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Hadeland Research Basics

Norwegian names and places, Hadeland research sources


Researching your Norwegian ancestors from Hadeland can be a challenge, to say the least.  Here's a little background information to help you in your search for your Hadeland ancestors. 


A good general article that can help you begin research on the web: http://www.vodien.com/singapore-community/education/getting-started-genealogy-web.php


First names

There were specific traditions associated with naming children that were usually strictly followed:

  • The eldest son was to be named for his paternal grandfather. The second son was named for his maternal grandfather. The same pattern was followed for daughters.  There are rare variations to this pattern. You may find a family where the eldest son was named for the maternal grandfather, etc.  Sometimes this appears to be an odd family tradition, but often this reflects that the farm on which the family lived was passed down from the wife's father.

  • When a widow(er) remarried, the first child of the opposite sex born to the new marriage was named for the deceased spouse. 

  •  When a child died, it was traditional that the next child of that sex would be given the same name. 

If you find baptismal records for three Oles in one family, you can be fairly certain that the two oldest Oles died. However, duplicate names might occur among siblings if both grandfathers or grandmothers had the same name (for example, both parents' mothers' names were Randi).  Usually only one child carried the name for both grandparents; sometimes parents chose to name one child for each grandparent, resulting in two children in the family with the same name!


The naming convention can be helpful in researching earlier generations of a family.  For example, if a couple's  oldest son was named Elling it is likely that his paternal grandfather's name was Elling (and his father's patronymic was Ellingsen).  If the first son born to a widow and her new husband was named Hans, it is likely that her earlier marriage was to a man named Hans.  Because Hadeland has no bygdebøk (books that trace family genealogy for a community), these tiny clues can be invaluable as you attempt to trace "likely ancestors."


Second name - Patronymic

    The second name was the patronymic, identifying the individual as the son or daughter of his father.  Thor Oleson was the son of Ole.  Kari Olesdatter, the daughter of Ole.  Coupled with the reuse of a grandfather's given name, this combination can make tracing a family quite confusing - Thor Oleson fathers Ole Thorson who fathers Thor Oleson, etc.


Third name - Farm name

    Our expectation is that the last name is a constant that identifies male family lines. In the Norway of our immigrant ancestors, the third name identified the place/farm where the family lived and was in fact more address than name.  If the family moved to a different farm, the third name changed.  When Ole Oleson and his family lived on Dvergsten they were identified as the Ole Oleson Dvergsten family; their children were known as Thor Oleson Dvergsten and Kari Olesdatter Dvergsten.  When the family moved from Dvergsten to Solberg, the family included Ole Oleson Solberg and his children Thor and Kari Solberg. Having the same third name does not automatically mean folks were related; it simply means that they lived on the same farm. 

  Although anyone living on a farm might use that farm name as a third name, in Norway renters (members of the husmand and cotter classes) were identified by the addition of a suffix to the farm name.  Using the Alm farm as an example: Almseie, Almseiet, and Almft  all indicate that an individual lived on, but was not an owner of, the Alm farm.

  Be aware that 100+ years ago people did not travel great distances. Communities were small, sharply defined and tight-knit.  It was therefore not uncommon for cousins of some ilk to marry, and if you trace back a few generations you should not be surprised to find that there are many common ancestors.  You will soon learn why the notion that everyone from Hadeland is somehow related is probably true! 


Immigrant Surnames

  Once they arrived in America, Norwegian immigrants were required to follow the established "male line" surname conventions. Typically, the male patronymic (Oleson) or the name of the last farm on which s/he resided was chosen as a Hadeland immigrant's last name.  During their first few years in the country, immigrants might change their last name a few times (patronymic to farm name, "Americanize" a Norwegian spelling or pronunciation).  Generally speaking, for those who became citizens the name that appeared on their citizenship documents became the family's final and formal name. 

   Some immigrants might use the name of the farm on which they were born or another place name that held significance for that individual. Brothers might choose to use different surnames - one taking the patronymic, another a farm name, a third the father's patronymic, and still another a different farm name. It could take two generations before the American surname reached its final form.


