Norwegian heritage records surpass 1,600 volumes at the UND’s Department of Special Collections


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


Because of the content, these books are valuable sources for people researching their ancestry

With the generous donation of five bygdebøker from Eide kommune in Møre og Romsdal by author Jonny Lyngstad, the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection in the University of North Dakota’s Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections has surpassed 1,600 volumes.

Bygdebøker are local history books published in Norway that often include detailed information about the farms in an area and the people who have lived there. Because of the content, these books are valuable sources for people researching their Norwegian ancestry.

The Brekke Bygdebok Collection traces its origins to 1980. Arne Brekke, then of the UND Languages Department , was contacted by Colleen Oihus of the Chester Fritz Library to assist with requesting donations of bygdebøker from municipalities in Norway. The collection grew quickly to more than 400 volumes over the first couple of years, aided by press coverage in Norway. Two additional solicitations were conducted, in 1988 and 2012, again resulting in significant numbers of bygdebøker.

Books were also acquired through grants and dedicated library funds. After more than 35 years, UND Special Collections boasts one of the largest collections of bygdebøker found anywhere. Moreover, it is a growing collection, with the acquisition of new volumes as bygdebøker continue to be written and published throughout Norway.

The collection was formally dedicated and named in honor of Brekke in 2010, recognizing his essential role to help establish the collection and his ongoing contributions to its growth. At about the same time, a website with information about each bygdebok in the collection debuted. The website is updated regularly as new bygdebøker are received.

The promotion and preservation of Norwegian heritage, in general, and support for the Brekke Bygdebok Collection, specifically, have, in recent years, come about through the establishment of two endowments.

Gloria Gransberg, a former student of Brekke, created an endowment for Norwegian heritage. In addition, Brekke along with his daughter, Karen Hoelzer, of Springfield, Ill., established the Arne G. Brekke Endowment to provide a revenue source for purchasing additional bygdebøker.