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Identifying your ancestor's farm in Norway

     In the course of your genealogy research it is very likely that you will be faced with the problem of trying to identify the farm in Norway where your ancestors came from. In the past, this process was both time consuming and frustrating, but today more and more searchable databases are becoming available on the Internet. These databases may not give you the answer 100% of the time, but more likely than not they will allow you to quickly zero in on a handful of candidates for the farm that you are looking for. In this article I will briefly discuss each of these databases and illustrate the search methods that you can use to identify your ancestor's farm in Norway.
 

Background information

     Before you start reading this article you may want to read a couple of other articles to get some background information on Norwegian farms and farm names, Norwegian census records, and the matrikkel. This background information will be useful when we turn to the databases to try to locate farms in Norway.

Norwegian naming practices is an article that I have written. It explains how farm names were not really surnames, but rather addresses.

Norwegian farms - some background information is another article that I have written. It covers such topics as farm ownership, landskyld, matrikkel, jorddrotte, leilending, husmann, and strandsitter.

Naming Patterns by Stine and Tom Bjørnstad is a helpful article with background information on Norwegian farm names. The article is from the award-winning Medieval Scandinavia web site.

Johan Ingvald Borgos also has some very good articles that you should take a look at, including his articles on Norwegian naming patterns and farm names.
 

The search begins:

     For this article, we will try to find out where our great grandfather Andrew BLACKRUD came from. All we know at the outset of this exercise is the family story that we have heard so many times before: that he was born around 1850, that he came from somewhere in Norway, and that he emigrated to the US around 1880 or so. We also suspect that the name Andrew BLACKRUD was an Americanized version of his name, but we do not know what the original spelling was in Norway.
     The method we will use involves "wildcard" searches in the matrikkel databases, the census databases, and the Emigrasjonsprotokoll databases. For example, in the matrikkel databases you can search for a farm by using % as a wild card. Thus, a search for Bl% will pull up Blaaberg, Blakkestad, Blindheim, etc. This wildcard can also be used in the middle of a farm name, which allows us to search for Bl%rud or even B%r%d and then see if we get any names that are close to BLACKRUD.
 

Searching in the Matrikkel databases

Matrikkelutkastet av 1950

      Matrikkelutkastet av 1950 is a searchable database of approximately 85,000 farms and other properties in Norway as of 1950. It does not include large cities, such as Oslo, Trondheim, or Stavanger. Furthermore, it is in Norwegian, but you can click your way from the "fylke" (county) to the "kommune" (municipality) and from there to the farm names in the kommune that you are interested in. The problem for us, of course, is that we do not know where in Norway the BLACKRUD farm is. In fact, we do not even know if the farm name that we have is spelled correctly! The Matrikkel database, however, allows wildcard searches, and this will give us the first of the clues that we need to trace our elusive great grandfather, Andrew BLACKRUD.
     There are two different ways to use wildcards in this database:
  1. Use the wildcard _ to replace only one character in a name. For example, if you want to search for a farm called Myrold and you are not sure if it is spelled Myrold or Myruld, you can enter the search term as Myr_ld. This will bring up all of the farms that are spelled Myrold, Myruld, Myrild, Myreld and so on.
  2. Use the wildcard % to replace more than one character in a name. With this wildcard, you can enter Bl%rud for example. This will bring up all farms that start with the letters Bl and end with the letters rud. You could also do a search for B%r%d% which will bring up all farms that start with the letter B, have a letter r in the middle, followed by the letter d (possibly with some letters in between), and ends after the letter d, but possibly with one or more letters after the d: Baredokken, Biridue, Blikrud, Blekrud, Blåseruden, etc.

     Note: This database uses a case sensitive search function - a search for BL%R%D will not work - you can, however, use all lower case letters - bl%r%d - or you can capitalize the first letter in your search term and use lower case letters for the rest of the search term - Bl%r%d. Thus, the search terms bl%r%d and Bl%r%d will both work.

