About the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection


We are tremendously grateful to the many individuals, societies, and other organizations throughout Norway who have willingly donated bygdebøker to the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection. Clearly, we would not have been able to have such an extensive collection without the generosity of these people and groups. We also recognize the assistance of individuals and organizations in the Grand Forks area who have provided financial contributions and donations of bygdebøker to support the collection. Lastly, our appreciation to staff of the Chester Fritz Library and the University of North Dakota who have been instrumental in working with the collection and developing this bygdebok website.

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The Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection web site has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

We would like to thank the Statens Kartverk (Norwegian Mapping Authority) for operating a mapping service offering high-quality digital maps of Norway. The programmer and blogger Erik Smistad was of great assistance in the 2020 revision of the site.

History of the Collection

The Department of Special Collections in the Chester Fritz Library began a project in 1980 to solicit bygdebøker (local history books) from the country of Norway. Dr. Arne Brekke, then professor in the Languages Department, worked closely with Colleen (Oihus) Warner, Genealogical Bibliographer and descendant of Norwegian immigrants, to contact 450 local government entities in Norway. The rationale behind this venture was that a significant percentage of North Dakotans have Norwegian ancestry and interest in family history research in general had grown immensely, in large part due to the popularity of Alex Haley’s book Roots and accompanying television miniseries. Furthermore, the new addition to the Chester Fritz Library, under construction at that time, incorporated a large family history room, and it was anticipated that a collection of bygdebøker would be a fitting component among the resources located there.

Dr. Brekke was an enthusiastic supporter from the beginning, and he willingly crafted a solicitation letter in Norwegian sent to each of the local government entities. As a result, about 160 individual volumes arrived from Norway before the close of 1980. By the end of 1981 about 400 books had been donated. A second solicitation led by Brekke took place in 1988, again resulting in a very favorable response. Since then, significant additions were obtained through grant-funded opportunities or directly by Dr. Brekke. The collection reached 1000 volumes in 2005, and 1500 volumes in 2014. Bygdebøker continue to be published across Norway. Some of these are the first such books for a locality, while others update and correct information from older editions. Printed bygdebøker are valuable resources to researchers, and the Department of Special Collections is proud to have one of the most comprehensive collections to be found anywhere.

Because of Dr. Brekke’s enthusiasm and commitment to the bygdebok collection, it was formally dedicated and named in his honor in 2010. His active roles in expanding the collection, through acquisition of new books during trips to Norway and by providing funds for other bygdebok purchases, continued until his death in 2018. Members of the Brekke family have also provided financial support for the collection through the Arne G. Brekke Endowment.

Historical Documents

Here are a selection of documents related to the history of the collection.