Project Norway FAQ

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


Project Norway - FAQ

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(Note: This guidance has changed as of 7 May 2018. We invite you to discuss these changes in the G2G thread, Name guidance updated on 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 (e.g., Stephenson vs. Steffensen).

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

Norwegian names tend to use 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

There has been much discussion on the unique characteristics of Norwegian naming and how it should be entered in to WikiTree. This standard varies from some other genealogy platforms but for WikiTree, it has been determined that the best overall standard for entering Norwegian names is:

First Name at Birth

All given names should be placed in the First Name at Birth field, e.g. Christiana Marie. Norwegians rarely used middle names in the American sense.

Last Name at Birth (LNAB)

  • Use the patronymic as LNAB for most Norwegians born before the legal requirements for surnames. Don’t use the common abbreviations found in records (Steffensdtr.) but the full name (Steffensdatter)
  • If there are multiple records showing the use of an inherited surname at birth, this should be used as LNAB.
  • Many Norwegian profiles are created with an LNAB consisting of Patronymic + Farm name, like "Olsen Berg". This has the unfortunate effect that neither the Patronymic nor the Farm name will show up in searches or as possible matches, and is strongly discouraged.

Current/Married last Name

  • For most Norwegians before 1923 this would be the farm name where they spent the most time in their life or the last part of their life.
  • For women who adopted a husband's surname, enter it here.
  • For Norwegians who emigrated to countries where inherited surnames were used (USA, Canada, Australia etc.) enter the surname they adopted here.

Other Last Names

If they used more than one farm name in their lifetime, the farm names not used in Current Last Name would go here. There could be several.

Middle Name

  • This field would not be used for most Norwegians prior to the adoption of inherited surnames.
  • For modern Norwegians who now use a middle name it would be entered here.


Record the full names as given in important sources, with source references, at the start of the biography. This will help us when it comes to rationalizing and merging profiles.

A good discussion on Norwegian naming can be found on the Norwegian Names page at Note that this article does not use the WikiTree standard. It suggest Farm Name as LNAB but this is not the standard in WikiTree

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's 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 often 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".

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

Images: 1
Flag of Norway 1900-
Flag of Norway 1900-

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  • Public Q&A: These will appear above and in the Genealogist-to-Genealogist (G2G) Forum. (Best for anything directed to the wider genealogy community.)

On 29 Oct 2018 at 22:36 GMT Jodi (Trogstad) Brennan wrote:

And I just noticed Eric's 12:21 GMT message when typing the one below...when researching Larsen-4777, I was told he was 'of Putten' and that was how to identify him. Because there are so many similar names these farm names are important identifiers, for the person and time periods. It isn't a matter of the person being called out, 'Good Day! Larsen of Putten. It is for the recording of the place they are at a particular period. I also did put the 'of Putten' in the current field. Isn't that what we are supposed to do. I did not list it in LNAB, because I was given to believe from Norway Heritage that it was a farm he was at before coming to America.

On 29 Oct 2018 at 22:32 GMT Jodi (Trogstad) Brennan wrote:

I just exchanged a G2G feed regarding the LNAB with a 'of farm' associated with it in the Bydebok or Digitalarkivet. When exchanging communication with Norway Heritage, and just learning oh about a year ago, I was told the 'of farm' listed as birth is important to identify the persons location and as such should be included with the lastname at birth, but this actually will change if they move through change of farm or marriage, etc. Then they still are of the initial 'of farm', but incorporate the additional 'of farm' for reference, and the recorders have gone to great detail in acknowledging all of the farms. I do believe if the birth farm is know it should be a part of LNAB because it is the way it used to be, and not doing is modernization and corrupting the way it was done.

On 28 Oct 2018 at 12:21 GMT Eric Hoffman wrote:

Jodi, for the sake of consistency, I would encourage you to simply use the farm name (only) in the Current and Other Last Name(s) fields. Also it is unlikely that Larsen-4777, for example, was ever referred to as "Larsen of Putten" by his contemporaries. Thanks!

On 27 Oct 2018 at 00:41 GMT Jodi (Trogstad) Brennan wrote:

Before reading this, and just getting used to the patronymic, LNAB and farms and then any additional farms, I initially entered persons of my family tree when I knew it with the LNAB with 'of'. It reads well in the family tree. See Haagenson_of_Trogstad-1, or Larsen-4777, where I do not know if the farm, of Putten was at his birth. This latter does not show on the tree. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I would like to see the farm name, but I do not think it should be in the LNAB field.

On 8 May 2018 at 19:42 GMT Eric Hoffman wrote:

Please note the G2G thread I have added to the Names discussion, and we can continue to discuss the matter. Since the Comments section on this page is not the best place for an actual conversation, I'll eventually go through and delete comments as they are addressed. I'll leave them up for a bit in case anyone wants to copy/paste their own prior points into the G2G thread.

On 8 May 2018 at 16:47 GMT Jamie Nelson wrote:

To answer Rakelle's question:

The middle name field does not get compared to any of the last name fields when searching or matching. So having the patronym as the middle name is horrible for searchability.

On 8 May 2018 at 07:18 GMT R (Østenstad) Teschner wrote:

Watch your patronymics, and don't trust imports: Vigleiksen-12

On 7 May 2018 at 17:23 GMT Rolf Holte wrote:

All know residences (farm names) should be named in their bio with dates if possible. Knick names also, the latter is hard to find without access to oral sources or unofficial sources.

On 7 Mar 2018 at 09:25 GMT Leif Biberg Kristensen wrote:

It is very unfortunate that the WikiTree software, as most other international genealogy software, lacks a dedicated field for patronyms. That being said, I must agree with Don that the only sensible solution is to use the patronym as Last Name at Birth. I don't really see any reason to use the farm name as part of the name at all, as it's rather transient and normally will be associated with the events and sources pertaining to the individual's life as the current place of living. I have a lot of working class ancestors, and they rarely had any connection to particular farms. The practice of using "Farm names" as surnames for those individuals is highly artificial.

On 23 Feb 2018 at 02:49 GMT Don (MacLean) Gibson wrote:

Having done a little work recently on Noregian relatives I have a couple of comments on Names

1. Farm names can be very hard to find, particularly Farm Names At Birth. Almost everyone has their Patronymic. This means to start a WikiTree Profile many people will either use the patronymic in last name or label it Unknown. Both situations will result in a LOT of LNAB edits. 2. WikiTree doesn't appear to search on Middle Name. With the single most important piece of data most people have not searchable it makes the database very unrelaible and will result in a great many dupicate profiles. Lots of future merges