     In our search for Blackrud we enter Bl%rud as our search term and wind up getting a long list of farms. At least one of the farms is not even close to the farm name we are looking for: Blestrud. It was pulled up because we used a wildcard search - Bl&rud. We can safely discard that one and any other farm that is obviously wrong. We also notice that some of the farms, like the Bliksrud farm in Nittedal kommune, have been subdivided into many different bruk. Keep in mind that this database contains information from 1950, and by that time many of the farms close to the cities had been subdivided into smaller parcels where houses, schools, and parkinglots had been buildt. All we need to know, however, is the names and locations of any farms that appear to be a close match to Blackrud. We are left with:

     13 farms in all. (Keep in mind, however, that Blårud, Blårud nordre, and Blårud søndre in Stange, Hedmark, are neighboring farms in the same parish, so there are only 11 parishes that we need to worry about so far).
 

1886 matrikkelen

     1886 Matrikkelen is a searchable database of farms and other properties in Norway as of 1886. The web site is in Norwegian, but it is fairly easy to use: you can search by:
  1. Fornavn = First name
  2. Etternavn = Surname
  3. Gårdsnavn = Farm name
  4. Bruksnavn = Name of bruk, or
  5. Sogn = Clerical district/parish.
For your searches you should uncheck the box that says "Kombiner gårdsnavn og bruksnavn i samme søk". Furthermore, if you wish you can limit your search to a particular fylke (county). However, it is probably best not to do this as you want to find all of the possible farm names that matches the one you are looking for. Like the 1950 matrikkel database, we can use % as a wildcard in any of the search fields. After you have filled in the fields that you want to fill in, click the search button (the one that says Søk). Note: One problem with this database is that it will only display the first 200 results of a search, and there is no way to scroll forward to see the remaining search results. When we enter Bl% as a search term, for example, there are 564 matches but only the first 200 are displayed. Thus we may have to enter more than the first two letters, which may cause a problem as we do not know the correct spelling of the farm name that we are searching for. Searching for Bl%rud, however, results in a more manageable result, with only 31 matches found.

The search results at the 1886 matrikkel database is displayed in Norwegian. Here is a translation of the words that you will see:

  1. "Kriterier for søk:" = search criteria
  2. Gårdsnavn: Bl%rud* = farm name Bl%rud* (the search criteria that we used for this search)
  3. Antall treff i databasen for dette søket: 31. Viser 31 poster. = Number of matches in the database for this search: 31. Number of matches displayed: 31
  4. Trykk på gårdsnavn for å se bruk registrert på gården. = click on the farm name to see the "bruk" at each farm
  5. Fylke = county, Herred = municipality, Sogn = clerical district, Gårdsnr = Farm number (i.e., matrikkel number), Bruksnr = bruk number, Gårdsnavn = farm name, Bruksnavn = name of bruk, Navn på eier = owner's name, Skyld i ort og mark = "skyld" in terms of ort and mark. (These terms are explained in my article Norwegian farms - some background information).

O. Rygh Norske Gaardnavne database

     Oluf Rygh was a Norwegian philologist and archeologist who served on the land register commission that prepared the 1886 matrikkel. His work of preparing a complete catalogue over the names of the main Norwegian farms took many years and was not completed until after his death. (There were 45,000 matrikkel farms - main farms - in Norway in 1886).
     The O. Rygh Norske Gaardnavne database is a digital version of his 18 volume work that has been made available on the Internet by the "Dokumentasjonsprosjektet" - a joint effort of the Humanities departments at the universities of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø.
     The database is not case sensitive, so you can search using BLACKRUD or Blackrud or blackrud. In addition, the database allows wildcard searches using the % sign. For example, if we do a search for Bl%rud in the field called "Farm name", we get the following farms displayed:
 
Farm number Farm name Parish Muncipality County
155 Blakkesrud Eidsvold Eidsvold Akershus amt
75 Bliksrud Løken Høland Akershus amt
40 Bliksrud Hakedalen Nittedalen Akershus amt
161 Bliksrud Lunder Norderhov Buskeruds amt
108 Blaarud Hedenstad Sandsvær Buskeruds amt
2 Blaarud Ottestad Stange Hedemarkens amt
221 Blekkerud Gran Gran Kristians amt
158 Bleikerud Baastad Trøgstad Smaalenenes amt
 
    To see the complete entry for the farm(s), mark the checkbox(es) in the the left-most column on the database web page, and then press one of the "Show" buttons. When you do this, the database will display the various spelling variations for each of the farms through the years. The entire page will be in Norwegian, but you should print it out, as the old spelling variations will come in handy when you search through some of the older census records.
 

