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!