Farms in Norway

Typical farming landscape.  Søndre Lomsdalen (the large farm lower left) and in the foreground probably a husmannsplass belonging to the farm.  Søndre Lomsdalen is in Søndre Land,on the west side of the Randsfjord.

Historically, settlements in rural areas of Norway centered on the farm (Gard).  The farm owner maintained the major portion for himself, and then subdivided the rest into sub-farms, often of less than an acre. Tenant farmers (husmann or cotters) lived on the farms without any formal ownership.  Tenants were usually expected to provide some amount of work on the owner's fields or tending their livestock, and in return were allowed to have a few head of livestock (husmann uten jord -  tenant without land) or some amount of land for their own use (husmann med jord - tenant with land).  Husmann were usually married couples - the death of a spouse could invalidate the contract.  This is one explanation for the quick remarriages of widows and widowers. Another class of tenant was innerst. These were seasonal workers, roomers, or the very poor, sick or aged. 

Land was at a premium, and it was more often the case that the younger sons of a farm owner became tenant farmers than a tenant farmer managing to purchase his own land. As a result, many of those who did not own land supplemented their income by learning a trade.  A blacksmith, tailor, or shoemaker was able to keep the income made from those pursuits. 

In Norway, individuals did not have a "surname" as we know it.  The third name tied them to where they lived -- and for most, that would be the farm or sub-farm name.  Since many families lived on the same farm, unrelated families might have the same last name.  To complicate things further, when people moved they changed their last name, because the place they lived changed. A suffix, usually "eie" was added to the farm name to indicate that the individual was a tenant and not a farm owner. Hussmann Ole Oleson Thomleie might become Ole Oleson Lomsdaleneie.  For those classified as innerst (because they typically moved more often), attempting to track families by name can be quite a challenge!

More about the class system in historic Norway


Landingslaget i Amerika
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