Obtain Background Information for Norwegian Research

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1- Learn about the types of records used for Norwegian Research: Record availability, records contents, time period covered, ease of use, and reliability, as well as the likelihood that your ancestor will be listed in them.

There was no separation of church and state in Norway. After the Reformation the Evangelical Lutheran Church became the state or national church of Norway, and as such is an arm of the national government. There is no ordinary civil registration organized.  In earlier times all registration was entrusted to the ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and it is still the clergy who, by recording entries in the church registers, are responsible for the greatest part of this work.

Begin by obtaining some background information about your ancestor.

  • Talk to family members who may have known your ancestor
  • Search family bibles
  • Look for any research that may have previously been done.
  • Search original records.

Usually a Norwegian will be listed in a Lutheran Church in the United States and here you may find the name of the town or parish he/she came from in Norway.

2- You may need some geographical and historical information about Norway: Where in Norway was your ancestor born.

  • Locate the town/parish or place of residence.

Check gazetteers, postal guides, and other place-finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestors lived. You may want to check the "Map,"History", and  "Gazetteer" sections. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, and other geographical features.

  • Learn about Norwegian jurisdictions.

You will need to know how Norway was divided into counties, and how each county is divided into parishes.

  • Use language help.

The records of Norway will usually be written in Norwegian. You do not need to know the entire Norwegian language to search the records, but you will need to learn some key words and phrases. See the "Language and Languages" section.

  • Understand naming patterns.

The naming patterns in Norway were influenced by factors such as: where your ancestor lived (in a city or a rural area), the time period, social standing and occupation. See the naming customsection.

  • Understand local customs.

Local customs may have affected the way individuals were recorded in the records. See the "Social life and Customs" section.

3- Look for any research that someone else may have done: Most genealogists try to find and evaluate the research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to look in:

  • Printed family histories and genealogies.
  • Biographies.
  • Local histories.
  • The International Genealogical Index.
  • Ancestral File.
  • The Family Group Records Collections

Remember that the information in these sources might be wrong, depending on who did the research. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.

4- Search Original Records

After surveying previous records you will be ready to begin research in original records. This may be records copied on microfilm, or available online, that are usually handwritten in the native language. These documents can provide primary information about your ancestors because they were generally recorded near the time of an event often by the parish priest (for the church records) or by the civil authority (for the census, probate or court records). If your ancestor moved from one area to another make sure you search all the applicable areas where he or she lived. You may search the records on microform or online at Digitalarkivet (Digital Archives) of Norway. The Digital Archives are in the process of putting most of the records for Norway online, but if the record you are looking for is not online yet make sure you check the Family History Library Catalog to see if the record is available on microform.

As you search original records for your Norwegian ancestors, most of your time will be spent searching:

  • Norwegian Church Records
  1. Birth and Christening Records
  2. Confirmation Records
  3. Marriage Records
  4. Death and Burial Records
  5. Moving Records
  6. Vaccination Records

Next you may want to search:

As you become more familier with Norwegian records you may also want to search the Court and Land records.

5- Search the Bygdebok (farm book)

You will most definitely want to search the farm book for each community where they are available in Norway. See the section for Farm books(Bygdebøker). Just a word of caution - the farm book is not an original source, therefore the information found in these books must be verified in the original records.