March 5, 2012

DIG: Finding Norwegian Birth and Baptism Records

Norwegian parish registers, or Kirkebøker, are some of the best sources to trace back your roots in Norway. The best place to start is with a baptism record.

Prior to 1812, there was no set layout for parish registers and so the look and information in them varied from priest to priest (as did quality and penmanship). By 1820 there was a standard set of column headings that were seen across the board on parish registers and while there may be slight adjustments to the exact wording, every book between 1820 and 1876 would follow the same headings (see 1820-1876 headings here).

The parish registers would be further expanded on in 1877 to include a bit more information and see a few more adjustments made to the required information (see 1877+ headings here).

So, let's getting started and find my great grandfather Christoffer Christoffersen.

Based on prior research, I've found contradicting information. I have a death record stating he was born in Norway in 21 Nov 1890 to parents Cornelius Lowe and Marie Johnson. I also have an immigration manifest stating the parents as being Cornelius and Marie Christoffersen. His age is listed as 17 in February of 1907 putting a year of birth at 1889 not 1890 as the death record stated and his place of birth is further expanded upon, the town of Svelvik is listed. Parish records are listed by town so this information is crucial.

figure 1-1
Now, we get started! Visiting the Digital Archives at the Norwegian National Archives, I locate the archive for the scanned parish registers and using the information from my previous post, I enter the region of "Vestfold" which is where Svelvik is located, then I locate the town "Strømm/Svelvik" and enter the year "1890". Two results show up on the right, an 1878-1899, Ministerialbok and an 1889-1896, Klokkerbok (figure 1-1).

figure 1-2
Both books list parish records for that time so Christoffer could be in either, we must start with the first book and continue on if needed. Clicking on the link for the first book opens another page with a list of events and the coinciding years/pages (figure 1-2). The events cataloged include Fødte og døpte (births and baptisms), Konfirmerte (confirmation), Ekteviede (wedded), Døde og begravede (dead and buried), and others.

figure 1-3
Now we have our category (Fødte og døpte/births and baptisms) we look to the right and find the corresponding pages. It seems 1889 starts on page 49 and 1890 starts on page 53. We click on page 49 and it opens the register as seen in figure 1-3. There are 3 things to note here:

1. There is a drop-down box at the top of the page reading "Mollomstor (40%)". This is the level you are zoomed into on the document. Click on it and select "Full (100%)" to read the information better. Note: you can zoom up to 150% if needed.
2. The arrows at the top and bottom help you navigate between pages. "|<---" Sends you to the first page, "20<---" & "--->20" will jump back and forth 20 pages, and "<---" & "--->" are basically your back and forward buttons that will cycle through pages one by one.
3. Men and women are divided between top (men) and bottom (women).

Making it easy on us, our columns are numbered and describe the following:
Column 1 - Entry number
Column 2 - Date of birth
Column 3  - Date of baptism
Column 4 - Ratification date for baptisms conducted at home
Column 5 - Child's full name (first name)
Column 6 - Parents full name and occupation
Column 7 - Parents residence
Column 8 - Parent's year of birth: Father (left), Mother (right)
Column 9 - Godparents' names and occupations (normally occupations are omitted)
Column 10 - Was child born out of wedlock?
Column 11 - Remarks such as a) entry # in register of births, b) who conducted home baptism and the names of 2 witnesses

With this information we know to concentrate on columns 2 and 5. We look for the name Christoffer and a birth date of 21 Nov in 1889 or 90. Scrolling through the first page we find no Christoffers listed. So, we press the "--->" or next page button and continue on to pages 49-50. These next pages come up empty as well, but we strike gold as we flip to page 51.

figure 1-4
We find Christoffer listed in entry #15 (figure 1-4)(column 1) under the name "Kristoffer" (col 5), born on 21 Nov 1889 (col 2). Christoffer was baptized on 22 Dec 1889 (col 3). His parents (col 6) are listed as styrmand (ship's mate) Kornelius Kristoffersen og (and) hustrus (wife) Birthe Marie Kristoffersen fødte (born) Andreasen. Parents are from Svelvik / Strommen (col 7). Father born 1860, mother 1858 (col 8). Godparents are Mathea Kristensen, Julie Andreasen, Annette Andreasen, Barnet Fuder, & sailor Johan Albert Olsen (col 9). Christoffer was not born out of wedlock (col 10).

There you have it. We have successfully located my great-grandfather Christoffer Christoffersen's baptism record in the Svelvik, Norway parish register. Next post, we'll continue on and use the information we have here to locate a marriage record for his parents.

Note: It is not always easy to decipher the handwriting in these parish registers, but the more records you look at the easier it gets. If you need help translating, can help you translate from Norwegian to English (or whatever your native language is). It should also be noted that a lot of occupations and other words in the parish registers translate from Danish instead of Norwegian.

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