Description of the Sources -
Ministers: 1751-1821

Note: While the Norwegian Kirkeboks are national and cultural treasures and are a great resource of genealogial information, they are not without their faults in a greater historical context. From the commencement of the parish Kirkeboks during the seventeenth and eight-teenth centuries until the Kings decree of their standardization in 1812 (1820's in the northern districts), there was a wide spectrum of quality of these sources. Some of the Kirkeboks show beautiful hand written work with detailed accuracy, while other works reflect handwriting that is barely legible and less reliable. Because of this lack of standardization, unintential biases of the authors were often reflected in their work at the expense of accuracy.

This page describes some of the problems and strengths of some of the sources.

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Kvæfjord Parish: Tromso County
Kirkebok (Parish Records): 1751-1779

Minister Peder Leth Born 1718, Ofoten, Nordland; Died 1779 Kvæfjord, Tromso.
Minister of Kvæfjord Parish: 1749-1779

Son of Jochum Leth, minister of Ofoten Parish in Nordland County, Peder's ministry span thirty years from 1749 to 1779. He was the first minister in Kvæfjord to commence the Kirkebok in 1751. Peder was the most important minister during my family residency since they left the parish (1774) before his term concluded. Although his work was very exact and neatly written, there were several areas that possibly reflected a bias that were not uncommon of the ministers of his day and should be addressed while analyzing his sources.

First, birth mothers were rarely, if ever, reflected in his sources. The birth register of a child did describe the name of the father, but very rarely was the mothers name stated. Although this was an accepted practise by many ministers during this time, there were others that did include the mothers name in their work (i.e., subsequent ministers of Kvæfjord and Øksnes). Even the registration of the Introduction, or 'Churching' of the mother only included the husbands name and very rarely the mother. Only one example thus far been found with the mothers name cited (Maren Larsdatter of Godfjorden botten in 1760, but the father was not mentioned!) and the reason for this may be due to her/his Sami heritage. It can be assumed that Peder Leth had a patriarchal bias with his parishioners which was not uncommon of ministers of his day.

Second, Peder never identified any of his Sami (Lapplander) parishioners during his term, even though it was well known in the parish that the Sami inhabitanted the Godfjorden area. Subsequent ministers used a variety of terms such as 'Finnfolk', 'Finner', 'Lapps', 'Lappers', 'Hovels', etc., to describe their Sami parishioners. Peder never did. It can be assumed that Peder either was biased or indifferent of the Sami. It should also be noted that most Norwegians didn't view the Sami as a domestic or military threat so there was little insentive to record them as such as it would only add to their beauacratic burden.

Third, Peder never included an In/Out of Parish register (Innflytted og Utmeldte) and this was only started in 1821 by the Minister Leonard Martens (1821-24) when these registers were then required and standardized. This was very problematic for the genealogy research because there are several genealogical individuals that simply disapeared from the records with no death records, yet their names were cited in other in/out registers in other parishes at the time of their 'disapearance'.

Forth, and possibly related to the second reason above, Peder Leth did not include the marriage of Nils Larsen (c.1734-c.1807) and Anne Margrete Samsonsdatter (c.1747-?), even though they both lived on the Kvæfjord church farm (Raa) and were married sometime between 1771 and 1774. Nils Larsen was known to have originated from an area of Sami heritage (Godfjord Botten) and both he and Anne had daily contact with Peder during those three years, but neither was listed as married during this time. Dispite that Anne was listed no less than fourteen times as a witness to baptisms during the same three year period. Their marriage was only confirmed by the minister of Øksnes Parish in September 1774 (as stated above) when they moved to that parish and that Peder stated their marriage on their parish exit papers. Whether this reflects an actual bias or simply just a technical oversight is unknown, but it does reflect on the reliability of the Kvæfjord Kirkebok sources during this period of time.

Øksnes Parish: Norland County
Kirkebok (Parish Records): 1749-1791

This record will be written shortly.

Christopher Pesklo, January 1998.

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