Norway Pension Contracts
Føderåd - Pension paid to a peasant by his heirs after the cession of his estate.
Føderåd is one of the oldest social institutions in the old peasant society. This arrangement can be followed back to early times as far as written records are found and even earlier. In a pension contract there is written what the person who previously owned the land needed for support when his land is taken over by another.
From about 1750 the family, Bjørnsgård, lived at the farm, Skinstakrud, in Fåberg. Father followed son as the sexton in the community for four genearations. In 1805 the farm was transferred from Christen and Berthe to their son, Erik, and there is a comprehensive pension contract which they were in agreement with.
The parents should, as pensionists, have several rooms at their disposition both in the main building and in the out buildings. This is described in detail along with how much grain should be for their use and how it should be handled. The pensioners should in accordance to the contract also have a cow for their use, receive slaughtered pig and beef in addition to salted fish or other fish, salt, hemp, and access to a horse for traveling. As the interested orchard cultivator he was, Christen kept for himself the whole fruit orchard below and south of the house together with half of the vegetable garden above. The contract also demanded heating, nursing with illness and a proper burial of the pensioners.
It tells that the son, Erik, in spite of his talents had problems with drinking and rowdiness, and he after a time was suspended from the job of sexton. This probably had something to do with his parents having a solid pension contract even though it sequestered a considerable portion of the farm’s resources.
An ancient right
Many will say that the conditions, which the owner bargains for when he turns over the property to his heirs is a kind of old-age pension. But both the young and the old can take a pension. The point is that the føderåd in Norway is a solution tied to the transfer of the property rights to a farm. Therefore the idea of føderåd is closely related to allodial and estate institutions. A short definition of føderåd is support as compensation for the rights to the property.
This arrangement was found over the entire country even though it was called different things from one part of the country to the other. The name føderåd is a judicial and literary term, but was used in every day speech in eastern Norway. Another name used throughout the country was kår, while livøre was the common term in Valdres and that area. The older word, follog, was used in Agder and Telemark, while in the western part it was called folge.
The Føderåd Contract: A source for so much
What historical process can be described by this contract? So many historical sources are waiting to be used in studies with different angles. The føderåd contract is example wise often the only source which can give a total picture of boarding in a district in the 1800’s. If you look at the contract in regards to the tax burden, it will also paint a social pattern. This applies to the farmer class, for it is seldom that a contract is found for the cottagers.
The format for the pension contract is much the same in all cases. The names of the parts, the relationship, farm, date, and conditions usually follow the same pattern. In certain districts the contracts are similar with defined quality designations and language. This makes this source easily accessible, and the information in within the single areas can easily be compared. The standardization and functions of the pension contracts show that this was not coincidental and fragmented source material, but that it gives a picture of a continual historical process both in time and space.
The pension contracts were often recorded in the court records. They are mutual consent documents inserted in their entirety and registered in the land records index (panteregister) on the page for each farm.
Stang, Cæcilie, ”Vi Gamle forbeholder os for vores Levetiid”. Arkivmagasintet 1/08, (a publication of Arkivverket).