• The Basics of Norwegian Genealogy

    When tracing your Norwegian ancestors, you will learn that climbing your Norwegian Family Tree is a unique experience in genealogy research. From naming practices to language barriers and cultural differences, Norwegian genealogy is distinct in its resources and research techniques. In this article, Genealogy Beginner will pave your path with the basics of Norwegian genealogy research so you can start adding the names of your “Viking” forbearers to your family template.

    Ancestors From Norway: Getting Started

    One of the first things you will need to understand about researching your ancestors from Norway is that the rules of following a single surname from generation to generation do not apply. Norwegian immigrants often took the name of the farm where they lived. This in itself can be a hint in your research. For example, in the case of two brothers, Johann Tollevson and Simon Tollevson who immigrated in the 1600’s one brother took the name Rugsveen and the other adopted the surname Undseth for the farms they were living on when they immigrated.

    However once your research leaves the shores of North America your one name study ends.  Prior to the 1900’s your Norwegian ancestors used a patronymic naming system where the child was given the first name of their father as a surname. In these cases, you will find, as in the case of the two brothers named above – Johann and Simon – that their fathers name was Tollev.

    To get started digging for your Norwegian roots you will need your ancestors “Norwegian” name and date of birth along with the farm name where your ancestor lived. Although this may seem a little odd at first you will soon find that these peculiarities of Norwegian genealogy may be very helpful when searching out your ancestors from Norway.


    Norwegians were wonderful keepers of records and family bibles are very common

    Norwegian dates are always written as…Day/Month/Year


    Tools for Norwegian Genealogy

    Once you have sorted out the names and dates of birth it is time to start gathering your research tools. Here is a short list to get you going.

    –          Family Tree Template

    –          Norwegian English Dictionary

    –          Word list for special terminology


    Norway’s Genealogy Resources

    Norway Church Registers

    There are church registers for every parish in Norway with the oldest dating back to the mid 1600’s for some parishes. Records were recorded as both religious and and civil events for example a birth would be a civil event while a baptism is a religious event. Among the records of births, marriages and deaths you will often find entries of announcements made to the parish.

    Norway Census

    The earliest census in Norway took place in the 1600’s, these early census were called “Prestenes manntall” and recorded information for men, boys and sometimes widows. Sadly, Norway’s census records are incomplete and contain several errors, often with large parts of families missing. Beginning genealogists should know that Norwegian census is not considered a reliable source of information.


    Possibly the best resource for tracing your Norwegian ancestors is the Bydebok, a book of land records that contains a great deal of historic information. It often records a history of the families who owned the land… often into the 1300’s. Bygdebok are divided by communities listing the farms within one or two parishes and are a must have for anyone studying their Norwegian family history.

    Other records available to genealogists are Probate, Mortgage and Tax Registers although like the census, the records are often incomplete.

    The good news for anyone doing research on his or her ancestors from Norway is that there is a lot of information available on the internet. Join us on the Genealogy in General forum for a list of important links to get you started on your Norwegian genealogy.

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