12 November 2013

Using the Norwegian Digitalarkivet Search Engines for Census Searches by guest blogger Tony Hjelmstad

Many web sites on Norwegian research link to the Norwegian Digitalarkivet site - http://arkivverket.no/arkivverket/Digitalarkivet.  This is a wonderful tool for anyone having Norwegian relatives as many of the Norwegian records have been digitized and a good portion of those have been indexed.  A listing – as of November 1, 2013 - of their records is on the left.

When you use lik and you enter Severs, the system finds only those who have Severs in that field. When you use børjar på and enter Johan,  the system finds all names starting with Johan, including Johannesdatter, Johanesdatter, Johanesd, etc.  It will bring all the variations up in a second screen and allow you to choose the ones you want to use.  When you use inneheld and enter anne, you will also get Johannes as well as anne and Joanne.

Each search will display a set of found matches and how many were found.  So you might see one Hoanne mixed in with the Joannes – it might be a taker, transcriber, or indexer error and it might be your person!  But if you use the comparators and the wildcards correctly, you will know it’s there!

If you do a country-wide search, you will get the count of how many were found in each Fylke – and by clicking on the blue number, each parish.  Click anywhere else on this link and you will be taken straight into the census for this parish / municipality .

A last note - many Fylkes also had separate counts made and some are indexed.  And sometimes a prestegjeld/sokn – a parish or equivalent – performed a census.  Some of these are also indexed.  How to find these is based in how to find what records are digitized and which are indexed for a particular area – and we’ll cover that in another blog.

The Digitalarkivet site has parish, property, court, census, and other records available.  This post will concentrate on Census Searches. And future posts will look at the other records.

The site has an English translation at the top site, but as you drill down, the English version disappears or becomes Norwegian and knowing the Norwegian terms used in the searches is very important.  Indexed records are searchable using one of three methods of searching:

·        Simple or Quick Search
·        Full Search
·        Detailed Search

As for most searches, the best place to start is by searching the census records that are available.  Norwegian country-wide censuses – Folketellinger og manntall – are available for 1664-1666, 1701, 1801, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1891, 1900, and 1910.  However, the 1664-1666, 1701, some of the 1865, 1885, and 1891 censuses are only digitized and not indexed.  We’ll cover using them in a future post.

It’s easy to find information that is indexed – but it is also easy to miss information that is in the archives.  This is because of both the way the index searches work and the default settings – and most of the instructions are only in Norwegian.  Learning how to use these will make searching much easier and productive.

Simple or Quick Search

You can always try the simple search:

However, if you search for someone like Lars Larson, you will be completely overwhelmed by the results.  And if you search for Sever Nelson or Sever Nelsen, you will get nothing – though there are nine indexed records available.  Very few names will result in only 5 or 6 “hits”, and probably none from where you think you the person lived.

Full Search

The next level of search is by record type.  Since we’re doing censuses, you would click on one of the indexed censuses, say 1801:

If you miss that last note in the “Useful tips!”, you will be sorry!  But it doesn’t work in English – only Norwegian.  In English, the link goes to the main home page and won’t give tips.  In Norwegian, it tells you how to use all the “special” search features.  Learn how to use Google Translate! 

Wildcards are supported.  This is very important.  Here’s why.  As with any index, we have three levels of error creeping in – what the original taker “heard”, what the transcriber read, and then the indexers interpretation of what the transcriber wrote.  Between these, you get what I call the “spelling” issue:  –sen and –son (seldom used in Norway, but it is present, especially if recently immigrated from Denmark or Sweden) will be mixed or matched, and have an added “s” sometimes.  Both may be abbreviated as “s” or even left off.  So Seversen might be Severson, Severssen, Severs or Sever.  It also can really affect any name that normally ends in an “s’ such as Ols and Nels.  Ols’ son becomes Olsen, Olssen, Olss, and Ols.  And the same is true of Datter:  Ols’ daughter becomes Ols, Olsd, Olssd, Olsdt, Olssdt, Olsdtr, Olssdtr, Olsdat, Olssdat, Olsdatr, Olssdatr, Olsdatter, Olssdatter, Olsdotter, and Olssdotter – and even a few more I’ve seen.  So the search for Karen Johannesdatter will miss the Karen Johaned that might be there.

