Within the last few years, the Internet has made finding Norwegian ancestors much easier. Two all-encompassing Norwegian censuses and a large collection of Lutheran parish registers are now available online in free searchable databases. Two valuable Web sites for Norwegian research are Digitalarkivet and FamilySearch.
Through joint efforts made by the History Department at the University of Bergen and the National Archives of Norway, two principal 19th-century Norwegian censuses are now available online at the National Archives' Web site, Digitalarkivet. The 1801 and 1865 censuses have been entirely transcribed, and the 1875 census is in progress. To search for your ancestors, go to their website at: www.digitalarkivet.no. If you prefer the English version, click English in the lower toolbar. Next, proceed to search for your ancestors by selecting the source of interest in the upper toolbar, i.e. 1801, 1865, etc. The search engine permits several types of queries such as exact spelling, or initial letters of surname/given name. The starting with search is particularly useful, as it accounts for variations of Norwegian name spellings, eliminating problems caused by the equal search. If you do not find your ancestor's name, just key in the first few letters. When you begin the search, a list of possible spelling variations will appear.
In comparison to the 1800 Federal Census of the United States, the 1801 Norwegian Census contains much more genealogically useful information. For example, in 1801 the intrusive Norwegian government obtained the names of every man, woman, and child within its boundaries. In addition, this record contains the following information on each individual: the relationship to the head of household, age, marital status, occupation, gender, and specific comments and remarks. The United States government sought only meager data from its citizens, such as the name and approximate age of the head of household. The other members of the household are identified by ambiguous tally marks, categorized by approximate age, gender, and race. To family historians accustomed to U.S. research, this record is a genealogist's paradise.
To find exact birth, christening, and marriage information on the individuals found in census records, search Lutheran parish register extractions available at the FamilySearch Web site at www.familysearch.org. Because the Lutheran church has historically been the state religion of Norway, these records cover the entire population. As census records do not always provide accurate ages, search for an approximate year of birth. Be sure to check the results from both the International Genealogical Index, and the Vital Records Index, as Lutheran parish register entries may appear in either of these databases.
Norwegian genealogists owe a great debt of gratitude to the transcribers and digitizers of this wealth of historical information. Our Norwegian ancestors are now just a click away.