Norway History

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Norway History

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records, such as land and military documents, that mention your family.

Researching your ancestors will become more interesting as you learn about the events they may have participated in. For example, by using a history you might learn about the events that occurred in the year your great-grandparents were married.

General History

800-1000:  Viking Age

872:  King Harald Fairhair united Norway into one kingdom. Before that, Norway was comprised of small, warring kingdoms.

1000:  King Olav Trygvasson and King Olav Haraldsson "The Holy" brought Christianity to Norway.

1319:  The old royal line died out. Norway united with Denmark.

1397-1523: Kalmar Union is established, in which Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were united under one king. The Union of Kalmar

1523-1814:  Denmark and Norway united under one king.

1536:  The king of Denmark and Norway appropriates the land holdings of the Catholic church and declares the Lutheran church as the state religion.

1814-1905:  Norway unites with Sweden. The Norwegian parliament rules under its own constitution, but there was only one king for Norway and Sweden.

1905-57:  Prince Carl Fredrik of Denmark (named Hakon VII) was elected king of Norway. He ruled as a constitutional monarch.

World War I:  (Norway is neutral, but in 1918 it is effectively blockaded. The Norwegian merchant fleet has great losses.

1940-1945 World War II (Germans occupy Norway):  (Germans occupies Norway.)


Interesting facts about Norway can be found at the following Internet addresses:

The Family History Library has some published national and local histories for Norway. The following is available at the library and on film at Family History Centers:

Gjerset, Knut. History of the Norwegian People. New York, NY, USA: The MacMillan Company, 1915. (FHL book Scand 948.1 H2g; film 1,440,084)

You can find histories in the Family History Library Catalog under:


Major works on Norwegian history are also available in public and university libraries.

Online History Books

History of Norway from the Earliest Times: From the Earliest Times to 1885 By Hjalmar Hjorth 1900

The Stories of the Kings of Norway Called the Round World (Heimskringla) By Snorri Sturluson, Eiríkr 1893

Norway By Sigvart Sorensen 1899

History of the Norwegian People By Knut Gjerset 1915

See Also: Norway Books

Local Histories

Local histories should be studied and enjoyed for the background information they can provide about your family's life-style and environment.

The Family History Library has many local histories for towns in Norway. The local histories (bygdebøker), give statistical information about the general area and genealogical information about the people in the community. (For more information, see the "Genealogy" section). Some of these histories are also available at major public and university libraries in the Midwest.


In the spring of 1918 a strange influenca was reported.  It was noted that World War I soldiers serving in the West Front were getting sick with some kind of an influenca that included high fever and sometimes pneumonia.  This sickness started in the US, became an epedemic that soon spread through the whole world.  This was before penicillin was in use which made it hard for many of its victims.  In the early summer of 1918 it hit Spain, and since the King of Spain was the first one to die it was from then on called the Spanish sickness or in Norwegian "Spanskesykenk"  or "Spanska".  By 1919 the sickness had spread to most of the world.  A total of about 27 millions world wide died from this epidemic in 1918 and 1919.  Only 13,700 were reported to have died in World War I.

Calendar Changes

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar in common use in the world today. It is a correction of the Julian calendar which had been in use since A.D. 46. Leap years had been miscalculated in the Julian calendar. By 1582, the calendar was 10 days behind the solar year.

In Norway the last day of the Julian calendar was 18 February 1700. At that time, 10 days were omitted in order to bring the calendar in line with the solar year. The day after 18 February 1700 was 1 March 1700.

The early records in Norway often list a feast day rather than an actual date (for example, Dom. 7 p. Trin. 1818, or 7 Sundays past the Holy Trinity Sunday). You can use the feast day calendar to determine that the date is 5 July 1818.

The Feast Day Calendar was compiled by Inger M. Bukke and Finn A. Thomsen. It includes three parts: 1) an index to fixed and movable feast days, 2) the Gregorian calendar table from 1610 to 1833, and 3) the Julian calendar (for Sweden and Finland only) from 1700 to 1753 (FHL book 948 H3b).

The calendar is available at the Family History Library. It may also be available through other genealogical organizations.

Web Sites