Sunday, June 16, 2013

Church Record Sunday - Finding Treasure in Norwegian Church Records

I never thought I would be glad about the three years of Latin I took in high school.  Remember the old saying "Latin is a dead language, dead as it can be.  First it killed the Romans, now it's killing me."?  My friends and I chanted that almost as often as we chanted "Veni, Vidi, Vici".  That was before I became interested in genealogy.  Most European church records are written in a mixture of the language of the country (Swedish, French, German, etc) and Latin. Knowing some Latin makes it much easier to interpret church records.  Church records are an extremely important resource in tracing your family tree.
Garnisonsmenigheten parish in Oslo, Norway where my great-grandfather and grandfather were Christened.
(photo Google images)
Norwegian church records, for example, have a very subtle way of recording legitimacy.  Unlike other countries there is no column to indicate legitimate/illegitimate.  Rather the names of the parents are recorded in reverse order.  In other words, usually the father's name and place of birth would be recorded first followed by the name and place of birth of the mother.  Illegitimacy is indicated by the juxtaposition of the father and mother's information.  The christening records show the parents place of birth of the parents.  This can help take you back another generation and reveal collateral relatives.  A tip I received from a Norwegian researcher was to check the confirmation records to see if someone had survived childhood.  This helps to make sure you are not trying to find someone who had died in childhood and can thus narrow your line of research.  Norwegians were required by law to be confirmed before they could marry.