Census records

1865 census and 1900 census - University of Bergen

     The 1865 census (partially in Norwegian) and the 1900 census (partially in Norwegian) are from the "Digitalarkivet" at the University of Bergen. Both of these census databases allow you to conduct a search by first name, farm name, etc. (From the home page of the Digitalarkivet, click on source categories, then Censuses, and select the 1865 or 1900 census. Once you have selected the item that you want to search for, you can specify whether you would like the search to find a match that is "like" or "starting with". Unfortunately, the "Place of birth" search accesses a field that usually lists the parish name and not the farm name as the place of birth. As a result, you may not be able to find the farm you are looking for by using this search function. In addition, there is no wildcard search function available other than the "Starting with" and "Like" functions, so you may have to do several searches, varying the spellings of your search term.

     When I tried to find the BLACKRUD farm in the search field of the 1865 census using the "like" option, it brought up a page with a few Norwegian words and a button that says Submit. When I clicked on that button, another page loaded up that said (with a few typos) "No induvidual withe teh chosen combinatio". I then tried the "Starting with" option to search for Bl and this returned 17 farms. Unfortunately, none of these were the correct farm. From the matrikkel search that we did earlier, we know that there are some farms that have names very similar to BLACKRUD, and the "Starting with" search using Bl as a search term should have brought up a list of at least some of these farms if they existed in 1865. The Blegerud farm in Trøgstad kommune., for example, should have been in the search results, because it is in fact in the 1865 census database: here is a link to it. Two other farms that our search results should have included are Blækerud and Blækkerud, both of which are located in Gran kommune in Oppland. More importantly, the first of these is the farm that our Andrew BLACKRUD came from! So this search function is obviously not very useful for us.

     The problems we are experiencing suggests that we need to use another approach - either the wildcard function or the "Analysis" function that are available once we have selected a "fylke" and a "kommune". For example, we can try to find the Blegerud farm in Trøgstad herad (kommune) in Østfold fylke from the Digitalarkivet 1865 database.
     We already know that the Blegerud farm exists in Trøgstad herad in Østfold from the search we did in the Matrikkel and in the O. Rygh database. So we click our way to the 1865 census, and then click on the word Østfold in the left frame. In the right frame we will see a list of all the kommune in Østfold. We do not see Trøgstad on the list, but "Thrygstad" is listed, so we guess that they are one and the same. When we click on Thrygstad we are brought to a new search screen, and from this screen we can do a wildcard search. This database, however, uses a different character as a wildcard, namely the * sign. A the top of the page we see the words Find records where and a drop down menu. From this drop down menu we select "Gardsnavn" (farm name) and type in Bl followed by the wildcard, i.e., the * sign. Then we click on Search The search for Bl* brings up a new screen with a small window that displays all of the possible matches. For our search the window displays only one match: Blegerud. We click on the Blegerud name to highlight it, and then click on the button that says Finn postane (Find the matching entries). The screen changes again, and we see the one matching entry. We then click on the number to the left of the matching entry, and find the 1865 census entry for the Blegerud farm in Thrygstad kommune.

