Let’s wring the census records

It is smart to study closely every person in a household when you study the census records.

Note! The graphics in this post show the pre June 2017 version of Digitalarkivet. I have chosen to not spend time updating these as the main purpose is to make you aware of the “Family position” and “Marital status”  and how these fields can give clues to family relations. The same information is also presented in the June 2017 update in a slightly different format.  

This post is a mix of a genealogy and language “lesson”. Learning some new Norwegian words may help you get more clues from the census records. These records can truly be a treasure trove of information.

A few small words may tell a lot about relationships.

Knud Knudsen and Gunild (no 001 and 002), are under “Marital status” listed as both being in their first marriage – “Begge i første ægteskab”. Looking at the children listed from 003 to 009, under “Family position”, they are recorded as “Deres børn” – Their children. They all have patronyms based on Knud (Knudsen/Knudsdatter). Based on this we may asssume that Knud is the father and Gunild the mother of these children. I have however, seen cases where children are listed as “deres børn” – their children,  where one of the “parents ” in the households where not the biological parent.

Looking at Ole Arnesen and Eli Jacobsdatter (no 001 and 002). We see two stepchildren listed. Stedsøn means stepson and steddatter means stepdaughter. This is confirmed by looking at the patronym (Jacob Ellingsen and Marte Ellingsdatter) that don’t match the head of household’s (Ole) first name. In the column “Marital status” we see that Ole Arnesen is in his first marriage (Givt første gang) while his wife Eli Jacobsdatter is in her second marriage (Givt anden gang). Number 005 and 006 Olling and Arne Olsen are listed as “Hans sønner” – his sons. Taking this record at face value means that he had two sons born out of wedlock. He might have had, but this would make me check churchrecords to see if him “being in his first marriage” is in fact true. The same goes for his stepchildren. The record, as it is presented, makes it fair to assume that Eli is Jacob and Marte’s mother. If Ole is wrongly recorded as being in his first marriage, he might as well be in his third, so this has to be checked.

Going further down the list we see that Knud Knudsen and Pernille Jetmundsdatter (no 007 and 008) both are in their first marriage (“Begge i første ægteskab”). However, Helvig Knudsdatter (no 009) is listed as “Hans datter” – his daughter. Based on the record Knud had her out of wedlock. Again I would check the churchrecord to see if this is true.

As we can see, the “Huusbonde” (head of the household) and “Hans kone” (his wife) may not both be the biological parents of the children listed below them in the  record.

In this record we note no. 009 Ingeborg Madsdatter. Her family position is “Huusbondens moder” → the mother of the husband. This is valuable information as women often was left out of the records. Also in cases with similar names within the same area, it is nice to have this information

In this record we note that person no. 008. Christopher Olsen is listed as “Huusbondens morbror” → the brother of the husbands mother i.e. the husbands uncle. If we are having trouble identifying the husband’s mother, based on this census record, we know that she had a brother Christopher and that their father’s name was Ole/Ola/Olav. Jacob’s mother was “[Given name] Olsdatter”.

In this record no. 006 Ole Biertesen who is a servant/farm hand (Tjenestefolk) is the husbond Jacob’s younger brother. Such relationships may not be easy to pick up on. In this case it was the relatively rare patronyn Biertesen that made me check it up. You should also note that sometimes older children may be listed as boarders and titled servants when working for their parents.

In this record no 015 Ole Olsen is listed as “Konens broder” → the brother of the wife. We see that Ole and no 011, the wife in this household, have matching patronyms (Olsen/Olsdatter) thus, their father’s name was Ole/Ola/Olav. Again in a case where there are a lot fo similar names, this can be a vital clue to link Ole and Ingeborg to the right father.

No 016 Marit Larsdatter is listed as “Huusbondens moder” → the husbands mother. Also worth noticing is that she is a widow after her second marriage (Enke etter det 2det ægteskab).

There are many more examples like these that could be presented. I might come back with more later. What we can take away from this is that there is a lot of information about relationships that can be harvested from the census records.

I am constantly updating my Genealogy Dictionary and I will try to make sure that the words from the census records are found there.

Comment below, or send me an email through the contact page if you have comments or questions about the census records.

One thought on “Let’s wring the census records

  • May 7, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    Excellent information! I remember struggling to learn those words but they can provide excellent information to find other family members.


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