Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bygdeboks - A Great Resource!

One of the most interesting and useful resources for Norwegian ancestors who lived outside of the cities is the use of bygdebøks (farm books).  "Bygd" refers to small towns, villages and/or parishes.

These farm books contain a great deal of information about the communities, parishes and families who lived on the various farms in Norway.  If you have Norwegian ancestors you will want to check out the following sites which will provide some background information and helpful methodolgy to assist you in your research:
  • Johan I. Borgos (excellent article describing what a bygdebøk is and how to use it)
  • Bygdeboker (which has an series of articles including a Norwegian-English dictionary) 
  • Norway Farm Books (Family Search's wiki)
In a nutshell, the bygdebøks are broken down into three parts: a broad general history of the area; a farm history; and a family or genealogy history (sometimes going back to 1600).  The farm books make use of original manuscripts and transcriptions of the information as it relates to a particular farm and the various families who lived on the farm over the years. Keep in mind the farm books are written in Norwegian and the most helpful information at the start will be the family history (it will also be the easiest to decipher).

Where the information is known, you will find the names of family members (as well as their birth farms), birth, baptism, marriage, and death dates, and childrens' information.  Of course you need to follow up this transcribed information by finding the actual birth/baptism,marriage, and death records, as well as census records.  However, what a great jumping off point AND what a good way to learn a bit of Norwegian, learn more about the area your ancestors lived as well as their neighbors and affiliated families.

That said, remember to take the information you find with a grain of salt ~ here is the bygdebøk entry for my Eriksen family:

(note: remember that our understanding of "surnames" is different as Scandinavian families used a patronymic naming pattern ~ as did many other ethnic groups ~ check out this Wikipedia discussion at Patronymic).

Ǿystre Lilleklev

Peder Eriksen (Hastadgjerdet), f. 1833.  Snikkar
Gift 23/4 1860 m. Mali Pedersdtr. Rolfsengbergene, f. 6/6/ 1835.
Born:  Mette, f. 15/9 1860
          Elisaeus, f. 2/10 1862;  9/4 1865.

Note: I started my search with a copy of Mette Pedersdatter's birth/baptism certificate which listed her birth name, place, date and parents' names which gave me the information I needed to find the farm community and begin my search through the farm books with some help from the FHL research personnel ~ thanks!
  • I found this entry at page 571 of the Stjordal Farm Book, Vol 5 part 1
  • Peder Eriksen was previously from a farm named Hastadgjerdet
  • I found that farm together with his parents and eight siblings' information at page 560 of the same volume
  • Peder was born in 1833
  • Abbreviations found in the farm books useful for my search: f is birth; d is baptism; the cross is death/burial; gift is marriage; and born is children
  • Peder's occupation was carpenter (snikkar)
  • Peder's wife was Mali Pedersdatter and she was previously from a farmed named Rolfsengbergene
  • I found that farm together with her parents and five siblings' information at page 450 of the same volume.
  • Mali Pedersdatter was born on 6 Jun 1835 ~ note Mali's actual birth record lists her birth as 6 Apr 1835 and her baptism as 10 May 1835.
  • Their daughter Mette Pedersdatter was born on 15 Sep 1860 ~ note Mette's actual birth record lists her birth as 15 Sep 1860 and her baptism as 28 Oct 1860.
  • Their son Elisaeus Pedersen was born on 2 Oct 1862 and died on 9 Apr 1865 ~ note Elisaeus' actual birth record lists his birth as 1 Oct 1862 and I could not find any death record because it turned out this information was incorrect.
  • Although not mentioned in the Farm Book, I later found that the Eriksen family left their farm on 9 Apr 1865 and emigrated from Norway in May 1865 - so take any and all information with a grain of salt and find the actual records to back up secondary information! 
See Stjordalsboka, Vol 5, part 1 1939-1972 (ongoing series publication) - A genealogy of the people and their farms from Stjordal, Lanke, Skatval, Hegra, and Meraker in Stjordal, Ovre Stjordal, and Nede Stjordal clerical districts in Nord-Trondelag county with a history of the area in volume 1, parts 1, 2, and 3. 

A helpful tip ~ The FHL has an excellent collection of these Farm Books (in both book form and microfilm) as well as Scandinavian research personnel who can assist with translations.  Additionally you may try Worldcat.org to locate a library near you that may have the books (I found Farm Books for my areas at the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington libraries.)


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