style had evolved into the Fraktur script. The Gothic and Fraktur handwriting became the basis of most handwriting styles in Central Europe.

After a time the script came to be used for everyday purposes such as agreements, letters of correspondence, keeping accounts, and different private formal purposes. A script was needed which was quicker to write. In a short period of time it became the typical writing in letters and other documents. Handwriting in Norway was dominated by the older Gothic cursive until the end of the 1500s.

In the 1400-1500s two distinct forms of writing were created, Latin and Gothic. These influence European and Norwegian script until well into the 1900s.

History of Handwriting in Norway –1600 to 1700s A.D.[edit | edit source]

The newer Gothic script was brought to Norway by government officials, civil servants and scribes from Denmark. From 1600 until 1814 the development of writing styles was exactly the same in Norway and Denmark. The central administration gave the tone of the script. Letters which were sent from the reigning government offices in Copenhagen gave the recipients a current reminder of what was a professional and timely writing style. Regulations and announcements reached to Vardøhus just as quickly as to Bergen and Kristiania.

The script was constantly changing. It is often possible, therefore, to date a document bases on the writing style. This applies to the overall look and to the individual letters. But the changes were not so different that a scribe in 1800 would have difficulty in reading a document written two hundred years earlier.

Handwriting Examples[edit | edit source]

In the following examples you will see both Gothic and Latin scripts. The scribe has written the names of parents and child in the Latin script, while the names of godparents are written in the Gothic script. View common words found in Scandinavian parish registers.

Parish Registers Pre - 1814[edit | edit source]
1746 Norway Christening Record -1.jpg
Parish Registers Post - 1814[edit | edit source]

Language Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Variant Forms of Words[edit | edit source]

In Norwegian, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who—whose—whom or marry—marries— married are examples of words in English with variant forms. The endings of a word in a document may differ from those in this list. For example:

Mann- man; Kone- wife; Mannen- the man; Kona- the wife; Menn- men; Koner- wives; Mennene- the men; Konene- the wives

Alphabetical Order[edit | edit source]

Written Norwegian has three letters not found in the English alphabet: Æ (æ), Ø (ø), and Å (å). In most record sources prior to 1915, Å (å) is written as Aa (aa) and filed at the beginning of the alphabet.

Modern Norwegian dictionaries, indexes, the Locality section of the FamilySearch Catalog, and this word list use the following alphabetical order:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z æ ø å

Spelling[edit | edit source]

Spelling was not standardized when most early records were made. The following spelling variations are common:

  • aa used for å
  • b used for p
  • c used for k
  • ch used for k
  • d used for t
  • e used for æ
  • f used for v
  • g used for k
  • hj used for j
  • i used for j
  • j used for gj
  • ld used for ll
  • nd used for nn
  • q used for k
  • tj used for kj
  • u used for v
  • w used for v
  • x used for ks


gjørtler spelled as giørtler mann spelled as mand  kvinne spelled as quinde


Genealogy Key Words[edit | edit source]

Common words found in christening records:

Variations of the word "birth":

Christening records in Scandinavia.jpg

Variation of the word"male child"

Common words found in christening records.jpg

Words found in burial records:

Common Words Scandinavian Burial Records.jpg

In order to find and use specific types of Norwegian records, you will need to know some key words in Norwegian. This section lists key genealogical terms in English and the Norwegian words with the same or similar meanings. 

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find Norwegian words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used in Norwegian records to indicate marriage.

English Norwegian
banns lysninger
birth fødte, født
burial begravelse, jordet
census folketelling
child  barn
christening døbte, døbt
clerical district prestegjeld
confirmation konfirmasjon, konfirmerede
death  døde, død
engagement  forlovelse, trolovelse
father  far
female  kvinnekjønn
husband  ektemann
index register
male mannkjønn
marriage copulerede, egteviede, gift, vielse
military  militær
mother mor
moving in innflyttning
moving out  utflyttning
name, given  fornavn
name, surname  etternavn
parents  foreldre
parish  sogn
probate  skifte
vaccination vaccinerede, vaksinert
wife hustru
year  år