     In addition to the wildcard approach using the * sign, we can also use the "Analysis" function to find all of the farms in a particular kommune, and from this list select the ones that match the farm name that we are researching. For example, once we have clicked our way from Østfold on the opening page to the first screen for Thrygstad, we can click on the text that says Analysis. It is on the line of links (blue text) that says
Alle Previous Next Home Help Analysis Dictionary Documentation Print format Show/hide variables.
This brings up a page with a couple of sentences in Norwegian and two pull-down menus. This search screen is used to create tables of the data in the database. We will use it to create a table of farms in Thrygstad kommune. We only need to fill in one of the drop down menus, the one next to the word Nedover (downwards). Click on the pull-down menu and select "Gardsnavn", and then click on the button that says Lag tabell (Make table). (You should not do anything with the pull-down menu next to the word Bortover (Across) - that will simply create a larger table with additional fields that we do not need). The result of this "Analysis" is that a table is created for us with all of the farms in Thrygstad kommune in 1865. As you scroll down this table you will see the Blegerud farm, the only one that looks anything like the BLACKRUD farm that we are looking for. We can now return to the first initial search screen for Thrygstad and search for Blegerud. This "Analysis" method can be used to obtain the correct spelling of any farm name in the 1865 and 1900 census records from the Digitalarkivet web site. As we will see, the census database from RHD uses a different approach.
 

The 1865, 1875, and 1900 census records - RHD, University of Tromsø

The 1865, 1875, and 1900 census records are available from The Norwegian Historical Data Centre (Registreringssentral for Historiske Data - "RHD") at the University of Tromsø. Instructions for using the database is available, and these instructions include translations of several key terms. This database does not allow wildcard searches using numerical values or symbols like -, /, +, ?, *. You can, however, use another approach: enter at least two letters from the start of the name that your are searching for, be it the first name, surname, birthplace, or farm name. Thus, if you are searching for the Blackrud farm, you will have to type in at least the first two letters Bl (or BL - this database is not case sensitive).
     The problem with this approach, however, is that it finds too many matches and only shows the first 200. Thus, when I tried a search for Bl in the farm name field in the 1875 census, the search results indicated that there were 1002 matches but only the first 200 records where displayed. There is no way to scroll forward to see the rest of the search results. We could try to limit the search by typing in more letters, for example Bla or Black but this defeats the purpose of our search since we do not know the correct spelling of the farm name. For this reason I prefer to use the 1865 and 1900 census from Bergen when I am doing this type of search.

1801 census

Search for farm/place - 1801 census is part of the University of Bergen's online Census of Norway from 1801. (The link is actually to an older version of the Digitalarkivet web site). To use this search function you should enter at least two letters from the start of the name of the farm. Thus, if you are search for the Blackrud farm, you need to type in at least the letters Bl (or BL - this database is not case sensitive). You may use ae, oe and aa to enter the Norwegian letters æ, ø and å.

     The search results show us a long list of farms in 1801 where the name starts with the letters BL, starting with Blaaberget and ending with Blørstad. Only 4 of the farms, however, have names that are anything similar to Blackrud farm that Andrew Blackrud came from:

     The University of Bergen has also provided us with a parish to kommune cross-index so that we can find out what the corresponding modern-day kommune these old parishes refer to.
   
    There is one other search method available on the 1801 census web site: you can search on 14 different variables, and zero in on the farm if you know what "amt" (county) and parish the farm was located in. When you use this method you click your way to the correct "amt" (county) and then click on the correct parish. You can then select "Farm/house" under the "House" variable and get an alphabetical list of all of the farms in the parish that you selected. Unfortunately, this search feature is of limited use unless you know the name of the parish and you are having problems pulling up the correct farm. It is, however, a search feature that you can use to obtain the correct spelling of a farm that you are looking for.
 

Where is Blackrud farm?

     We can now combine the search methods from the matrikkel and the census records to see if we can identify Blackrud farm. The family story, you will recall, is that Andrew Blackrud was born around 1850, that he came from somewhere in Norway, and that he emigrated to the US around 1880 or so. We also suspect that the name Andrew BLACKRUD was an Americanized version of his name, but we do not know what the original spelling was in Norway.

