Restrictions on access to historical records due to privacy legislation
Public access to many historical records is restricted for a certain number of years. Here is an overview of the basic rules applicable to the main sources of genealogical information.
Restriction of access to genealogical records
Due to Norwegian privacy legislation, The National Archives of Norway have certain restrictions regarding public access to the different types of record in their repositories. The source of the following information is the Digital Archives’ website. Note that due to limited access to more recent church records, a good alternative source of information about persons who lived during the last century is the Genealogy Society of Norway’s database of gravestone inscriptions.
This is the general rule applicable to the privacy of individuals and confidential business information. Since the rule relates to the number of years since a record was completed, and many public records contain sensitive information over a span of several years, there may be a longer restriction on some of the content. However, most records are accessible for public use after 60 years.
This rule pertains to sensitive information such as court records, prison archives and health journals. The Director General of the National Archives of Norway may make exceptions from this rule and grant access in certain cases.
Confidential records such as information regarding adoptions and child welfare cases are subject to a 100-year restriction; as is personal information collected in statistical surveys such as censuses.
NB. It is not always easy for the authorities to determine exactly which documents contain sensitive information, so sometimes public access to a whole file, series or type of record may be restricted.
For that reason, access to some parish records from the Lutheran Church of Norway is restricted for 100 years.
In cases of legal adoption the adoptive parents, and not the biological parents, were recorded on birth certificates, marriage records etc. However, if the infant had not been adopted by the time it was christened, the biological parents were recorded in the christening record, but annotations may have been made later in the margin. For this reason, access to some types of parish record is restricted for 100 years.
Restrictions of access to searchable digital databases of parish records
The Digital Archives are not permitted to release information about living persons in transcribed, searchable databases, so they have stricter policies for these, while other restrictions apply to scanned parish records which are not indexed or searchable by name.
- Christenings up to 1920
- Confirmations in the Church of Norway up to 1934 (due to the risk of information on adoptions)
- Marriages up to the present, more recent marriage records being released with limited information
- Deaths/burials up to the present, but sensitive information (such as information about health, religious affiliation, financial details, adoption etc.) and information about next of kin is removed from more recent death records before they are released to the public.
Restrictions of access to scanned parish records
The general rule for church records is 60 years. However, the law stipulates that records which may contain an individual’s cause of death be restricted for 80 years. Church registers with christenings and confirmations are in a special category, since these may contain information about adoption in accordance with the Adoption Act of 1935, resulting in a 100-year restriction.
- Births and christenings are accessible up to 1929 (a 100-year restriction from 1930)
- Confirmations are accessible up to 1934 (a 100-year restriction from 1935)
- Marriages, betrothals and banns – a 60-year restriction of access
- Deaths, burials and stillbirths – an 80-year restriction if the cause of death is recorded, otherwise no restriction
- Migration to and from the parish – no restriction
- Lists of persons who joined or left the Lutheran state church – a 60-year restriction
- Lists of non-conformists (those who belonged to denominations other than the Lutheran state church) – a 60-year restriction of access
Access to national censuses is restricted for 100 years. The municipal censuses do not contain as many personal details, so the 60-year rule is valid for those. If you are unsure which rules apply to the type of record you wish to access, it might be a good idea to perform a search in the online catalogue on the “Arkivportalen” website, which will tell you whether the record has restricted access or not. Unfortunately, this service does not yet have a webpage in English.
Source of information: The National Archives of Norway
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