By Elfrida Nord

(This was a presentation made to the Gastineau Genealogical Society Feb. 23, 2002, links were valid at that time.)


While I can give basic information it is interesting to note that basically no two individuals doing genealogical research are searching for the same information so I will have to be very general and will give examples from Nordland which I am most familiar with.

The best source of information about births, vaccinations, confirmation marriages, and deaths is the church record. The State Church of Norway is Lutheran and for hundreds of years was also the seat of local administration. In order to get to the correct church district other sources such as the census record can provide important clues.

Norway is divided into counties, variously called amt(1662-1918) or fylke after 1918. Church records are divided into sokne or sogn (parish) or prestegjeld (served by one priest) or prosti (a deanery). The most recent film I reviewed here at the Center was listed as Mo and Nord-Rana Sogn in Mo Prestegjeld- Indre Helgeland Provsti. In more recent times the church districts tried to match up to the government administrative units which if important to know where to search for more recent church records. (Use grandparent example) (Show chart ) Frode Korsland has written a book called Norge’s Kommuner which outlines the history of development of each community. It is written in Norwegian, of course.

Once you find the right fylke and the right prestegjeld, and the right church records the fun begins. Although many churches have been there since around 1130 it is difficult to find many church records, up north anyway, prior to 1700. The Black Death or bubonic plague epidemic of 1349 wiped out one third of Norway’s population and literally whole rural communities. Norway was under Danish rule from 1347 until 1814, when it became a Swedish territory. Norway did not become an independent country until 1905. Prior to around 1820 the church records are written in narrative format in Danish. Norway adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700. Many of the early baptisms for example are not recorded by date but by church calendar such as Dom 16 p Trin. If you are interested in knowing the exact date of someone’s birth in 1710 there is a resource for that too. (See Bib list).

One does not need to read the whole narrative record if one scans for births, marriages and deaths separately. One uses different shortcuts for each type of record. In the margins (usually) one will find the following:

Døpt which is baptized in Norwegian or Danish. If you find “confirmerte” in a baptism record means that a home baptism is being verified by a church official and entered. Sponsors are called “faddere” and were most often relatives so can be very useful additional clues. The child’s name is many times underlined (first name only). The naming process in Norway until around 1892 was first name plus father’s name and sen for a boy and datter for a girl. Of course that is not present in the church record. But if you are looking for an Anne Andersdatter, the church record might state Anne daughter of Anders _______ from (farm name) plus the sponsors and their farm place. I prefer making copies of the record whenever possible so they can be studied in detail later. The church was very strict about recording legitimate (ægte) or illegitimate (uægte) births. The uægte part was kept alive by the church records for their lifetime! One aspect of church records I have not found very useful is “Introduserte or Innlede. It was customary in the early days of the church that a new mother was considered unclean for about 6 weeks. When she returned to church the first time after the birth of a child she was met at the door of the church by the priest and escorted in and “re-introduced” into the church. In early church records the father’s name only made the church records, not the mother and in later years only the mother’s name.

In some church records one can find vaccination for smallpox records. They are very handy because they list the child, usually the father, place of birth, and age. This can be very helpful when one has only an approximate birth date and cannot find a baptism.

Confirmation records can also be very useful to pinpoint birth years, sometimes even birthdates. Amount of information improves over the years. I always scan the confirmation records.

There are two types of marriage records: There is Trolovede and Copulerede in early records and Viede or Vigsel in later records. Trolovede is the equivalent of engaged, and copulerede as marriage. There is frequently more information given at a troloving than at a marriage. I haven’t found any record of bans, etc. but they did exist even as late as my parent’s marriage in 1930. Norway was a Catholic country long before Martin Luther. Occasionally one might find “Dispensert” regarding a wedding couple. For an underage female to get married or someone considered too closely related they had to get dispensation from the church. Death records are either listed as Begravde or Døde.

Another church record you may find is absolverede which means publicly absolved. Most frequently in church records this involved illicit sexual relations. Sometimes major neighbor disputes were also recorded in church records.

Most church records prior to 1910 are available on microfilm from Salt Lake City if you know your fylke and prestegjeld. Some church records are starting to appear on the net and then of course one does not have to deal with hand writing!


I feel this is the single most important internet address out there and the one I go to most frequently. One can access multiple data bases and more are being added weekly. Explanations can be accessed in English but the data is in Norwegian. Some language help is available from digitalarkivet and a Norwegian dictionary is helpful.


On the Internet the following census records are readily available for all of Norway. 1801, 1865, 1875, and 1900. Arkiverket has gradually absorbed all these records into one giant database but it seems like each time I go in the methodology of search has changed. I am not sure if the 1875 census is complete yet, and some areas have additional census materials and more coming on the net every week. Census records are a point in time record and I often wish there was less of a gap between 1801-1865. A great deal of information is included such as farm names, church district of birth, age or birth year (often not accurate) all members of household and their relationships. One can search all of Norway by simply entering the first name, which is real fun. I used census record to locate the church district and year of birth, then scan about 3 years in either direction is I can’t find them in that year. Census records are also available from Salt Lake City but if you have access to the Internet you can search the whole country, not just the county you get microfilm for. On the other hand, having the whole county records gives you different search options.


