Within the last few years, the internet has made finding Norwegian ancestors much easier. Three all-encompassing Norwegian censuses and a large collection of Lutheran parish registers are now available on-line in free searchable databases. Two valuable websites 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, three principal nineteenth-century Norwegian censuses are now available on-line at the National Archives' website, Digitalarkivet. The 1801, 1865, and 1900 censuses have been entirely transcribed, and the 1875 census is in progress. To search for your ancestors, go to their website at: http://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 (aka genealogical friendly) 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 U.S. government sought only meager data from its citizens, such as the name and approximate age of the head of household. 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 you find in census records, search Lutheran parish register extractions available at the FamilySearch website 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.
In conclusion, 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 of a button away.