Starting Research in Norway

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Where Do I Start

Gather information about your ancestor:

  • Talk to relatives
  • Check Family Bibles
  • Search US Census Records
  • Search all records you can find about your ancestor in the town where he/she resided in the US

Organize and Analyze the information you found.

Then look for information such as:

  • Did he/she come to the US as and adult
  • Did he/she travel alone
  • Did he/she come as a child
  • When did he/she arrive in the US
  • Where did he/she came from in Norway

If you have the name of a place in Norway, but don't know if it is a parish (record keeping jurisdiction), see the Norwegian Gazetteer Norsk stedsfortegnelse 1901 or Norsk stedsfortegnelse 1972.  Instructions for using these gazetteers are found in How to Use the Norwegian gazetteer.

 If you do not know the place of birth, see Norway Emigration and Immigration / How to Find the Ancestor's Town of Origin.

When looking for your ancestor's christening or baptism record, remember:

 For help in finding the year and place, see Tip 1.

Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor.

Look for a child with the right given name and birth date in the records of the town you identified in step 1. Then see if his or her father's given name matches the child's patronymic name. For example, Ole Andersen's fathers' first name is "Anders" or "Andreas." If more than one entry within a few years fits your information, you may have to check further to make sure you have the correct entry. Remember, in Norway, the surname of the child reflects the first name of the natural father, so look for that first name if the record is so arranged.

Norwegian christening records are in chronological order by the christening date, even if the birth date is listed. A child could be christened the same day as, or up to two years after, the actual birth date.

Identify all possibilities that fit your information. If your ancestor was Lars Pedersen, born in1852 according to his age later in life, find all the Lars Pedersens, born 1850 to1855 in the town your ancestor was from.

Check this town's death records beginning with the birth date of the first possible ancestor to see if any of the possible ancestors died young. If any are found in the death records, you can eliminate those possibilities.

If you have narrowed the possibilities down to one, then you must follow that person through subsequent life events such as confirmation, moves, and marriage, to make sure they turn into "your" ancestor.

For more help in finding the record entry, see Tip 2.

For help in reading the record entry, see Tip 3.

For help in verifying that you have the correct record entry, see Tip 5.

Step 3. Find the entries for each brother and sister of your ancestor.

Once you have the entry for your ancestor, find the entries for your ancestor's brothers and sisters:

Search the christening records for entries of your ancestor's brothers and sisters. Search local death records or the christening records from surrounding parishes, especially if there are gaps of 3 or more years between the christening of siblings. Gaps of 3 or more years may indicate there was another child. To make sure you have found entries of all the family members, search death and christening records of surrounding parishes for any additional children. Search for children born before the parents' marriage. Often the father's name is given.

For help in finding the entries for the ancestor's brothers and sisters, see Tip 4.

Step 4. Copy the information, and document your sources.

If you can, photocopy the record. If you can't, be sure to copy all the information in the entry, including:

All the people listed and all information given about them. (Remember, witnesses are often relatives.) All the dates in the entry and the events they pertain to. (Sometimes birth, marriage, and death information pertaining to the child or parents may be included. The minister may have used symbols such as * for birth, oo for marriage, and + for death.) Be sure to look for additional dates in the entry's margin. All the localities in the entry and who was from the places listed.

On the copy, document the source of the information. List:

The type of source (paper certificate, microform, book, Internet site, etc.). All reference numbers for the source. Carefully record any microfilm, book, or certificate numbers or the name and Internet address of the site you used.

Step 5. Analyze the information you obtain from the christening record.

To effectively use the information obtained from the christening record, ask yourself the following questions:

Is this the christening entry of my direct line ancestor? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.

Did the minister identify both parents, and is the mother's maiden name given? Were additional event dates, such as marriage, death, and introduction of the mother, etc., given in the entry's margin? (The minister may have used symbols such as * for birth, oo for marriage, and + for death.) Did more than 2 to 3 years pass since the christening of the last child? If so, another child may have been born and christened in a neighboring parish or born and died before being christened. Did you search 5 years without finding any earlier christening entries of children? If you find no other entries, begin looking for the parents' marriage record.

