Norway Jurisdictions

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The jursidictional heirarchy in Norway is different for church records and civil records.

For finding ecclesiastical records, Norway is broken down into the following levels of jurisdiction within the country:

  • County = Fylke
  • District (which usually contained two or more parishes) = Prestegjeld
  • Parish (which is the local, ecclesiastical record-keeping unit for vital records) = Sokn

The civil jurisdiction where land, tax, probate, and other types of records are created is called the Sorenskriveri.
The system for land division and registration is called the Matrikkel.

Fylke[edit | edit source]

From the consolidation to a single kingdom, Norway was divided into a number of geographic regions that had its own legislative assembly or Thing, such as Gulating (Western Norway) and Frostating (Trøndelag). The second-order subdivision of these regions was into fylker, such as Egdafylke and Hordafylke. In 1914, the historical term fylke was brought into use again to replace the term amt introduced during the union with Denmark. Current day counties (fylker) often, but not necessarily correspond, to the historical areas.  From 1919 each amt was renamed a fylke (plural fylker) (county) and the amtmann was now titled fylkesmann (county governor).

Len[edit | edit source]

Formerly the term len (plural len) in Norway signified an administrative region roughly equivalent to today's counties. The historic len was an important administrative entity during the period of Dano-Norwegian unification after their amalgamation as one state, which lasted for the period 1536[1]–1814.

At the beginning of the 1500s the political divisions were variable, but consistently included four main len and approximately 30 smaller sub-regions with varying connections to a main len. Up to 1660 the four principle len were headquartered at the major fortresses Bohus Fortress, Akershus Fortress, Bergenhus Fortress and the fortified city of Trondheim[2]. The sub-regions corresponded to the church districts for the Lutheran church in Norway.

Len in 1536[edit | edit source]

Båhus len (later termed Bohuslän after Denmark-Norway ceded it to Sweden by the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658)

Akershus len
Trondheim len
Bergenhus len (which included Northern Norway)
These four principal len were in the 1530s divided into approximately 30 smaller regions. From that point forward through the beginning of the 1600s the number of subsidiary len was reduced, while the composition of the principle len became more stable.[3]

Len in 1660[edit | edit source]

From 1660 Norway had nine principle len comprising 17 subsidiary len:

Akershus len
Tunsberg len
Bratsberg len
Agdesiden len
Stavanger len
Bergenhus len
Trondheim len
Nordlandene len
Vardøhus len
Len written as län continues to be used as the administrative equivalent of county in Sweden to this day. Each len was governed by a lenman. [4]

Amt[edit | edit source]

With the royal decree of February 19, 1662, each len was designated an amt (plural amt) and the lenmann was titled amtmann, from German Amt (office), reflecting the bias of the Danish court of that period.

Amt in 1671[edit | edit source]

After 1671 Norway was divided into four principle amt or stiftsamt and there were nine subordinate amt:

Stiftsamt: Akershus amt (headquarter: Christiania)
Amt: Smålenene amt, Brunla amt
Stiftsamt: Agdesiden amt (headquarter: Kristiansand)
Amt: Bratsberg amt, Stavanger amt
Stiftsamt: Bergenhus amt (headquarter: Bergen)
Amt: Halsnøy klostergods, Hardanger amt, Nordlandene amt
Stiftsamt: Trondheim amt (headquarter: Trondheim)
Amt: Romsdalen amt, Vardøhus amt

Amt in 1730[edit | edit source]

From 1730 Norway had the following amt:

Vardøhus amt (now: Finnmark county)
Tromsø amt (now: Troms county)
Nordlands amt (now: Nordland county)
Nordre Trondhjems amt (now: Nord-Trøndelag county)
Søndre Trondhjems amt (now: Sør-Trøndelag county)
Romsdalen amt (now: Møre og Romsdal county)
Nordre Bergenhus amt (now: Sogn og Fjordane county)
Søndre Bergenhus amt (now: Hordaland county)
Stavanger amt (now: Rogaland county)
Lister og Mandals amt (now: Vest-Agder county)
Nedenes amt (now: Aust-Agder county)
Bratsberg amt (now: Telemark county)
Buskerud amt (now: Buskerud county)
Oplandenes amt (now: Oppland county)
Hedemarkens amt (now: Hedmark county)
Akershus amt (now: Akershus county)
Smaalenenes amt (now: Østfold county)
At this time there were also two counties controlled by counts, together forming what is now Vestfold county:

Laurvigen grevskap (now: Larvik city)
Jarlsberg grevskap