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The Birth of Niculs Olsen

All of the events described below occurred in Telemark, Norway, primarily in the Municipality of Lårdal.  Mo is an adjoining municipality.  In 1964 Lårdal and Mo were merged into the Municipality of Tokke.

The Problem: To identify the parents of the Niculs Olsen who married Torbjorg Halvorsdatter.  Niculs was born c.1752 (age 49 in the 1801 census, age 70 at his death in 1822).1  There is a gap in the baptismal records in Lårdal for the period of his birth, so other sources are needed to solve the problem.

Clues to the given names of the parents come from Norwegian naming practices, where the father's given name, "Ole", becomes the son's patronymic or surname, "Olsen."  Niculs named his first daughter Birgit2, which again comes from Norwegian naming practices, so one would expect a high liklihood that his mother's name was Birgit.3

As an adult, Niculs lived on the Haatved farm, and in the absence of contradictory evidence, it is presumed that he was born there.  Identifying the parents of Niculs is complicated by the fact that there are at least two men named Ole living on the Haatved farm, and there are at least two Ole's in Lårdal with a wife named Birgit.  Marriage records have been found for those two couples and a third Ole-Birgit couple who have been eliminated as not related to Haatved.  There is no information in the betrothal or marriage records to tie any of the couples to Haatved.  The couples are:

Ole Barsgaards Tvet & Birgit Olsdatter Bochedale? married 16 Nov 1741 in Lårdal.4  This is the couple that did not reside in Haatved.
Ole Knudsen & Birgit Niculsdatter married 27 Dec 1742 in Lårdal.5  This is one of the Haatved couples.
Ole Niculs Home & Birgit Olsdatter Wiestad [Vistad] married 9 Jul 1745 in Mo, Telemark.6  This is the other Haatved couple.

Other than marriages, in those records that have been located the pastor seems to have differentiated between the two Ole's in Haatved by calling one "Ole Knudsen Haatved" and the other just "Ole Haatved."  An Ole Johannesen Haatved also appears later, married to Gunlaug Bionsdatter.

One clue to the presence of multiple couples is the baptisms of Knud Olsen and Niculs Olsen.  Knut was baptized on 12 Oct 1749.7  The baptism record states that he is the son of Ole Knudsen.  Ole Knudsen is again fully named on 30 Nov 1749 when Knut's mother, Bergith, is introduced.8  Further evidence to support the identity of Knud's parents is found in the 1801 census (Haatved, Laurdal, Laurdal, Telemark: "Birgith Nichoulsdtr, Mandens moder, age 85", referring to Knud as the "Mand".)

The Niculs Olsen baptized only a few months later, on 16 Feb 1750,9 also had a mother named Bergit, but he obviously could not have had the same mother as Knud.  This 1750 Niculs apparently died 28 May 1750, the child of Ole Haatved.10

The Resolution: The Niculs Olsen who was born c.1752 and married Torbjorg Halvorsdatter, was the son of Ole Knudsen & Birgit Niculsdatter.  Lacking the baptismal record, the primary support for the identification of Nicul's parents is his mother's patronymic, Niculsdatter, and the exclusion of other possible couples.

Note: Variations in the spelling of Haatved occur throughout the records.  There are three farms in Lårdal in the 1801 Census (Hegtved Østre, Hægtved Vestre and Haatved) and three in "O. Rygh: Norwegian Farm Names" (Haatveit søndre, Haatveit nordre, Hegtveit vestre).  There does not appear to be any pattern regarding which spelling appears with which name in the parish registers.


1.Death record: Lårdal i Lårdal Kirkebøk 1815-1860 p.99

2.Baptism record: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1754-1790 p.26

3.In Norway, a patronymic is a name derived from that of the father usually by the addition of a suffix. The suffix for males is "sen" or "son" and for females "datter" or "dotter".  To avoid any confusion, rural Norwegians would add the name of the farm where the person was living -- not as a name, in the modern sense of the word, but as an address or identifier.  In the church records, the practice varies.  Sometimes the name is the given name + patronymic, sometimes the given name + the farm name, and sometimes all three.  The given name and the patronymic name remained constant throughout a person's life, but the farm name usually changed when the person moved to a different farm.

The given name was not chosen at random, but followed a strict rule: the oldest son was named after his paternal grandfather, and the second son after his maternal grandfather.  Likewise, the oldest daughter was named after her paternal grandmother, and the second daughter after her maternal grandmother.  When the names of the paternal and maternal grandparents had been used up, the great grandparents names were used, but in no particular order.

There were, however, a few exceptions to these rules: 1) the name of a deceased spouse was used first, i.e., when a widow or widower remarried and had a child, that child would be named after the deceased spouse; 2) if the parent of a child died prior to the child being baptized, that parent's name would be used (if necessary the name would be feminized - from Wilhelm to Wilhelmina, for example); and 3) if a child died, the next child would be named after the deceased child.  For a more complete discussion of naming practices, see John Føllesdal, Norwegian naming practices

4.Marriage record: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1734-1754 p.187

Ole Barskortveiten was Ole Halvorson Barskortveiten who died in Mo abt 1755.  Birgit Olavsdtr Dalen was his second wife.  There was a probate for him in Mo with just one surviving child, a son, Halvor, by his first wife. - Source: 3/22/08 correspondence from Mary Farrell

5.Marriage record: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1734-1754 p.187

6.Marriage record: Mo Kirkebøk 1724-1748 p.33

Birgit Olavsdtr Vistad was married 3 times.  Her first marriage was in 1739 in Mo to Hermod Eivindson Listog.  He died in 1740.  They had a daughter named Turi.  Then in 1745 she married Olav Nikulson Heggtveit of Laardal.  They had one son, a boy named Olav who is listed on his father's probate in 1755 but who must have died as a child in Mo.

Birgit then married in 1756 to Svein Gunnarson Brokka (The Laardal church book has his name as Svein Olavson, but that's an error).  She and Svein moved to Skafsaa in Mo where she had some more kids.  So, you can eliminate this Birgit Olavsdtr as the mother of Nikuls Olavson. - Source: 3/22/08 correspondence from Mary Farrell.

7 & 8.Baptism and Introduction records: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1734-1754 p.94 & 165

Up until the mid-1700’s, women who had given birth were required to stay away from church for approximately six weeks after the childbirth because they were considered unclean.  At the end of this time period they would be formally introduceret (introduced) to the congregation by the priest who would meet the mother at the church door and escort her into the church.  This introduction, or inngang (entry) as it was also referred to, was noted in the parish register as introduceret or inngang.  While the custom formally ended in the mid-1700’s, the practice continued informally well into the 1800’s, and in some places into the early part of this [20th] century. Source: John Follesdal, "Norwegian kirkebøker - parish registers"

9.Baptism and Introduction records: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1734-1754 p.165

10.Death record: Lårdal Kirkebøk 1734-1754 p.99


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