A very helpful Internet source is a list, by county and township, of genealogists who have homepages, etc. Many of them are very responsive and helpful but not all of them. So if you know the Fylke and kommune you want to search they may be a great help. See bib list.


Another useful data base in digitalarkivet is the Emigrant Protokol. What is useful to know about this list is that it is sort of a police register, not passport control. It seems that the registers were set up to safeguard the passengers from unscrupulous transportation companies. “ The Norwegian government decided they wanted to monitor the activities of the transportation companies and their agents in 1867 and the first emigration records were started as a temporary arrangement. A new law was passed May 22, 1869 concerning the transporting of passengers to foreign parts of the world. According to the law, the agents had to have police authorization and the shipowners had to provide a considerable sum of money to guarantee the well being of the passengers. The agents had to sign a written contract with the emigrants, who had to present it to the police to be registered. Therefore the police register includes details about the agent or the line responsible for the contract. These are not passenger lists for specific ships! They are list of persons intending to emigrate from Norway. The majority of emigrants from Norway traveled via England or Germany. The ship they traveled on from Norway are feeder ships and there are no specific passenger lists existing for feeder ships sailing between Norway and other European ports. Also the dates of the contract registered with the police is only an approximate date, not the actual departure date. For more specific information see http://www.norwayheritage.com on your bib list. You might do as I did print off Hunting Passenger Lists. The 19 pages have a tremendous amount of useful information.


If your ancestor came through New York between 1892 and 1924 this database can be very useful. To date I have found only two persons using this data base. But, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Computers are very picky about spelling and don’t always spell the same way you do! Olsen can be entered as Olson, Olsen, Olsson and any number of other ways. Same with first names. The same holds true for Statsarkivet data to a greater or lesser degree. Since many immigrants came via Quebec because their ship left from Liverpool, they may never appear in Ellis Island records.


From some census records the year a person got their citizenship is listed. This can be a useful clue but the process of finding the right place to write to is not simple. There are two books in the State Library in the State Office Building that I have found useful. See Bibliography list for Greenwood and the Guide to National Archives. What was required at various points in time varied and the length of time between Declaration of Intent and the actual naturalization also varied. The Declaration of Intent usually contains the most useful information since it contains the ship, date of arrival in the US and the port. Spending time up front in determining where to inquire hopefully will reduce length and possibly expense of a search. So far I have only located two.


A good detailed map of your district is essential. Topographic Maps on a scale of 1:50,000 are available through Sons of Norway Map Service. See bib list. Two examples.


Record searches can be made at the Family Center to locate what is available on microfilm. The most useful of these is for church records. Some probate records may be available as well. I found that I could purchase microfishe church records at about $1.25 a sheet from Norway. It was worth it to me because I could go over them multiple times in my own home. They are the same records that are available from Salt Lake City. See bib list for internet address.


Another very useful source of information are the bygde (township) – bøker (books). If you are lucky they list every farm and who has been a tenant or owner for generations. They list owners, families and in many cases where someone moved to, including America. I have excellent bygedbøker for two of my townships, less useful ones for two townships and none for another area of interest.






Korsland, Frode; Norges Kommuner 1837-1997, Olso 1997. In Norwegian

Bukke, Inger M., Kristensen, Peer K, and Thomsen, Finn A.; The Comprehensive Genealogical Feast Day Calendar , Thomsen’s Genealogical Center, P.O. Box 588, Bountiful, Utah 84010.

Thomsen, Finn A., Genealogical Maps and Guide to Norwegian Parish Registers, Thomsen’s Genealogical Center, P.O. Box 588, Bountiful, Utah 84010

Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives in the Reference Section of the Alaska State Library, State Office Building CS68.U54 1982.

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy 3rd Edition, State Library Reference Section CS47.679 2000.

Sons of Norway Map Service, 1455 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408 1-88-945-8851. Fax 612-827-0658, http://www.sofn.com


http://digitalarkivet.uib.no/cgi-win/WebFront.exe?slag=vis&tekst=meldingar Census, Emigrant Lists and multiple useful links.

http://www.norwayheritage.com/ships/ 100 Years of Emigrant Ships from Norway

http://www.disnorge.no/sfbasen A means of finding a Norwegian genealogist with information by county.

http://www.medsca.org/ History

http://ellisisland.org Searchable passenger records 1892-1925.

http://www.riksarkivet.no/mikrofilm.html For microfische information

svein.warberg@riksarkinvaren.dep.no Consultant for purchasing microfishe.

To find out what microfishes are available try http://www.riksarkivet.no/Mikrofilm/Katalogemikrofilmkort.html Knowing your county

is essential. When I wanted to print of a few but hit print I got the whole catalog for Nordland, 93 pages worth.