     Using the 13 farms we identified in our matrikkel search (and any other close matches that we identified in our census searches), we now turn to the 1865 census and look up each of these farms. Andrew Blackrud was born around 1850, so he would have been about 15 years old when the 1865 census was taken. When we look at each of the farms we see that there is only one possible match: on the Blækerud farm in Gran kommune in Oppdal we find an Anders Larsen, age 15, the son of Lars Olsen and Mari Christensdatter. If he emigrated from Norway to America around 1880, he would have been about 30 years old when he left. We can now turn to the online Emigrasjonsprotokoll to see if we can find him there.

The Emigrasjonsprotokoll

     The Emigrantprotokoller (Emigration lists) have been placed on the web by the Digitalarkivet at the University of Bergen. On their web site you will also find lists of passports issued for travel to America from Bergen, 1842 to 1860, and much, much more. The Emigrantprotokoller database can be searched in a variety of ways, including by first name, father's name (i.e., patronym), year of departure, etc. In addition, you can do a wildcard search by using the * sign as a wildcard. There is also an "Analysis" function here, which functions just like it does in the census databases: when you click on it you will get a screen where you can create a table by first name, farm name, etc. Unfortunately, using this function may cause your browser to crash! There are so many entries in this database that when the Analysis function tries to put into a table for you that it simply doesn't work. In the census databases we can easily use the "Analysis" function to create a table of farms because there are usually only 40 or 50 farms in a kommune. The emigrasjonsprotokoll database, on the other hand, contains information on a huge number of individuals. The Kristiania database, for example, has 180,754 individuals. Creating a table listing the farm names of all of these individuals is what causes problems, and I would not recommend that you attempt it.

     We can now turn to the Emigrasjonsprotokoll to see if we can find out if Anders Larsen Blækerud from Gran kommune in Oppdal emigrated to America. We will use the wildcard search function using the * wildcard sign. Go to the Digitalarkivet, click on Source categories then Emigrants, and then Registers. From there, click on Oslo - Emigrants from Oslo 1867-1930. Next to Find records where, we select "Given name" and enter A* to get all emigrants whose first name starts with A. This will get you a very long list of names displayed in a small window, and from this list you can select the ones you want to take a closer look at.      When you get the list of names (it will take a little while), select all of the AN(DERS), ANDERS, ANDEREW, ANDERS, etc. from the list by clicking on the names and holding down your 'Shift' button while you click. (As you scroll down the list of names you will realize how many typos there are in these databases). Once you have selected these names, click on the button that says "Finn postane" to get to the next search screen. You have now narrowed down the list of emigrants considerably - you have a list of emigrants whose first name was AN(DERS), ANDERS, ANDEREW, or ANDERS. More importantly, you can narrow down this list even further by doing a search within this list - you can, for example, search for "Last name" = L*  This will bring up those emigrants whose first name was first name was AN(DERS), ANDERS, ANDEREW, or ANDERS, and whose patronymic name started with the letter L.
     When you do this search you will get a screen that says "Record 1-10 of 84 chosen in the data base". 10 matches are displayed at a time, and you can click your way through the search results by clicking on the link that says Next at the bottom of the screen. Look at each entry to see if you can find an Anders Larsen whose residence is listed as Gran, and who is about 30 years old. There are 5 or 6 possible matches, but you should fairly quickly find Anders Larsen Blikkrud, age 27, from Gran, Hadeland. It is the Anders Larsen who we saw at age 15 on the Blækerud farm in Gran kommune in Oppdal, the son of Lars Olsen and Mari Christensdatter. Anders, it turns out, emigrated to America on 09 May, 1879.

     Do we have a match? Is Anders LARSEN BLIKKRUD our great grandfather Andrew BLACKRUD who was born around 1850, who came from somewhere in Norway, and who emigrated to the US around 1880 or so? Hopefully we will be able to find documents and other materials that will provide additional proof that we have the correct match. Until we do, I hope that this article has helped to explain some of the ways we can use the Norwegian databases to assist us in our search for our ancestors.

Happy hunting!
John Follesdal


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John Follesdal
Copyright 1999
This page was created March 24, 1999