42.2 million indexed Norway church records released by MyHeritage

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14 October 2020
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MyHeritage has announced the release of more than 42.2 million historic church records for Norway, covering 1815 to 1938.

The records in this collection were digitized in collaboration with the National Archives of Norway (Arkivverket), and consist of 42.2 million indexed records and high quality scans of the original documents. The records include births & baptisms, marriages, and deaths & burials. This release is the first time the collection’s images are fully indexed and searchable - making it easier than ever to research your Norwegian ancestors.

The addition doubles the number of Norwegian historical records on MyHeritage and brings the total number of historical records on MyHeritage to 12.6 billion.

The years covered by the collection were significant in Norway’s history. In 1814, Norway seceded from Denmark, and with it, a new national identity began to emerge. 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has been the state church in Norway since 1536, and its pastors acted on behalf of the government to collect and preserve vital records. This important collection helps overcome the significant gaps in Norwegian censuses taken from 1801 to 1865. Though five censuses were collected in Norway during those years, they did not record names of individuals, making these church records the definitive source for genealogical data during this period.

Birth and Baptism (Fødte / Døpte) Records

By decree issued in June of 1814, children were to be baptized or have a confirmation of baptism at the parish church before the child was nine months old. However, it was customary for children to be baptized or “christened” within a few days or weeks of birth. 

The records contain the birthdate and the baptism date, both parents’ names, marital status, place of residence, the child’s legitimate or illegitimate status, and the names of godparents and witnesses.

Due to Norwegian privacy laws, the birth & baptism records released in this collection extend until the year 1919 (inclusive).

Patronymic surnames were widely used in Norway until 1923. For example, children of a man with a first name of Erich would have the patronymic surname Erichsdatter (for his daughter) or Erichsen (for his son). In 1923, the Norwegian Names Act was passed which required each family to use a single, hereditary last name.

In the Norway Church birth and baptism records, a child was often recorded with only his or her given name(s) without an expressly recorded surname, as it was assumed the child would take either a patronymic surname from their father or take a hereditary surname. 

To overcome the challenge of the missing surname, MyHeritage inferred two possible surname variations for each individual, so users can search for either the patronymic or hereditary surname to find the correct record. For example, if an infant was listed in the birth register as the son of Erich Berg, but without a surname, MyHeritage indexed the patronymic Erichsen and the surname Berg so this person can be found by searching either of them as the surname. For a daughter, the patronymic Erichsdatter would be indexed along with the surname, Berg. This is the way records were indexed by MyHeritage to make them discoverable, but the actual records were not modified, and the surnames were not inserted into them, to preserve their authenticity.

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Marriage (Viede, Copulerede, Ægteviede) Records

Traditionally, marriages occurred in the bride’s home parish if the bride and groom were from different communities. Marriage records include the bride’s and groom’s names, birthplaces, marriage date, ages, and often their places of residence and occupation. Records also indicate whether the bride or groom were single or widowed before the marriage. After the 1830s the records frequently include the names of both the bride’s and groom’s fathers.

Due to Norwegian privacy laws, marriage records extend until 1937 (inclusive).

Death and Burial (Døde / Begravede) Records

Burials traditionally took place in the parish where the person died, and burial records were recorded in the parish where the person was buried. Burials usually took place about a week after the death. In winter, the burial could have been delayed for several weeks or even months as graves were difficult to excavate and cold temperatures allowed for sanitary and temporary holding of a deceased person’s remains above ground.

Burial records include the burial date, the name of the deceased person, their age, place of residence, and cause of death. Records of stillbirths (dødfødte) were recorded with the death and burial records and a section in the death registers were allocated for these, although this practice was not perfect, and one can find stillbirths recorded in the births and baptisms.

 Due to Norwegian privacy laws, the death & burial records extend until 1938 (inclusive).

Witnesses and other persons named in the records

Since godparents and witnesses are not included in the index it is important to examine the associated image and to consider the other persons listed in records of interest for possible identification as family members or other relatives.

Records of Nonconformists and Dissenters

The 1845 Nonconformist Act recognized Christian dissenter denominations but required those from dissenting denominations to notify the pastor of their local Lutheran parish of births and marriages for registration and inclusion in the Lutheran Church Records. However, relatively few people in Norway belonged to these nonconformist religions.

Duplicate records

The record keeping reforms of the early 1800s established that duplicate copies of the church books be made. These copies were kept by the parish bell ringer (klokkeren) and the bell ringer and the pastor were to compare and cross-check their church books twice a year. The copies made by the bell ringer, the “bell books” (klokkerbøker), were not to be kept overnight in the same location as the pastor’s copy. This practice was to help eliminate errors in the records and preserve a copy in case the other copy was destroyed by fire or otherwise lost. The images in this collection include some duplicate records that appear to have been archived together from these practices of making a second copy.

Summary

The Norway Church Records 1815–1938 collection is an indispensable resource for anyone who is looking to learn more about their Norwegian roots during this time period.

With the release of this collection, MyHeritage now offers 80 million historical records from Norway, 57 million historical records from neighboring Sweden, and 107 million records from Denmark, positioning MyHeritage as the leader in Scandinavian family history research.

Searching the Norway Church Records on MyHeritage is completely free. 

If you have a family tree on MyHeritage, their Record Matching technology will notify you automatically if records from these collections match your relatives. To view these records or to save records to your family tree, you’ll need a data or complete subscription.

Enjoy the new Norwegian collection!