Conducting Research with Bygdebøker
Bygdebøker are histories of rural locations, or bygd, in Norway. They are not available for cities like Oslo.
Bygdebøker typically contain a brief history of the location and its local institutions, including churches, banks and schools. They also contain compact histories of the families who lived at specific farms in the area, which are of particular interest to genealogists with Norwegian ancestry. For more information, see the articles Norway Farm Books, What is a “bygdebok”? and A “bygdebok” – what is that?
It is often possible to garner useful information from a bygdebøk even without knowing Norwegian. John Follesdal gives a good overview of this process in his guide How to Use a Norwegian “bygdebøk” in your genealogy research. In essence, the procedure is:
- Identify the place you are interested in.
- Check to see if there is a relevant farm listed in its bygdebøk.
- If so, consult the table of abbreviations below to help interpret the entry.
In the 1800s, Norwegians began adopting fixed surnames in preference to the older patronymic system. Often, families adopted the name of the farm they lived on at the time as their surname. So if you have Norwegian ancestry, there is a decent chance that your own name can help you identify where your ancestors came from — and hence, which book to consult.
Table 1: Common Abbreviations in Bygdebøker
|bnr.||bruksnummer||(small) farm number|
|ca.||cirka (omtrent)||about, circa|
|d.a.||datter av||daughter of|
|d.å.||dette året||this year|
|d.e.||den eldre||the older|
|dp.||döpe/döpt (døpe/døpt, døype/døypt)||baptize(d), christen(ed)|
|d.s.b.||død som barn||deceased as a child|
|d.s.å.||død samme året||deceased the same year|
|d.y.||den yngre||the younger|
|fl.||flyttet||moved, change of residence|
|fl.st.||flere steder||multiple/many locations, places|
|gbr.||gardsbruk, gardbruker||farm, farmer|
|g.m.||gift med||married to|
|gml. or gl.||gammel (gammelt, gamle)||old|
|g. 2 g.||gift 2. gang||married a second time|
|husm.||husmann||crofter (tenant farmer)|
|l.||laup||weight unit (about 33 lbs)|
|lnr.||løpenummer||serial number, parcel number|
|lsp.||lispund||weight unit (about 17.5 lbs)|
|mrk.||mark||land, field, ground|
|rd./rdl.||riksdaler||(four kroner) monetary unit until 1875|
|skm.||skyldmark||basis for property tax|
|skpd.||skippund||weight unit (350 lbs.)|
|spd.||spesiedaler||monetary unit (1813-1875)|
|t.||tønne||measure of volume (140 liters)|
|ug.||ugift||unmarried, not married|
|ungk.||ungkar||bachelor, unmarried male|
In addition, the FamilySearch wiki maintains a comprehensive Norwegian Genealogical Word List.
Getting Access to the Books
UND’s collection of bygdebøker is not digitized, as we do not have the rights to do so. If you would like to consult one of our bygdebøker, please contact us, as we can make scans or photocopies of short passages to assist with your research. Note that we do not offer a translation service.
It is sometimes possible to find digitized copies of bygdebøker online. The Nasjonalbiblioteket (National Library of Norway) has digitized many bygdebøker. Most are only accessible from Norwegian IP addresses, but if the catalog entry for one contains the phrase Tilgang for alle it should be open access. Most of these are older books, but there are some newer ones.
The Norwegian-American Genealogical Association maintains a spreadsheet of online bygdebøker and related resources. You can find lists of bygdebøker available online from the Nordic Family History site and from the blog Norwegian Genealogy and Then Some. There is some overlap between these sources.
Please let use know if you have any questions, and good luck with your research!