Midtlyng - Mitlyng Genealogy
Reading church registers where everything is written with unfamiliar letters in a foreign language can be a very difficult and time-consuming task. In many cases it's unnecessary to invest so much time and energy into such a job. Other people may already have done this work - and published the results in a book. In Norway we call it a 'bygdebok'. (In this context 'bygd' means 'parish').
A 'bygdebok' is a valuable source for every genealogist who tries to trace Norwegian ancestry. These books constitutes a very special breed of historical literature, but it is also a very heterogeneous collection. In the following I'll try to describe different types of 'bygdebøker' (as the Norwegian plural is).
Most 'bygdebøker' can be characterized by these four points:
- The geographic and thematic scope is limited to one 'kommune' (which can be more than one parish).
- As a rule the books aim to list every family who lived in this 'kommune' during a certain period (but this is usually an unreachable goal!),
- In most books the history is na chronologically, and in a descriptive manner.
- The books are written for the local population' use.
The contents of a 'bygdebok' will consist of one or more of these three themes:
- A broad 'general history' ('generell historie') covering many hundred years,
- A 'farm history' ('gårdshistorie'), going back as far as there exist sources,
- A 'genealogy' part ('slektshistorie'), as a rule going back to 1600.
The general history is na in certain ways:
- The books are divided into chapters containing time periods or special parts of society life, or a combination of these two principles,
- The perspective as a rule is based upon the 'kommune' as an unit,
- Most books only mention 'leading' persons in the community,
- There is very little genealogy.
The other two themes - farm history ('gårdshistorie') and genealogy part ('slektshistorie')- are often found combined into 'farm & family history' ('gårds- og slektshistorie'). If the farm history is missing, the book may be called only 'family book' ('slektsbok'). Typical features for the 'farm & family' books are:
- Each chapter covers one main farm,
- The perspective is based upon the farm and the household,
- All persons (or rather all households) who have lived on the farm, will be mentioned (as far as it's possible!),
- Genealogy constitutes a vital part of each chapter.
If you are a genealogist, then the 'farm & family' books will give you the best information. The Norwegian libraries have registers with every 'bygdebok' published. You can also buy these books with advice from the Norwegian site of genealogist and historian Johan Ingvald Borgos. Often it can be difficult to find out where these books are sold.
Most 'bygdebøker' have lots of pictures. If you hit the right book you may find photos of your relatives and the places where they lived. The text will be in Norwegian, of course, but some 'bygdebøker' have included an English summary and explanations of special Norwegian words