Norway Farm Books or Bygdebøker

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"Norway">Norway</a> Farm Books (often referred to as: Norwegian Farm Books)


In addition to wonderful parish registers Norway has a very special source called “Bygdebøker”, or farm books. They are books filled with detailed local history and tremendous genealogical information. Authors have used numerous sources: parish registers, census, probate, tax records, land and court records, and interviews with local residents in preparing the histories. Some of the information given predates the parish registers. These books can be a real treasure for family historians, and others looking for their ancestors. A great portion of the Norwegian population does not live in big cities. They live in small towns and villages called “bygd”. The “bygdebøker” give us information about the people living on the farms in these communities, and a history of the communities.


The writing of “bygdebøker” started for “reals” at the beginning of 1900 by well respected historians like Oscar Albert Johnsson, Yngvar Nielsen and Edvard Bull d.e., and very skilled “amateurs” like Lorens Berg, Ivar Kleiven, and Jacob Aaland
As a result of a 1906 initiative by “Den norske historiske forening” (The Norwegian Historical Association) a grand plan for a farm book project was created, which laid the groundwork and pattern for a systematic work for promoting both farm and family history, city and municipality, region and parish histories. During the following years, curriculums were created and classes taught throughout the country.
The projects are funded (40 million Kr. per year) by the local “kommuner” or municipalities, and private donors.
The periodical “Heimen”, was published by “Landslaget for bygde-og byhistorie”, with a purpose to encourage and support the work towards good farm books. In 1982 the name was changed to “Landslaget for lokalhistorie”.
In 1955 the Parliament (Stortinget) established the “Norsk lokalhistorisk institutt (NLI)”, a state run organization who, on a permanent basis, could encourage and guide the professional undertaking of writing the history of the community, city, and region.

What can be found

In order to use the farm books you need to have the name of a parish and farm. The farm books are organized by farms!
(If you have ancestors with “non-patronymic” last names (first name of father and adding –sen, or -datter) they could be farm names. Many Norwegians emigrating from Norway assumed their farm name as their last name. That could be very helpful in locating an ancestor’s place of residence in Norway).
Each municipality /parish can have farm books covering many volumes. As a general rule the first volumes cover the earliest history of the area; prehistoric time to present. The next volumes can cover social history, schools and education, emigration, church and ecclesiastical history, agriculture and farm history. There is usually something written about the various plagues, illnesses, crop failures, and other difficult circumstances our ancestors had to overcome in order to survive.
The later volumes then cover the farms and people living on the farms and in the communities. In these volumes you will find the families living on the farms through the years. There will be information on person’s names, births, marriages, and deaths. There could be references to where they have come from if they were not born locally.
The farm books give us, in addition to names, dates, places, a peek into their traditions, superstitions, faith, and everyday lives. You might find information on relationships between neighbors; there were often legal disputes with regards to property boundaries, inheritance problems and drinking brawls.
There might be an article about the emigration from the parish, often with a list of parishioners leaving for North-America, and information about where they settled. Some books also include excerpt from letters written home to family from overseas and pictures of the emigrants and their new homesteads.

There is an extraction program underway to extract the information from these farm books.

Throughout Scandinavia, including Norway, the "patronymic" naming system was used; meaning the last names would be made by taking the father's first name and adding -sen or -datter (Olsen or Olsdatter).

Today most Norwegians use "family names" or set names. That would mean a patronymic name or a farm name being used as a surname. If a Norwegian surname does not end in "sen" it could be a farm name, and that could be a clue to help you locate their place of residence.

Finding the parish where the farm was located will tell you where the family records can be found.

A guide to the <a href="">Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection</a> in the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota, is available. The Collection does not circulate, but one can <a href="">contact</a> the Department of Special Collections for assistance to obtain information from the bygdebøker.