Tracing names back to Norway

   Many of our ancestors, particularly in the husmand and cotter class, moved from farm to farm.  You cannot automatically assume that the farm name an individual chose to use in America is the name of the farm on which s/he was born.  Individuals often chose 'subfarm' names, that is the name for a cottage or small area on the larger main farm.  Hans Pederson's family may have come from the Dvergsteen farm, but took the last name Brenna - the name of a renter's place on the larger farm.  Subfarm names can be difficult to track, as these place names may change or disappear over time.

More about Naming Conventions


Marriage and Children

  It may be hard to accept that in "old Norway" it was not unusual for a child to be born prior to a couple's marriage, and there was no stigma attached. 


  Particularly in the lower classes, couples could not afford to get married immediately. On rare occasion marriages were dependent upon the birth of a healthy child. As Norwegians began to leave for America, fathers might leave without even knowing that they had a child on the way.  Absence did not always make the heart grow fonder, and sometimes unmarried couples found other spouses once they were separated.


  It was a serious offense for a single woman to have a child with a married man or (if it could be proved) a single man with a married woman.  It was considered immoral for a man or a woman to have more than two children out of wedlock, and could subject them to a fine or (for the man) even prison time.


Which ancestral Ole is mine?

  Searching for the "right" ancestral line using parish records can be a challenge. It is important to pay attention to subtle clues in the sources available.


  The fathers' names are usually included in marriage records.  The first name of the father can be determined from an individual's patronymic; the marriage record can help identify the paternal grandfather from the father's patronymic.  Farm names may also be included that help clarify the choices. Marriage records also typically identify the marital status of the couple; "Enke" or widow may be the most important clue to a previous marriage and identity of an ancestral parent. 


  The importance of baptismal sponsors should not be minimized.  Sponsors usually included siblings and other close relatives of the parents.  These names typically recur among sponsors for other offspring in the same family.  Baptisms which include the same sponsors are an excellent source of support for real family ties.  When the generally strict adherence to the naming conventions explained above is also taken into account, determining the correct ancestral line may be easier.  When available, matching this information to households reported in census records may provide the final piece to the puzzle.  Death records, emigration records,  and probate records may also provide insight.


  Once ancestors reached America, there may be significant changes in the names they used. First names might be Americanized - Johann becoming John, for example - or entirely new first names might be chosen if two individuals in a community might otherwise have the same name. Naming patterns were also less strictly applied. Finding the right "link" may take time, effort, and careful review of local church and community records.


  It is not unusual for two family "detectives" to follow different branches at some point in the ancestral family tree. It is important to treat the efforts of both family investigators with respect and great care. Careful review of the original microfilms for baptisms, confirmations, marriages and census records can usually be counted on to help you decide which line seems more likely to be correct.  Keep in mind that all of these handwritten records may include errors of age, patronymic, or omission. Genealogical research is not an exact science.  The more you know about the context of events, the better your genealogical "guesswork" will be!


Social Classes

  Norway was fairly unique in Europe because it did not have a native noble class. The highest rung of the social order was technically the Danish nobility, but they usually did not have much to do with their Norwegian "lessers" and maintained close ties with the Danish homeland. 


  School teachers, priests, government officials all were part of a special class because of the respect that came with their education and positions (government office generally required that the office holder read and write).


  Among the general population of native Norwegians, landowners (the "bonder" class) were at the top of the social order.  They are identified variously as "gaardmand," "gaardbruger," or "selvier" in church and government records, and they might own a small farm or a number of farms.  Large landholders might be better educated and hold important civil offices as a result.  However, a small farmer who owned the farm he worked was still considered a member of the highest landed class. 


  Some farmers leased their farms from the larger land owners.  Leases might be purchased with money, but more often yearly lease payments (landysklyd) were bartered in labor and a share of the farm's produce.  This ancient form of land use payment was changed first by the Black Death, which left many farms vacant, and then by an exploding population. Landowners started changing the terms of lease payments to their advantage and eventually the courts intervened to supervise the valuations and terms.


