For a long time in Norway, there were no birth, marriage, or death certificates; there were only parish registers (ministerialbok) to record these life events. Some parish registers go back to the 1600's, but most go back to the 1700's. There are also duplicate books called klokkerbok. My understanding is that due to possible destruction from fire, duplicate registers were kept in separate locations. I am very thankful for this because of the following reasons: 1) I have had to research the duplicate registers before due to no available "official" parish book; 2) the duplicate register has sometimes had the person I was searching for in the "official book" where he was missing -- parish priests did make mistakes and forget entries; 3) sometimes when a record is illegible in the official book, I have found it easier to read it in the duplicate book; and 4) in some cases, I have found extra information in the duplicate register. So keep duplicate registers in mind as you pursue your research. But the overall take-home message is that there is ample opportunity to discover your ancestor and perhaps several generations before him. The online site to view these registers is at http://www.digitalarkivet.no/ .
You will need some basic information before you can start your search, so I will tell you what is vital. The first thing you need to know is the fylke or county your ancestor was from -- no easy task for some. However, if you have the essential name and a decent idea about year of birth, there is a good chance to find your ancestor in one of the census databases available (1801, 1865, 1875 [not complete online], and 1900), which will pinpoint the county and parish for you. (I will explain census searches in another post.)
Assuming you know where your ancestor was from, you can now search for the parish and the right book. Next, start going through the digitized pages until you find your ancestor. The information in each book can vary somewhat, but generally for baptisms there is the date of birth, date of baptism, child's name, parents' names, parents' ages, place of residence, and witnesses. The parish priest would also record whether the child was born in or out of wedlock.
The Basic Anatomy of the Digitalarkivet Parish Record Site (you may click on the pictures to enlarge)
http://www.arkivverket.no/URN:kb_read?idx_reset=ja ; if it loads in Norwegian, click on "English" at the top right of the menu on the Digitized Parish Registers page. Now note the search fields to the left.
Click on the county selection button, and you will get a menu of all the counties.
Next, select the type of register you want.
Pick your parish.
Choose the record book of interest by the year you wish to search.
Start searching the names, keeping in mind what I said about naming practices in Norway here. The menu bar at the top allows you to search page by page or skip 5 pages or 20.
Find the record you want? Note the source! Click on "Image Information," then click "On Top."
The "source" and "permanent pagelink" now appear at the top. NOTE: When emailing a link of a record to someone, DO NOT email the site address that appears on your browser. It will NOT work. Instead, copy and paste the "permanent pagelink" that appears above the record, as seen here. You can also send the "permanent imagelink." Save these links for your source notations. Now you may also click on "PDF" found at the top right of the menu.
You will be able to download a high resolution PDF of your record with the source noted on top. You can zoom in and out easily for clear viewing. I love the PDF feature!
This concludes the lesson on the basics of using Norwegian parish records from http://www.digitalarkivet.no/ .