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Norway Taxation

Tax lists available at the Norway Digitalarkivet web site.


Tax Divisions and Deeds

Tax division and survey documents are among the most asked for sources in the State Archives. The reason is that these documents contain important information about the property of many Norwegians. This is information which quite often has judicial validity also today. Deeds or warrants which give proof of lawful acquisition of property are not asked for as often as tax divisions. These documents also contain interesting historical information about who owned the property back through the years.

Originally skyld (tax) was a term used for the value of rental on real estate. It was the foundation for payment of property tax and rent. From the 1600 tax functioned as the foundation for valuation of taxes. In principle the tax was about 1/6 of the yearly production of the farm. The tax value of the property is something else when it comes to the value of the property for resale. The tax does not automatically correspond to the price or the size of the property.

In Norway there were two big matrikkel revisions in the 1800’s. The first ended in 1836. We can best see the result in the printed matrikkel of 1838. At that time the older types of skyld, like corn, butter, skins, fish, etc. were reworked to one system in the new currency. This was alike for the whole country. The new values were called skylddaler, skyldort, and skyldschilling.

In the 1860’s a new revision of the matrikkel system was begun. This resulted in the matrikkel of 1886. From that time skylda was counted in skyldmark and skyldøre. This system lasted until the end of the 1900’s.

New farms were taxed

In the 1600 and 1700’s the tax for the property was usually determined in accordance with the creation of the matrikkel. But, after a time, it was usual to determine the value with records and documents which, among other things, contained the value of the skylda. Take for example the following: Ole Pedersen cleared a farm in 1770. It comprised a main house and several other out buildings, fields and pasture. If the farm was cleared in commonly owned ground, it meant an increase in the matrikkel, that is an increased source of income in the form of taxes for the state. After six years a new tax valuation was done. It was the responsibility of the magistrate (sorenskriver) and six surveyors (skjønnsmenn) to work out the tax valuation. In doing this the boundaries would be described.

Criteria for this valuation is described in Kristian V’s law of 1687 and in an ordinance from 1746. The last ordinance required that the tax valuation documents be send to the Rentekammeret. Such documents are found in the Lensmann Archive and in the Amtmanns Archive at the State Archives and in Fogderegnskapene at the National Archives. However, some tax valuation records were also written in the court records and extra court protocols. This was the usual practice in the first half of the 1800’s. These records are found in the State Archives.

Dividing of farms and taxes

Now to continue with our example: We can say that in 1800 the youngest son, Hans Olsen, built a house and a barn a stone’s cast from the original buildings but within the farm. Big brother, Peder Olsen, lived at the original place. The piece of land that Hans lives on was not interesting to the tax officials because it was a part of Peder’s property and did not include any other common ground.

On the other hand, we can imagine that in 1825 Peder and Hans decided on a formal division of the property into two matriculated parcels so that each of the brothers got the buildings and fields as part of their own property. To do this they needed the help of the officials to create a document. It would require a division of the taxes. The sorenskriver and surveyors came and made the boundary between the two parcels, divided the tax valuations, and created a tax division document. So it was not just the ground that was divided, it was also the tax.

We can see that these tax division records are documents where a description of the property is given and tells when and how a piece of real estate was subdivided from an older property. The document does not necessarily tell when the property was cleared, put to use, or built on.

In our example the brothers waited 25 years to have the new parcel established. Once in a while one waited much longer than 25 years and once in a while much shorter. In some cases a tax division record was never made at all. Also, several parcels could be created in the same tax valuation record.

Boundary Descriptions and Property Rights

One type of information in the tax division documents is a boundary description. It tells where the boundary between the two properties should be. The description may be short and less accurate than is needed for people today. If part of the new boundary was the same as for the original boundary, the old boundary line was not usually described. At that time the boundary was known.

Another type of information was how much of a tax value each of the two parcel should have. If the original property had a value of 2 hides, each of the subdivided parcel had a value of 1 hide provided they were of equal size.

The third type of information from tax valuations documents was the description and determination of property rights. It can, for example, say that the one parcel has the right-of-way through the other. Other types of rights might be highlands, pasture, summer pasture, fishing, hunting, boat dock, boat house, mill, or other. Once in a while in the last half of the 1800’s and into the 1900’sa tax valuation document also included a map.

Matrikkel Numbers

The matrikkel of 1838 used a new number for the whole farm and a progressive numbers for each parcel. The matrikkel of 1886 introduced farm numbers and parcel numbers. The oldest parcel on a farm usually received number 1, the next number 2, and so forth. In the case that a parcel was several hundred years old, we say that it is an old main parcel (“hovedbruk”). As a rule no official tax baluation document existed. It is seldom we find such documents before 1815. Occasionally such documents are found for the 1815-1845 time period. Properties which were established after 1845 have, as a rule, a court tax division document.

In earlier times, as in the 1600’s, one didn’t need to divide a property into separate parcels, even when one wanted to sell a tax part. Because of this very few dividing documents are found before the 1700’s. With the ordinance of Dec 18, 1876, it was required that there should be official boundary descriptions and tax valuations in connection with the sale of property.


1. Tronstad, Roger, ”Skylddelinger of Skjøter”. Arkivmagasinet 1/08; (A publication of Arkivverket).

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