How to research your Norwegian roots in America
These items are derived from a man with successful experience
researching in the US.
1- Outlines of organized procedures for such research have been published in English in two very helpful pamphlets. One is "How to Trace Your Ancestors in Norway" by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, available free from the Embassy of Norway, 2720 34th St. NW, Washington, DC (202-333-6000). The other is "Research Outline - Norway", by the LDS Family History Library (see below), 35 North West Temple St., Salt Lake City, UT 84150, who ask an extremely modest fee for it.
2- One good source of Norwegian, and other, genealogical information in
the US is the (filmed) records of the Genealogical Society of Utah,
3- The Norwegian government maintains a national archive (Riksarkivet)
Oslo, and regional archives (Statsarkiver) in eight regions centered in
Oslo, Kongsberg, Hamar, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, and
Tromso. On inquiry, the archives are always willing to offer one some kind
of help. The more one can convince them that one has pursued the research
as far as possible one's self, the more likely they are to help one learn
more. The address of Riksarkivet is Folke Bernadottes vei, Postboks 10
Kringsjå, N-0807 Oslo 8, NORWAY. The addresses of the Statsarkiver can be
obtained from "Research Outline - Norway" (see above) or from the
4- One needs to know the names and locations of some places (usually
farms) where one's ancestors lived in Norway. If the names one is
5- Information and assistance can often be obtained by contacting
genealogical societies, and private persons, especially family members. It
6- The LDS records include effective locator files, which can be used to
determine the location in Norway of a named place when one is unsure of it.
8- In the LDS Norwegian church record micro-films, one may be able to find the birth, death, etc. information for named ancestors, and the census records may tell one the names of people living on named places at the particular times when censuses were taken, which varies over the years.
9- A particularly useful census for many researchers is that of 1801. In
addition to the LDS micro-films of it, it is available on the Internet web
10- Remember that the geographic organization of Norway is by two different systems, the church and the civic. Sometimes the two get confused, and the distinction can make a big difference in some cases, e.g., in determining the bygdebok (see below) coverage of particular places.
11- The church organization of Norway is as follows, from largest to
smallest: prosti (deanery), prestegjeld (main parish), sogn (sub-parish),
12- The civic organization of Norway is as follows, from largest to
smallest: amt (obsolete) or fylke (county) - comparable with US states,
13- There are dozens of generally and specifically helpful web sites on the Internet, maintained by researchers in both the US and Norway. They can often give one real time information and assistance that is important. To find the ones relevant to one's self, simply search on any relevant surname, using, e.g., the "Alta Vista", or some other, search engine.
14- Be aware that (even official) word and handwriting scripts usage have changed with time in Norway. If you are researching older times, older words and scripts (now outdated) may have been in use.
15- After official church records and other original documents, the next
level of accessibility and reliability for Norwegian genealogical sources
16- Copies of bygdeboks, or their pages, can be obtained in the US from several libraries. If a person is located near Boston, MA or Washington, DC, or any other library with bygdeboks, one can go directly to the Harvard University Library or the Library of Congress, or other library, and use bygdeboks from their collections. Bygdeboks, or page copies therefrom, may be accessed by mail from the following libraries.
Bygdeboks can be rented by mail from the
Madison Naeseth Library
Limited numbers of copies of pages of bygdeboks may be obtained by mail
from the Department of Special Collections of the Library at the University
of North Dakota, P. O. Box 9000, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9000 (701-777-4625).
In the Western US states, a considerable collection of bygdeboks is maintained in the Library of the Pacific Lutheran University at Takoma, WA 98447.
To determine whether a bygdebok exists for a particular kommune it is helpful to contact the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA), at 1510 St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, MN 55057-1097 (507-646-3221). A staff member will help you.
It is useful to keep in mind, in searching for bygdeboks, that many of them do not include the word "bygdebok" in their titles. Common alternative types of titles are such as "(Kommune-name of place) soga", "Kommune-Soga", or "Kommune-Boken."
17- Descendants in America of ancestors in Norway, from over 30 localities,
usually at the prosti level, have formed, in the US,
18- One's research will be greatly facilitated to whatever extent one can acquire at least some minimal ability to read those words in the Norwegian language which appear often in genealogical documents. These are words such as: born (fødte), baptized (døpte), married (gifte/viede), died (døde), buried (begravde), census (folketelling) etc. Learning the use of such words in the context of the different-from-English word order in Norwegian sentences, may be challenging at first, but conscientious application leads to success, and is tremendously rewarding in terms of research progress.
19- After one has pursued one's research as far as possible via the original documents copied in the LDS micro-film files, and the available bygdeboks, any further information is usually contained in esoteric ancient documents, at least several centuries old. These documents are usually written in the Old Norse language in Gothic script. Reading this material usually requires considerable training and experience. At this point, one may wish to consider paying a professional genealogist in Norway to help one with further pursuit.