And of course there are so many ways to spell some names – Christian, Kristian, Cristian, Cristin, Kristan, Nils, Nels, Niels, Eric, Erik, Erich, . . .

Enter the wildcards.  Since the recorded/transcribed/indexed spelling may be something different than what you have, you can use the wild cards in your search:

·        “?” means any one letter.  ?arl will give both of Karl, Carl, Jarl and Barl . 
·        “*” means an unknown set of letters.  *ristian will find Christian and Khristian.   Wen*e will find Wenke , wenche, Wencke , and wennicke. 
·        “[x]”  - if you have a character or characters inside the brackets, it means than this letter may or may not be there.  An[n]e finds both Ane and Anne.   [ck]arl will find Carl and Karl, but not for Jarl or Barl.

You can mix as many as you want of these . Think of what the last name search for [ck][h]r[ei]st[iaoe]n* would find!

In the search above, you have the opportunity to narrow the search in many other ways.  I recommend only the names to start with – you never know what other information that you have might not be accurate or accurately taken/transcribed/indexed.  If you get too many results, work your way down.  But it is better to get too many and work down than none.  What you find in the general search will give you clues on limiting the search such as the:

Geography - Fylke – equivalent to states or regions
Family Position  - this is hard to use unless you are fluent.  Note that most takers used their own words
Marital Status – not really useful as you’ll see when you start seeing results
Occupation – see family position
Year of Birth – this can be useful, but most of the censuses have age and then the indexer interpreted a birth year.  Also, many times the person giving the information only knew “about how old”.

This will work for many of the more recent censuses, but for the 1875 and before, you can be lucky or not find anything and stuff is really there.  If you don’t find something, go to the next level.

Detailed Search

There’s a third way to search – and it brings many advantages.  To perform this search, from the main page, click on the word Censuses rather than on the specific year.  A new search form comes up – only there’s no English translation for it.  Along the top are listed the census years.  Pick one you are interested in – here I picked 1865:

You will get two boxes.  The left side is Databaseveljaren – where do you want to look.  You can specify a specific Fylke, and if you do you can select a Kommune – another word for parish.  You can also specify what documents you want to search – Kjeldekategori, and the Underketegori if you pick census – folketeljingar og manntal.  Tidsperiode is not used for censuses.  If you have no idea where in Norway to look, select Alle omrade for Fylke – all – and the census year.

The right side is Dokumentasjon – what do you want to search for.  The top line says you can search all databases at once – click here (Trykk her) and it takes you back to the other search.  Don’t use that and instead, you can start fine tuning a search using the next line.

You can choose between the variables which are searchable:

·        Førenamn         First Name
·        Etternavn           Last Name
·        Fødselsår          Birth Year – see comments above
·        Fødestad           Birth Place – don’t restrict unless you know
·        Yrke                    Occupation - don’t restrict unless you know
·        Gardsnavn         Farm Name they are living on – this is useful – see below

You will search for one item at a time, and then search the resulting list by the next item.  For example, find all the Christians, then find all who are Larsens.

I’ve had very limited success using birth year, birth place, and occupation.  There are too many variables and it’s too hard to set the search to get around these.  Most of the censuses have age and then interpret the birth year.  Add this to the fact that it’s often not accurately reported, this is seldom helpful.  I’ve had better luck with farm name when I hit a large number of results and attempt to use that to narrow the results down.  I’ve also used farm name when I didn’t find other people I expected to be with the one I searched for.  This can bring up the entire listing for a specific farm once you know what farm a specific person is living on.

But the real power here is the way it compares.  Wildcards still work plus you get partials and exacts.  You can now choose between lik – equal,  børjar på – starts with, and inneheld - within.

Have Fun and Good Luck,

Tony and Teri Hjelmstad
Researching English, Scottish, Norwegian, German, Danish, and Dutch families
Hjelmstad, Inc.

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