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Leave No Document Unturned

By Daniel Hubbard | June 29, 2014

The other day a client whose Swedish ancestry I’ve been investigating asked me to take on a project researching in Norwegian records. Norwegian research isn’t something I’d done before except for a document here or there but with that full disclosure, I said I would take a look.

Getting into new records is always interesting. There are so many ways to record the events that give us those stepping stones we walk across to understand people’s lives. Every new jurisdiction, culture, religion and time period has different aspects to its records. Having done so much Swedish research, Norwegian records feel somewhat familiar but they aren’t the same. Those differences act as reminders to keep the eyes and the mind open. Open eyes and open mind are things that apply no matter what the records are and no matter how familiar we are with them.

Marriage

Marriage records are one of the more variable records there are. An incomplete list includes both civil and religious records, licenses, license returns, certificates and registers. The marriage entry in the parish register for the Norwegian man that I was researching was not particularly enlightening. It gave me the event date, his name, his bride’s name and the names of their fathers. This just confirmed information that I already had. That is always good but rarely exciting. The marriage entry also gave me the date of their marriage banns.

Marriage banns were announcements made in the parish church stating that a couple intended to marry. The idea was to allow anyone to come forward who knew of a reason why the couple should not marry. Banns were typically read on three consecutive Sundays. Often banns did not produce separate records. If a record exists of them at all, the dates might be found jotted into the marriage record. In my case there were separate banns records produced. If one expected them to just be a list of dates and the couple’s names, they might be a record that you wouldn’t bother to examine. Leave no stone, or document unturned. In this case the record of the banns included not just three banns dates and the names of the couple. The record included his occupation, their birth dates and places, their baptismal dates, their confirmation dates and the names of both of their parents, not just their fathers. The record of the banns may not say that the couple actually married but it did contain much more information than the marriage record itself.

Leave no document unturned.

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