Gratulerer med dagen to all my Norwegian friends! Today is Norway’s National Day, a celebration of the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814. You can read more about this big celebration here.
OK, so maybe this won’t DIRECTLY help your genealogical research…but it is interesting. A recently published work based on ancient DNA suggests that Scandinavians are essentially the product of two separate migrations into Scandinavia after the last Ice Age. The article Population genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating early postglacial migration routes and high-latitude adaption, is a very interesting-if technical-discussion of the how modern Scandinavians came to be. The study suggests that after the last Ice Age, separate populations migrated first from the South and then from the Northeast, combining in Scandinavia.
Perhaps it is not surprising, the study also found that it was during the postglacial time period that DNA adaptations to the high latitudes created “high frequencies of low pigmentation variants and a gene region associated with physical performance.” In other words our reputation as hard working, blond haired, blue eyed (Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Danes) goes back millennia.
It is great to hear that Gerhard Naeseth’s five volume set Norwegian Immigrants to the United States-A Biographical Directory (1821-1850) is now available as a searchable PDF on the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library website. You must be a sustaining member to get access to this information, which while a bit costy, is a great way to support the fine work this group does. And it may be JUST what you need to break down that Norwegian brick wall!
Martin Roe Eidhammer whose great blog Norwegian Genealogy and Then Some had a post which featured a wonderful video of a traditional wedding in rural Hardanger. It is narrated in English and really gives you a sense of a traditional wedding. It was filmed in 1954. While certainly not identical to 19th Century weddings, it is very interesting and gives a nice flavor of traditional weddings in rural Norway.
I have mentioned in the past, with great excitement, that ArkivDigital has begun scanning Swedish-American church records in the U.S. They started with Kansas (and a few Missouri and Oklahoma), they moved to Minnesota, and now they are working on Nebraska!
It is important to note that even if these are “Swedish”-American churches, many of them had Norwegian, Finnish, and Danish members. And it is often the best place to find where someone came from in the old country.
So can you expect to find in these records? Well, naturally birth/baptism, marriage, and death/burial. But do not be surprised to find a whole lot more. You might find a moving certificate (Flyttningsbetyg) that includes where in Sweden Andrew Mellborg and his wife Kristina Johnson were born, it gives information on when, and from where, they came to America, and when the moved to Carver Salem Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Carver Salem Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, (Carver County, Minnesota), Församlingsbok (Church Register), 1891-1946, vol. 1, p. 69a, Flyttningsbetyg (Moving Record) for Andrew A. Mellborg and Kristina Johnson; digital images by subscription, ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net : accessed 13 July 2017), AID #v843931.b53.s69a.
You might find the church kept a register like those-församlingsbok and husförhörslängd-kept in Sweden that detailed the lives of the members. Here is one for Buffalo Zion Lutheran Church for the Johan Bodin and Lisa Larsdotter family, listing their birth dates and places in Sweden, marriage date, immigration information, and death information for Johan, Lisa, and all their children! Imagine finding this if you did not know where Johan or Lisa came from in Sweden. Note they use Lisa’s maiden name, just as they did in Sweden. An incredible fine!
Buffalo Zion Lutheran Church, (Wright County, Minnesota), Församlingsbok (Church Register), 1886-1943, vol. 3, p. 8, Church Register for Johan Bodin and Lisa Larsdotter family; digital images by subscription, ArkivDigital (http://www.arkivdigital.net : accessed 13 July 2017), AID #v843158.b32.s8.
These records have many treasures like these and they are a “must research” if available for your family’s area. Once again, ArkivDigital doing incredible work for researchers!
One of the most important resources for Norwegian genealogical research are the bygdebøker (Farm Books). They tell the history of the farms and families that owned or lived on them and can be an absolute goldmine for genealogists. However, these books can vary in quality and availability. Some have been meticulously researched and others are compilations of fairy-tales and guesswork. By-and-large, they are reliable, and you should always check for existing research, but confirm anything you find in the book.
While bygdebøker are more readily available in Norway, there are many great collections of them here in the U.S.
- The Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection, at the Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota has an extensive collection of bygdebøker. They do not offer inter-library loans (ILL), but they do offer research services for fairly reasonable rates.
- The University of Minnesota, primarily at the Wilson Library in Minneapolis, has a nice collection, and some of these books may be available by ILL.
- The University of Wisconsin has some.
- The Rolvaag Library, at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota has a large collection
Increasingly, bygdebøker can be found online, and except the Norwegian National Libraries collection, which is mostly available only to Norwegians, the online books are scattered and can be difficult to find. That is why I am adding a new page to this website that lists bygdebøker that can be found online. I will update this list as I find additional books online.
If you do not read Norwegian the books can take a little while to get used to. They will almost inevitably use a significant number of abbreviations. Usually, you can find a list of explanations at the front of the book. Also, remember this is more typically a history of the FARM not the families necessarily. When someone sold a farm, or moved, the new family living on the farm would be tracked. So make sure that you are following your family and not someone else!
The high point of Scandinavian summers is certainly the celebration of the summer solstice. Norway and Denmark recognize the longest day of the year, but Sweden and Finland go all out: in fact the Friday and Saturday after the solstice are national holidays. Traditionally, Sweden celebrated on 24 June, Johannes Doparens dag (St. John the Baptists Day.)
So how do you celebrate Midsommar? You adorn yourself in traditional clothing and flower crowns; dance around a Midsummer-Pole; sing traditional songs (Små Grodorna); enjoy plenty of herring, new potatoes, snaps, and strawberries; and um…well, there is a saying that “Midsummer’s night is not long but causes many cradles to rock.”
If you are not lucky enough to be in Sweden during Midommar don’t worry! There are festivities all over the U.S.
The official site of Sweden has a great webpage on Midsommar and I highly recommend the playing their video clip!
Arkivverket-DigitalArkivet (the Norwegian National Archives-Digital Archives) has announced that the Digital Archives pages on the web will be all new starting 6 June 2017. The Archives promises not only a new look, but improved searching and filtering capabilities, as well as cross-platform capabilities (so you can look at your ancestors records on all your various Internet-connected devices.) Details are a bit thin, but the new site will be available on the 6 June, and new functionality will continue to be rolled out for a while thereafter. No search functionality will be reduced (at least according to the announcements.) But as with all new solutions it is best to keep a cool head and anticipate as-yet-undiscovered problems. I for one can hardly wait to see the new and improved website. And I will not also not count on doing any significant Norwegian research for the first half of June. 🙂 As always, takk to the the Norwegian Government for having such a great site in the first place!
There is a nice blog on Norwegian genealogy called Norwegian Genealogy and then some it has some great resources and tools (for example, cheat sheets for the parish book headings and list of causes of death), and I would highly recommend a virtual stop-by for anyone doing Norwegian research. I particularly like the blog, because the author brings together a good number of websites that you might not otherwise find.