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Norwegian Ancestry - information

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Norwegian Ancestry - information

  • There are 5 million Norwegians living in Norway today (2012) and somewhere between 5 and 15 million Americans with Norwegian ancestry.
  • Since most Norwegian-Americans do not speak Norwegian this project aims to explain Norwegian genealogy and practices relevant for genealogy and in particular.
  • We have a project "Introduksjon til Geni com norsk" for all Norwegian members with much of the same information here.
  • Read more further down the page. It is essential that everyone pay attention to:
  • The World Tree and Collaboration
  • Naming Practices and Settings

World Family Tree

  • is a website where the main aim is to collaborate icn_collaborator_both_14.gif about one big common family tree. One is not supposed to have a separate tree here; this is a collaborative website for genealogy. Consequently, all copies of the same person must be merged to one profile pr person. This website thus functions approximately like a Wikipedia for genealogy, where everyone collaborates on the profile pages. See information video: Geni in One Minute
  • Read more on the Wiki page about "The Big Tree" plus a little about the history and development, as well as World Family Tree page, which shows how many profiles are currently connected.

Security Copy

  • It is strongly recommended to keep a private copy of the family file on your computer, and use personal genealogy software in addition to It is easy to download a GEDCOM-file from GENi, and import this into various software.


  • Unless you have been invited into the existing tree you start with your own separate branch, but as you enter a few generations you will quickly discover that others will have entered the same lines. You will then be urged to collaborate and merge the profiles and lines, either as a Pro user notified of duplicates, or by somebody else finding your profiles. Please note that the auto-matching function works poorly for Nordic patronymics, so it is important to double check all relations before a merge of two profiles with apparent identical names.
  • If this type of collaborative work is nothing for you, we recommend that you download all the information through a GEDCOM file, and then rather use genealogy software on your own computer to continue working on your family history.
  • The greatest advantage with this type of tree is the possibility to get in touch with relatives and to collaborate with these to find out as much as possible about common ancestry, share stories and old photos.
  • Remember do not delete profiles! Duplicates will be merged, and erroneous relations corrected.

Names and Settings

  • NB: adjust *preferences to always show Middle Name so that the the patronymic is visible. This is very important for all work with Norwegian genealogy.
  • Make sure you also set "maiden name" to always be visible.

Norwegian Naming Practice

  • Please read all the information about Norwegian Names on Geni on the Wiki, link below, or here from the Norway DNA project with examples.
  • For people with a three-part name, that is: most Norwegians born before 1900, excluding northern Norway and immigrant families with hereditary surnames, we write the names:
  • first name: all given names
  • middle name: patronymic
  • last name: farm name at birth, or surname if used
  • If you only have information giving a first name and patronymic:
  • first name: all given names
  • last name: patronymic

Norwegian Family Names

  • Norwegian names are sometimes difficult to understand, as hereditary surnames were not usually used. Except for the bourgeoisie in the cities and some civil servant families, almost all Norwegians were farmers, and used a three-part naming system:
  • First name: all given names
  • Patronymic: Olsdatter, Sveinsson, Nilsen etc, showing the given name of their father (note that women would never have a male patronymic)
  • Farm name: the name of the farm where they were born or lived - this would change when people moved, but is the name that can best be used to find a person's origin

Some dates

  • before 1850: traditional system of given name, patronymic and farm name
  • 1850-1923: gradual change starting in cities moving towards hereditary last names - circumspection must be used to judge what is more correct in this phase, especially for those who moved from their farms to towns
  • 1923-1965: Norwegian Names Act: everyone had to take a hereditary last name. Children would have their father's surname. Women would use their husband's surname.
  • 1965: Women could again keep their name (as before/tradition) and children could use either parents' last name, typically both (one as middle name)
  • More information on Norwegian Naming Practice pages on the Geni Wiki.
  • More information about Norwegian Names in a collaborative database from the Norway DNA project.

Genealogy sources in Norway