For help in verifying that you have the correct record entry, see Tip 5.

Tips 1 through 5.


Tip 1. How do I find the year my ancestor was christened?

Any record listing an age in connection with the ancestor could be used to calculate a birth or christening year. These could include U.S. records such as death records, passenger lists, censuses, marriage license applications, and so forth. Norwegian records, such as confirmations, marriages, deaths, moving lists, and censuses, would also contain an age.

Try to find the family in a census. Census records list everyone living in a household at a given time and may include parents, grandparents, and children. They also give ages for each person, from which you can calculate an approximate birth year. The 1865 census of Norway and all subsequent censuses also list the birth place for each person.

To find Norwegian census records in the Family History Library Catalog, search under the name of the parish where the family was living, and look under the subject heading "Census."


For more information on determining places of origin, see Norway Emigration and Immigration / How to Find the Ancestor's Town of Origin.

Tip 2. How do I find the entry for my ancestor?

Look for the child's first name and the father's first name. Remember the record keeper spelled the name the way he thought it should be spelled. Karl with K, and Carl with C, is still Carl. The person's name may have been spelled one way in the christening, another way in the confirmation, another way in the marriage, and yet another way in the death record.  Many names are interchangable; Jon, Johan, Johannes; Ole, Ola, Olav, Oluf, Olaves, etc. Olaug, Oloug; Knut, knud, Kanut, Canute, etc

Find birth entries for all of the other children of the parents identified as possibilities. Look for subsequent death or marriage records for these other children.

Compare the names of the parents and siblings of each of the remaining possibilities with the names of your ancestor's children. Often the ancestor will name his or her children the same as his or her parents or siblings. This may help you determine which of the possibilities found is your ancestor.

Look at your ancestor's marriage record to see who the witnesses were, and look at his or her children's birth records to see who the godparents and witnesses were. Often siblings, parents, and in-laws will be listed. If you can determine that some of the witnesses to his or her marriage or children's christenings are the same people as the siblings in one of the possible ancestral families, this can prove you have found the right ancestor. You can eliminate the other leads and continue researching the correct family.

If you are searching records which do not have a preprinted, "fill in the blank" format, look for the pattern used by the record keeper.

The child's name may be more clearly written than other information in the entry, or it may be underlined, enlarged, or written to one side of the page. The father's name may be listed first, underlined, enlarged, indented, or outdented.

Eliminate entries that contradict what you know about your ancestor. Check death records to see if any of the children died before your ancestor did. Check marriage records to see if any of the children married someone other than your ancestor's spouse (but remember that your ancestor may have married more than once).
Try to make sure the christening entry is of your direct line ancestor. Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct entry.

For help with name variations, see Norway Names Personal.


Tip 3. What if I can't read the record?

Norwegian church records are usually written in the Norwegian language and include some Latin terms and phrases. The language used in the record may also be affected by:

The language of bordering countries.  Bergen had a big group of German merchants living in the city.  Some of the parish registers are written in German.  The parishioners of Maria kirken were heavily German.

Also, prior to the 1900s, records were written in a form of Gothic script.

For publications that can help you read the languages and Gothic script, see Norway Word List, Latin Genealogical Word List, and Germany Handwriting.


Tip 4. How do I find the record for each brother and sister?

Remember, within the family, one or more children may have the same given name(s).

When more than one set of parents has the same given names and surnames (for example, two couples with the names Lars Jensen and Maria Pedersdatter), use the following identifiers and records to separate the families:

The place of residence of the family.
The father's occupation.
The witnesses or godparents.
Other sources like census and probate records that list family members as a group.

Tip 5. How do I verify the christening of my direct-line ancestor?

Because of the patronymic naming system, more than one family in a parish could have the same family name. Because the same children's given names are used in every family, several children with the same given and family names could have been christened within a few years of each other. To identify the correct direct-line ancestor and his or her parents:

Check 5 years on each side of the supposed christening year, and copy the entry of every child with the same given name(s) and patronymic surname as the ancestor.
If one or more entries exist, check church burial records to eliminate those entries of children that died before your ancestor.
If burial records do not exist or you are not able to eliminate all of the possible entries, check marriage records to eliminate those who married someone other than your ancestor's spouse.
If you still cannot eliminate 2 or more possibilities, find the families in the nearest available census, then the next. Also, find the possible ancestors in confirmation records, and see if the listed vaccination dates help eliminate one of the possibilities.
If you eliminate all the possibilities, check the surrounding parishes and repeat the above process until you find the christening entry for your ancestor.

