Genealogy is about the people in your family and how they fit into history. Were they farmers, merchants, clerks, officials, royalty, or did they serve the church?
The year was 1623 when my ancestor Henrik Gjertson Miltzow became pastor of the Voss Church. The building of Voss Church began in the year 1200 at the directive of King Magnus the Law Mender and finished in 1277. By the time Henrik Gjertson Miltzow became pastor the influence of Martin Luther had replaced Catholicism in Norway with the Lutheran denomination.
I can go back even further to Henrick’s great grandfather the first Henrik Miltzow born about 1500 in the town of Treptow in the duchy of Pomerania in the country of Prussia. Twenty-six years earlier in 1474 Duke Bogislaw X began restoring the splintered duchy. The duke aligned Pomerania with the Holy Roman Empire. Then in 1517 a German monk, Catholic Priest and professor of theology known as Martin Luther burst on the scene launching what later became known as the Protestant Reformation.
What is known about the first Henrik Miltzow is he married, had a child and was a Tax Collector. But that isn’t the whole story, at least I don’t think so. More information is becoming available online. Where once it would have required traveling to the collections, many of those same collections can be found online aiding with research into family histories.
If your family came from Norway then you are probably familiar with the bygdebøks. These books often dealt with one community and are often considered the authority for family genealogies. The information in the bygdebøks were compiled from census and parish records. It was a bygdebøks which provided the history of our family and the Berge farm in Bulken located in Hordland outside Voss. The farm has been in my family and in continuous operation since 1691.
While the bygdebøks are a useful resource other historical information has made it online providing more information about the people mentioned in the bygdebøks and filling in gaps the bygdebøks didn’t cover.
Ancestry.com is an excellent place to get started researching your family history. They have access to many resources online.
Start with what you know then move backward. Check out the 1940 US Census released recently. It’s a thrill when you discover your family listed. Keep moving back in time. Learn as much as you can about each person in your family line. Consult city directories, newspaper articles and other resources like birth, marriage and death certificates. Speak with living family members. You may want to get them on video. Above all document everything. Above all be patient, not all resources are available online. You may find you need to go to where your relative lived.
What you discover will give you a new perspective on yourself and the people in your family you thought you knew. That is what genealogy is all about.