1920 Census for Norway – digitized but not fully transcribed

The text on the back of this photo was “Kaldal 1942”, the farm where Elvine was born and where she lived in 1920. The farmhouse was torn down and the houses rebuilt, farther down than it formerly lay, in 1950 by the owner Inge Kaldahl. The spellings Kaldal and Kaldahl are used alternatively.

Norway has taken nationwide censuses in the following years: 1801, 1865, 1875, 1891, 1900, 1910 and 1920, and these have been published online in digital or transcribed format (some both).

The scanned images of the 1920 census of Norway were released online (on the Digital Archives website) on December 1st, 2020, exactly a hundred years after it was enumerated, along with the completed sections of the searchable databases. The enormous job of transcribing the census information (and combining the personal information for each person with information from the corresponding domicile and the other residents, which had been recorded on separate sheets) had not been completed by the target date. The Archive has informed us that it should be finished by the end of 2022.  

This census contains appreciably more detail than previous ones. However, not all this detail is included in the transcribed searchable version, so take time to peruse the scanned originals whenever you find a person or family of interest. The price for getting so much detail of interest to historians and genealogists is that the census enumeration involved seven separate forms (most comprising more than one page).

Information about the various forms may seem irrelevant but is vital to understand when you start looking at a scanned version of the 1920 census for Norway (and some other Norwegian censuses, which also have multiple pages for each household), which is unlike the typical US or UK census sheets with their concise layout.

Let us look at an example and tell a family story at the same time. My great-grandfather Ivar Næs, born in 1857, was a grammar school teacher, and a local historian in his spare time. He took his general teacher’s education first and then he took a course in woodwork. I have written a little about him at Lokalhistoriewiki, a site for local and person history and genealogy. You can find his sisters and brothers there. I have many DNA matches in the US who are descendants of his family. Studying these matches has given me knowledge of families that I never knew about. 

He married Elvine Petrine Edvardsdatter Kaldahl in 1891, she was born 10 years later than her husband, in 1867. When they married, Elvine was a tailor with her own business. They had four children: the oldest, Egil, died as an infant, the next children were Dagny (my grandmother born 1893), Egil (1895) and Bjarne (1900). Elvine came from the farm Kaldahl and Ivar from the farm Kalnes, both large farms by the standard of the times. The adults were both born in Namdalseid in Northern Trøndelag.

At first, they lived on a small farm, Brørs nedre, which Ivar bought in 1889. He worked as a teacher at Ytterøy, and stayed (and worked) on the farm only in summer. Some of the time his family lived with him at Ytterøy. They sold the farm in 1898. Ivar was norskdomsmann, supporter of Nynorsk language and culture (a minority language in Norway, close to Bokmål, the main language). He was a republican in 1905 when Norway became independent from Sweden and voted on whether prince Carl of Denmark should be the new king. The name that is written in the church book at the time of Ivar’s christening is Iver Christian Pedersen Kaldnes. He changed it to Ivar Næs in line with his interest in language and nynorsk.

Dagny also became a teacher and specialized in arts and crafts like her father.  Egil took military education (underoffiser) and became a businessman and I believe that Bjarne also went to the same school as Egil. Bjarne died in 1922 working as an analyst at the mines, Lillebø gruver, in Stord. Egil died in 1926, at that time he was business manager at Bertel O. Steen, an importer of cars. Both died of tuberculosis. In 1920 all the children were all living away from home.

The 1920 census report, individual sheet for Elvine is here, while Ivar is here. The household report is here and consists of Elvine’s two siblings Peder and Tora, there are two servants who tend the cows and the house, and the last two persons on the list are Ivar and Elvine. They have their own household. While doing my genealogical research, I have established that Ivar became a pensioner at this time. Elvine and Ivar built their own house, probably at the time when they lived on the same farm as Elvine’s siblings.

I will cover their later life in another post.

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