|Databases Constructed by the "Norwegian Extended Family Reconstitution Method" as Part of a National Population Register|
|In Norway a number of databases has been constructed and used for producing a particularly Norwegian genre of local history books, the farm- and genealogical history books.
A number of such databases as been constructed during recent years. They contains in principle basic, time-stamped information about all existing or deserted dwellings (farms, cottar’s places, modern houses and even apartment buildings) and all people that has lived in the area covered (usually a parish) and interrelations between people («families») and people and dwellings.
The paper will discuss the use of such databases within a possible national population register.
In Norway, such local history books are very popular. Most books cover the period from ca 1600 until today, with fairly complete information about persons, «families» and dwellings from mid-18th century. The methods and source material heavily utilized in the genre may justify using a name like the Norwegian extended family reconstitution method. Two specific characteristics of Norway's history justify the national term: the settlement structure and the farm and family- or surname system.
Arable land in Norway is very limited. The agricultural production up to the beginning of the twentieth century was heavily dependent upon extensive use of natural resources found outside the arable land. This fact has constituted a settle¬ment structure rather different from the rest of Europe: single farms or farms with a few clearly distinguishable holdings are the normal pattern. Villages similar to those in the rest of Europe are not found at all.
All Norwegian farms got their name when settled for the first time, and the main rule is that even the oldest farms from prehistoric time carry the same name today as they were given when first settled. Most of such farm names are documented back to the high medieval period. Usually it is rather simple to identify a so-called named farm – a farm with a specific identifiable name – in rural Norway today, either as a single farm or as a few holdings of which some may have been cottar's places settled in the 18th or 19th century. The names of the holdings have been almost as stable.
In Norway family names did not become compulsory by law until 1923. Earlier only persons of high rank used family names in the modern sense of the term. Ordinary people didn't have family names, only the farm name as surname, used by their surroundings. When moving to another farm the new farm name was taken as surname; or actually address. The public officials followed what local people said when writing surnames in church records and other written sources.
Combining these two characteristics with the ordinary extended family reconstitution method and its sources makes it rather easy both to reconstitute the families who have lived in such a study area and to follow their footsteps as far as they have left traces in the sources utilized in such projects.|