The holdings of Norway's Riksarkivet (National Archives) are similar in subject to what you may expect to find in any nation's archives - documents covering their history, culture, and people. Most of the records of genealogical significance have been microfilmed and are available at the FHL, but if you ever come across a hard-to-read page, you can always contact the Riksarkivet to request a copy of the original: http://www.riksarkivet.no/english/news.html.
The regional archives of Norway house the parish records under their particular jurisdiction. In addition to the parish records, you will also be able to find land and court records here. The counties is Norway were divided up into eight regions, each with its own archive:
- Østfold, Akershus, and Oslo counties: Statsarkivet i Oslo - http://www.riksarkivet.no/oslo/om.html
- Buskerud, Vestfold, and Telemark counties: Statsarkivet i Kongsberg - http://www.riksarkivet.no/kongsberg/om.html
- Oppland and Hedemark Counties: Statsarkivet i Hamar - http://www.riksarkivet.no/hamar/om.html
- Aust- and Vest-Agder Counties: Statsarkivet i Kristiansand - http://www.riksarkivet.no/kristiansand/om.html
- Rogaland County: Statsarkivet i Stavanger - http://www.riksarkivet.no/stavanger/om.html
- Hordaland, Bergen, and Sogn og Fjordane counties: Statsarkivet i Bergen - http://www.arkivverket.no/bergen/om.html
- Møre og Romsdal, Sør-Trøndelag, Nord-Trøndelag, and Nordland counties: Statsarkivet i Trondheim - http://www.riksarkivet.no/trondheim/om.html
- Troms and Finnmark counties and Spitsbergen: Statsarkivet i Tromsø - http://www.riksarkivet.no/tromso/om.html
If you need vital information for an event that occurred less than eighty years ago, you will need to look for it on the parish level, though occasionally a parish will have records for a little longer, depending on when the priest decided to send the books to the regional archives. When you are writing a parish to request information, sending a letter in English should not be a problem.
Some of the greatest treasures to genealogists that are found in Norway, are most likely in the universities that exist there. As with collections in different universities and localities in the United States with specializations in Scandinavian populations, the libraries in Norway hold many valuable histories that can help place your family in their historical context. Trying to understand the historical reasons behind your family's actions could solve a problem that has been plaguing you for years. Remember, though, that they will likely be written in Norwegian, so you will want to brush up on your language skills or have an excellent dictionary on hand.
Universitetsbiblioteket (The University Library) in Oslo serves the same purpose as the Library of Congress in the United States and holds copies of most of Norway's published works. For information on its vast resources, visit its website at Universitetsbiblioteket i Oslo - UBO / University of Oslo Library.
You will want to check local libraries in your area of interest for any special collections they may have on local or family histories. If their holdings do not interest you, they can usually tell you where you can find materials that would be of benefit to you. Two of these libraries are Deichmanske Bibliotek and Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek .
For Norwegian local history collections in the United States, you will want to look at the university libraries in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, where large populations of Norwegian immigrants settled.
Another source in the United States are the archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This organization has microfilmed a large part of the Norwegian-American Lutheran church records and can be obtained through the mail on a temporary basis for free.
There are genealogical and historical societies both in Norway and in the United States that will be of interest to you in your search. Many local communities in Norway have a society of some type or another that publish books and periodicals. The work of most of these societies is coordinated by the Norsk Lokalhistorisk Institutt (Norwegian Local Historical Institute). They can help you gain access to all kind of resources, so you will want to see what is available on http://www.lokalhistorie.no/english.html.
Although these are Norwegian sources, they will often be able to answer enquiries in English, so don't let any language weaknesses be an obstacle to obtaining information on your Norwegian ancestors.