  Active land-owning/leasing farmers usually agreed to contracts that provided a pension for the aging landowner in return for the farm. The retired land-owners (føderaad) were considered socially to continue to be part of their original class.


  The tradesman class was made up of those who could perform skilled labor - carpenters, blacksmiths, glassblowers, etc.


  A "husmand" or "cotter"  provided farm labor without owning the farm or having a lease.  A "husmand med jord" was a renter who also had a small plot of land where he might grow a few crops or maintain some livestock of his own.  The husmand's duties to the land owner always came before any responsibilities related to his own pursuits.  Some renters also learned a trade - lumberman, blacksmith, even tailoring - and used the additional income to purchase a few comforts, or saved in order to purchase a farm or, in later years, establish themselves in America.


  Childhood officially ended when a young person was confirmed, usually between the ages of 13 and 16.  A young person forced to hire out as a servant prior to his/her confirmation was considered to be of a very low social status.  Parents and sometimes the extended family of children in this situation were looked down upon as well. If the child had no parents to share the brunt of the disapproval, its full weight was visited upon the child; the only thing that might make the child worker's social situation worse would be if he/she was an orphan or illegitimate and abandoned by one or both parents.


  It might be necessary to transact trade with Danish and then Swedish soldiers stationed in the area but social intermingling was a matter for serious disapproval. A young girl who chose to consort with a foreign soldier was permanently stigmatized, and the family looked down upon for failing to provide a proper upbringing.


  Those who could not hold a steady job - primarily adult male beggars and day laborers - made up the lowest class in traditional Norwegian society.  In the most desperate situations, the churches sometimes provided a meager form of poor relief - food stuffs, candle wax, etc. Particularly if the father was in the household, accepting this early form of public assistance created a permanent stigma on the entire family.


Primary Research Sources

  Research in other parts of Norway focuses on bygdebøks that track generations of residents in a specific area or on a farm. There are no published bygdebøker for Hadeland.   Research for Jevnaker, Gran, Lunner and old Brandbu is centered on census and church records.  The censuses of 1801 and 1865 are fairly accurate in their reporting. Church records list baptisms, marriages, and deaths. An effort to create a bygdebøk for Hadeland in the mid-1900s was not completed.  The Hadeland Folk Museum has published a DVD containing the handwritten notes of Randi Bjørkvik, the woman who spent many years accumulating information for that project.  Copies of the DVD (Bjørkvik Arkiv CD) are available for purchase from the Hadeland Lag.


  Witnesses recorded for these events can offer important clues to family relationships. Sponsors usually had a close blood relationship with the baptized child. Among siblings, there should be a consistency among the names of most sponsors (remembering that farm names might change).  If the Mari Olsdatter you have found in the church records has no sponsors in common with her already known siblings, it is likely that you have found the wrong Mari Olsdatter!


  Beginning in 1867, points of departure for emigrants were required to maintain records.  Most Hadelanders exited the country through the port of Oslo (Christiania).  Prior to 1867, the best source for finding emigrant information is in the church records.  Each church parish maintained a record of Inflyttede (people moving into the parish) and Udflyttede  (people leaving the parish).  These two registers were listed anyone leaving - to move to Christiania, another area of Norway, or another country - and can also help locate the sites of marriages (a groom might leave the parish to be married in another parish) and residences outside the Gran, Brandbu, Lunner, or Jevnaker parishes.


  The Digitalarkivet is a valuable source of genealogical information gathered from throughout Norway. It also includes "Norwegians in the US Census of 1850" and, presented by astate, "Norwegians in the US Census of 1880."  An on-going project is at work scanning churchbooks dating back to the 1700s and are available on-line as well.   In addition, there is some information collected from Norwegian churches/cemeteries in the US. 






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Last update:February 03, 2019