I am totally stuck!

I am often asked to help people who are “totally stuck” with their search in Norway

I am sometimes surprised  as it turns out to be a lot of information available. In these cases I suspect that people are searching only by way of the search feature in the Digitalarkivet.

This search feature is a great tool, but it does have its limitations. One of them is the fact that not all Norwegian sources are digitized and indexed.

In this article I will look at how we can check to see if the persons/actions we are looking for are likely to show up among the search results or if we have to find and go through the scanned source manually .

If no convincing results show up in a search, we need to have some sort of idea as to what geographical area our ancestor came from. You might want to have a look at my article “Find Norwegian place names” if you need to get the geography sorted out. Other relevant articles areOld boundaries in Norway” and “Former municipalities in Norway”

In the opening page in Digitalarkivet, we start by going to “Select source”


This brings us to the “select source page”


This page has a search box at the top. In the illustration you can see that I have typed in “Veøy” as I will use this parish as an example.

The page has a check box to choose a “OR-search”. This means it is possible to search for several keywords/locations. I seldom use this function as I think it is best to stick to one search term at the time.

You can narrow down the time period, which can often be smart.

The page has five tabs. I will make a comment on a couple of them

  • Source category: Depending on what you are looking for, you may want to narrow down your search.  In an initial search for an ancestor, it might be smart to narrow down the search categories to Censuses and Church books/Parish registers.
  • Geography: In this example I have searched for Veøy parish. Even though this name occur some other places in Norway, it is only one churchparish by this name. If you are searching for a more common name like Berg or Dal it can be wise to narrow down the search under the Geography tab.
  • Organ: lists four subgroups that are not translated:
    • Bergverk → Mining industry
    • Industri → Industry (general)
    • Kirkesamfunn i utlandet → Church congregations abroad
    • Politi og lensmann → Police and sheriffs
  • The two last tabs, Themes and Form, I believe is fairly self-explanatory.

This is the page that appears after we hit SEARCH:

I have put in markers in three areas:

  1. In this example I have narrowed down the timeperiod to a search for sources from the years 1700 to 1800.
  2. The two first hits listed are the church records (Ministerialbok) from Veøy parish (prestegjeld) for the years 1721 – 1764 and 1765 – 1799. The red box that covers the three columns to the right, show us that these books can only be browsed (as scanned images). No clerical actions recorded in these two sources will show up in a search.
  3. Going down to “Ministerialbok for Veøy prestegjeld 1799 – 1818” we see that we can browse the entire book. In addition, parts of this book is transcribed and can be searched:
  • Fødte og døpte (Born and baptised) 1803 – 1817 (searchable 1799 – 1814)
  • Viede (Weddings) 1803 – 1818 (searchable 1803 – 1814)
  • Døde og begravde (Death and burials) 1803 – 1817 (searchable 1799 – 1818)

We see that there is an incongruity between the  years listed and the years searchable in the categories “Born and baptised” and “Death and burials”. This churchbook was written on blank pages. In 1803 the minister made a change to the layout of the book and started to keep his different clerical actions together in separate sections. I believe that the transcriber has chosen to define the sections by the timeframe they covers, while he, in fact, has included actions from the chronological part of the book that covers the years 1799 to 1802. (I sure hope this makes sense!)

When we look at these results, it is important to note that only part of this church book is transcribed. As mentioned above there is a section in this book covering the years 1799 to 1802 where all the clerical actions are recorded together chronologically. If we are looking for a wedding that took place in these years, we have to browse the scanned images in the “chronological list” section.

There are sections in this book that are not transcribed. These are:

  • Chronological list (parts of) (1799 – 1802)
  • Confirmations (1803 – 1817)
  •  Vaccinations (1812 – 1821)
  • Minister’s diary (Dagregister) (1803 – 1818)
  • Notes (this book only contain one note (about rebinding of the book) added 1938)

I have used one parish as an example. This pattern is found with records throughout Norway. The Digital Archives in association with a large number of volunteers put in a lot of work to get more records transcribed and indexed. This means that a record not yet transcribed are likely to be so in the future.

If you need help navigating the scanned church records in Digitalarkivet, you might want to have a look at my article Church records in the “new” digital archives.

You can, of course, just hit search without putting in a search term on the “Select Source” webpage. This will bring up a lot of results and only the 1000 most relevant ones are shown. This is, in my opinion, not very productive. You can also search without a search term while narrowing your search by e.g. geographical area. This will give you an overview of the sources available, both scanned and transcribed, in that perticular area.

I hope this was of help for those who is struggling finding information about their ancestors using only the search feature in Digitalarkivet. Don’t hesitate to comment below or send me an email if  something needs clarification or you have questions.

As I am often asked about searching in the Digital Archives, I plan to be back with more articles that may help you get good results from this Source. If you have not already done so, you might want to leave your email address in the subscription field on the home page and get a notice when I update this blog.

6 thoughts on “I am totally stuck!

  • January 22, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    I learned so much! I’ll try it out with some of my ancestral parishes immediately. Who knows, maybe I’ll find some transcribed parish records. The ones I’d really like to see are the probate records. Many thanks!

    • January 22, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      Hello Evelyn. Thanks for visiting my blog. I am really glad to hear that you found this article to be of help. You can use the same method to find probate records for your area and see which one are indexed.

  • January 23, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Very good article! I look forward to trying these tips! I have had terrible luck using the website! I think it is overwhelming for someone who is new to research, especially when you don’t know the exact names to look for! The naming system really through me for a loop, but I am slowly but surely getting the hang of it!!! Thank you for the good information!!!!

    • January 23, 2017 at 7:09 am

      Thanks for visiting Amy and thanks for the kind words. The Digital archives (Digitalarkivet) can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it is really a treasure trove of information. I am planning to go on writing about how to use this source and I am happy to receive ideas as to what problems that should be adressed.

  • January 25, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Good write up. I really like that when using this method, the results show the status of the databases.

    I find, though, that you can get here another way, and it uses the old advanced search form that can find a lot more people than the new advanced search form.

    The new advanced search requires a role entry which can’t be left blank or made to be any. This really limits the results when searching. Often, especially in older indexes, the Role is missing or has not been coded correctly as this was not anticipated to be searched on.

    The old advanced search forms – http://gda.arkivverket.no/cgi-win/WebMeta.exe – can show you which sources are available for the time period and place, as well as not requiring the Role in the search. This increases the chances of finding people.

    Do you know how we can ask to get this corrected in the new advanced search?

    • January 26, 2017 at 2:13 am

      Hello Tony. Thanks for visiting my blog and for taking the time to share your thoughts. In many cases there are different roads to the same goal and “my way” may not always be the best. I know that many people liked the old solution better. I do, however, advice against using it, as it is no longer updated. I haven’t used the old solution in a long time, but making a test right now I only get a few results in the old solution, while a search like I outlined in the article,(I checked Veøy parish) brought up more (transcribed and indexed) sources. I don’t know anything about the architecture of the databases in the Digitalarkivet, but it seems like the databases that are added after the new solution was implemented, does not show up in the old search. I suppose this experience will differ depending on what geographical area you are looking at, and if there has been new databases added after the new solution was put in place. This is in accordance with the note (in Norwegian) that is displayed at the top of the page you linked.

      This being said; The fact that they have not completely shut down the old solution, may indicate that there are a few databases that are not yet transfered to the new solution.

      I have on a couple of occasions been in contact with Digitalarkivet and this has been a pleasant experience. I can’t remember what address I used, but I believe that sending a mail to post@arkivverket.no with an informative subject line, should bring it to the right person.


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