Norway Church Records Confirmation


Although a person's first communion was important, berfore 1736 little formal religious instruction was given regarding it.  However, in that year the Lutheran state church requiered that young people be instructed in catechism and pass a test before taking the first communion.  This test and the first communion was called confirmation.  No one was permitted to marry in the Lutheran church unless he or she was confirmed.

Confirmation usually took place when a young person was between the ages of 14 to 20 years old.  The canditate was usually nearer 19 years of age in the period close to 1736 and 14 to 16 years of age later.  In pre-1815 confirmation records the age and place of residence were often recorded.  After 1814 the name of the head of household where the youth lived, the age, birth and/or baptism date, and the place of residence and birth were listed.  Since the 1830s the parents' names were also listed.

Norway Church Records Marriages (Viede, Copulerede)

Marriage registers give the bride's and groom's names, marriage date, and sometines their place(s) of residence.  Usually the record also indicates whether the bride and groom were single or widowed before marriage and gives the names of bondsmen (two men who knew that the bride and groom were eligible to be married; in later records these were often the fathers of the bride and groom).  Sometimes a separate record of a couple's engagement (trolovelse) appears in the earlier records.

Records after 1814 often include other information about the bride and groom, such as their ages, place of residence, and occupations.  After the 1830s the records also include the names of their fathers and birthplaces.

Marriage registers sometimes give tthe date of the engagement and the three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced.  These announcements, called banns or Lysning, allowed anyone who knew of any reason why the couple should not marry to come forward. 

Couples were usuallly married in the bride's home parish.  Typically, the bride and groom were in their twenties when they married.

Norway Church Records burials (Begravede)

Burials were recorded in the parish where the person lwas buried.  The burial usually took place in the parish were the person died, one to two weeks after the death occurred.  In the wintertime the actual time between death and burial could have been weeks of even months.

Burial registers list the name of the deceased and the date and place of burial.  After 1814 the deceased person's age, place of residence, and occupation were listed.  For young children the name of the child's father is usually given.

Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before birth records and marriage records were kept.  Stillbirths were usually recorded in church burial registers.

Norway Church Records Marriage 1814 - Present


What You Are Looking For

Step 1. Find the year of your ancestor's marriage record.
Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor.
Step 3. Copy the information, and document your sources.
Step 4. Analyze the information you obtain from the marriage record.

Beginning about 1500, but usually much later, churches required their clergy to keep marriage records (or marriage banns). Before 1814, the records should at least contain the marriage date, the name of the bride and groom, and generally the residence. The names of witnesses are sometimes given.  

For more information on church marriage records, see Background.


Norway, Church Record Marriage 1500-1813
The earliest Norwegian church records date from 1624, though information about individual ministers may date to the 1500s. Most marriage records began in the late 1600s after King Christian's law of 1686, which made the registration of marriage mandatory for all of Norway.


What You Are looking For

The following information may be found in a marriage entry:

  • The names of your ancestors.
  • The date of your ancestors' marriage.
  • The names of the witnesses, who could be the respective fathers.
  • Where the bride and groom were residing when married.
  • The date of the marriage proclamations or banns.
  • The occupation or civil status of your ancestors, such as farmer, farm hand,
  • never married, widow or widower, bachelor.


These 4 steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in Norwegian church records.

Step 1. Find the year of your ancestor's marriage record.

Before you can search for your Norwegian ancestors' marriage record, you need to know the approximate year they were married and where they were married.

If you have the name of a place in Norway but don't know if it is a parish (record keeping jurisdiction), see the Norwegian Gazetteer Norsk stedsfortegnelse1901 or Norsk stedsfortegnelse1972. Instructions for using this gazetteer are found in How to Use the Norwegian gazetteer.