40 million new names at the Digital Archives

The Digital Archives of Norway has collaborated with Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilySearch (AMF) in transcribing Norwegian church books. They have added 40 million names to the database with this effort, doubling the the number of persons that are searchable in the Digital Archives. The Digital Archives is free for all users. Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilySearch will all publish the same material on their websites. This makes the parish records in Norway from 1800 and into the early 1900s much more accessible. The downside is that there are many errors in interpretation and spelling of names as the transcribers are not native Norwegian speakers.

My great great grandparents were Beret Marta Danielsdatter Aasen (1819-1908) and Peder Ingebrigtson Kalnes (1821-1896) and they lived in Namdalseid, Nord-Trøndelag on the farm Kalnes. I checked some of the records regarding them and found these variations of the farm name:

The name could be spelled correctly Kalnes, Kaldnes or Kaldnæs and even more variations.

It is not always easy to write the Norwegian language. We have two variations, bokmål and nynorsk and locally some people spoke the Sami or Kven languages. We have a history of being ruled by the Danes and that being the official language until 1814. In that period and onwards names were spelled according to Danish customs. An example: The male name Ola was spelled Ole by the minister, when recorded in the parish record.

The transcription mistakes are already made but they do not stop us from finding new records. So what can we do to minimize the problem? I have a few recommendations:

Read and transcribe the record yourself (when you find it).

Use sources that can verify standardized versions of given names, patronyms and farm and place names. One good source here is FamilySearch and its Wiki. For every parish there is a farm list with all names.

For the example above, Kalnes, I find the farm name here:

Male given names with variations (example: Eric, Erik and Erich), see here

Female given names here.

Places can be found on a current map, the name might have been altered the last 100 to 200 years though. The link is here

Check your own spelling. I often see that persons who do not speak Norwegian make mistakes. Correct spelling gives more matches when searching. And when the search is for a definite term or when using wildcard, it is of importance to spell the terms correctly. Wrong spelling might lead to zero or few matches.

And report errors to the Digital Archives, Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. That will help us all.

It is always difficult to do genealogical research in other countries. But give yourself time, learn the most basic terms; born (født), baptized (døpt), married (gift) and dead (død). And increase gradually. After some time you will master parts of the language and this will give you a new understanding of your family history.

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