A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. Gazetteers describe towns and villages, parishes, counties, rivers, mountains, sizes of population, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that exist at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary. The standard spelling used in the gazetteer may differ from the variation used in records of your ancestor.
Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as schools, colleges, universities, major manufacturing works, canals, docks, and railroad stations.
You can use a gazetteer to locate the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. For example, the place-name Maugerud, Flesberg, Buskerud, Norway reads this way: Maugerud is a farm, in the parish of Flesberg, which is a parish in the county of Buskerud, in the country of Norway.
Many places in Norway have the same or similar names. You will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific parish where your ancestor lived, the county of the parish, and the jurisdictions where records about your ancestor were kept. Gazetteers are also helpful for determining county jurisdictions as used in the Family History Library Catalog.
The 1901 Norsk Stedfortegnelse (postal guide) will help you verify Norwegian places. The postal guide may list the parish, clerical district, and county in which your ancestor's farm, village, or town lies. Norway's official vital records were kept by the state church, so you need to know which parish your ancestor lived in. (Governmental vital records did not begin until the early 1900s.) Also, to find records in the Family History Library Catalog, you will need the names of the parish and the county. However, this postal guide is not available online and must used in a printed format.
If the farm, village, or town where your ancestor lived was established after 1901, it will not be listed in the 1901 postal guide.
Finding Place-Names in the Family History Library Catalog
Place-names in the Family History Library Catalog are listed under their modern names and in their current counties. When using the microfiche version of the catalog, you can find the county that a parish or city is listed under in the catalog by using the "see reference" on the first microfiche for Norway. When using the compact disc version of the catalog, the Locality browse can be used to identify the county a particular parish belongs to.
The following postal guides of 1901 and 1972 are the best sources for identifying the parish and county a particular farm of village belongs to:
- Klaus Helsing of Ragnar Lundh. Norsk Stedfortegnelse, Norway: Postadressebog for Norge (Norwegian Place-Name Index: Postal Guide for Norway). Kristiania, Norway: Poststyrelsen, 1901. (FHL book 948.1 E8ns 1901; film 123,205; fiche 6030038-49) Norsk Stedsfortegnelse.
- Norge. Postdirektoratet, 1972 (Norway. Postal Directory, 1972). Oslo, Norway: Nasjonaltrykkeriet, 1972. (FHL book 948.1 E8ns 1972, fiche 6054629)
- Norge. Postdirektoratet, 1972 (Norway. Postal Directory, 1972) see Internet link:
- 1972 Postal Guide for Norway
The Amt (county) system was introduced to Norway and Denmark in 1661. The union of Denmark and Norway lasted until 1814. On 14 August 1818 the word county in Norway became fylke. A list of the old county names with reference to the new county name is found in List of Parishes, Clerical Districts, and Regions with Maps for Each County in Norway. (See the "Maps" section.)