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Project Norway FAQ

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Categories: Norway Project.

This page is used to address common questions that come up in the Norway project. Part of the Norway Project


Project Norway - FAQ


The convention for using Norwegian names, pre the adoption of surnames in Norway in 1921, can be a complex topic for non-Norwegian genealogists. The convention also varied across the class structure with nobility later adopting the Patronymic (sometimes the mother's name) as a surname. At times, particularly when migrating to countries with hereditary surnames (like United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) an individual chose a surname either based on their departure location (a farm name) or a parent, generally a father.

Also note that records were generally not written by the individual concerned. They were often written by civil servants, mostly clergy, who were either Danish or who had their education in Denmark – and wrote Danish. Thus there are variations in names of a person depending on the record concerned.

The Wikitree convention is to use the name that the person was known by. These can often be found in the family records and family books. A good source for records is at the Digital Archives Norway.

If you are unsure where to look or how to use name field on wikitree a general rule of thumb for genealogists, across most genealogy platforms, Wikitree, Ancestry, Geni and others, is to adopt a three-part naming system:

  • First name: all given names
  • Patronymic: Olsdatter, Sveinsson, Nilsen etc, showing the given name of their father
  • Farm name: the name of the farm where they were born or lived – this would change when people moved, but is the name that can best be used to find a person’s origin

If you are unsure of which convention to use the commonly adopted convention on wikitree was addressed here: (answer by Kitty Brewster) and here: More detail is available here:

If you are in doubt then please use:

  • First Name into Proper First Name field
  • Patronymic into Middle Name
  • Farm Name into LNAB; if a later farm then please use Current last Name field for later farm name.

What's a patronymic?

In many cultures, a child's surname is based on his or her father's first name. That was the case in Norway. If the father was Ole Nelsen, his son's name might be Lars Olsen (Ole' son). His daughter might be Olava Olsdatter (Ole's daughter). Yes, the son and daughter had slightly different last names. These last names were sometimes abbreviated. The "datter" suffix could be shortened to "dtr" or "dr". This naming practice died out in more modern times (close to the 1900s). At that point, the last name became frozen for subsequent generations.

What do you mean by Farm Name?

The "farm name" is a location, often a farm or small community, sometimes a village. This location statement was often used by migrants arriving in the United States, in particular, to identify themselves and differentiate one Olafson from another. It became common practise, particularly in the United States, to adopt this as a "surname".

Do you have some tips about narrowing down searches on the Norwegian Digital Archive site? The results I get seem so random when I use the text search. I'll put in a name, a location and a date, and seemingly get every other name, date, and place. There must be a better way to enter my information.

Where Do I start?

The below may help in determining what date is being referenced in parish records, since many don't provide the actual date, but the name of a religious event, such as "søndag etter Hellig Tre Kongers Dag". The calendar below may help you find the actual date of the event.

Locality Information

This topic is addressed on: the category page which has localities defined. The project is also working to further define the Parishes used by genealogists and this work, not yet complete, is here: Categorizing Norwegian Parishes.

Research Links

The Norwegian Digital Archives were recently updated. Here is a link to the English version of the Digital Archives:

Norwegian Words

Some of the words one may find on a Norwegian census or other record:

Norwegian Word Abbreviation English Word
år year
alder age
bo; bodde live; lived
bror brothers
barn child
dø; død die; death
enke; enkemann e. widow; widower
far father
født(e); Fødeår birth; birth year
gard; gaard farm
gift g. married
gutt; gutter boy; boys
hjem home
husmann tenant farmer
kone; hans kone wife; his wife
mor mother
navn name
ugift u. unmarried
ungkarl bachelor

Here is a link to a Norwegian to English translation page, by Smartlink Corporation. The site can be used for non-commercial, personal use. Translations are limited to 1000 characters. Be aware that translations are not always perfect.

Æ Ø Å æ ø å

You can cut and paste the characters above, or, when using an English keyboard on a Windows computer, an alternative method is to use the numbers keypad, and type the code by holding down Alt key + the number below for the desired symbol:

Alt + 4-digit code symbol
Alt + 0198 Æ
Alt + 0230 æ
Alt + 0197 Å
Alt + 0229 å
Alt + 0216 Ø
Alt + 0229 å
Alt + 0248ø

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