Common Terms Found in Old Norwegian Records

By Diana Crisman Smith Premium

Most of your Norwegian ancestors’ genealogical records are in Norwegian, but you also may find them in Danish, Swedish and occasionally, Latin. It all depends on historical events of the time, including:

  • Norway united with Denmark from 1319 to 1397; records from this era may be in Danish.
  • The Kalmar Union from 1523 to 1814 united Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the Danish King. Records will at least have headings in Danish, although the recorded data may be in Norwegian or Danish.
  • Norway united with Sweden under the Swedish king from 1814 to 1905. You may find records with Swedish headings and data in Norwegian or Swedish.
  • Norway gained independence under its own king in 1905; records should be in Norwegian from then until the present.
  • Germany occupied Norway during World War II (1940–1945), which led to lost or destroyed records in some areas. It’ll be helpful to understand these key genealogical terms you’re likely to come across in Norwegian research.

Now that you understand the history behind language changes, refer to the chart below for Norwegian-to-English translations of genealogical terms commonly found in old records.

 Norwegian  English
 amt, fylkercounty, counties
 år year
 barnchild
 begravede, jordetburial
 bestefar, farfar, morfar  grandfather
bestemor
farmor, mormor
grandmother
 brorbrother
 brud, brudgom bride, bridegroom
 bygdebøkerparish local history book
 dåp, døptebaptism
 datterdaughter
 døde, døddeath
 ektemannhusband
 enke, enkemannwidow, widower
 farfather
 fødte, født  birth
 foreldreparents 
 hustru, konewife 
 landsbyvillage
 mormother 
 pikenavnmaiden name
 soknparish
 sønnson
 søster sister
viede, copulerede,
egteviede, gift, vielse
marriage

A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 of Family Tree Magazine.