Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Bumerke of Michel Hunven, 1742, Lindaas parish register, Hordaland, Norway
[image from:]

Bumerker have held some fascination for me for a long while now. For those unfamiliar with the term it refers to personal signature marks found in Norway (and other countries) on belongings, buildings, in the parish registers, and other places. They are usually simple designs made of lines although some can be very elaborate and others incorporate Latinized alphabet letters or initials. They are similar in appearance to the cattle brands found in the United States and have been used for centuries in other countries to identify the owner or maker such as marks used by brick masons.

Two of the examples shown here, one above and the second below, are from the Landaas family and were found in the parish register of Lindaas parish in 1742. During the 1740s through about 1760 the marriage banns for this locality are recorded in the register with the signature mark of the bondsmen. That was interesting too since it was not the prospective groom and bride or their fathers but only the bondsmen who were required to sign the book. I have collected and cataloged over 600 of these marks from Lindaas and found that often people living on the same farm or divisions of that farm, fathers and sons or even sons-in-law had versions of the same mark.
In the example above notice that there are three pairs of marks in the far left column and one pair of marks in the right column. The second set of marks in the left column are those of Michel [Pedersen]Hunven and Michel Ols[sen] Hunven. They both come from farm divisions of the large farm Hunven or Hundven and their marks show a similarity in the horizontal lines through the letters. Michel Hunven uses an M and a backward abbreviated P here but in later entries his mark morphs into MP with the lines through the letters. Michel Ols. Hunven has an incompleted M with an o placed between the points of the M and the lines through the letters.

In the example below, Michel Hunven’s relative living at Onas or Ones has a very closely related mark as shown in the far right column. Peder [Michelsen] Onas uses the P and M with horizontal lines.

Bumerke of Peder Onas, 1742, Lindaas parish register, Hordaland, Norway
[image from:]

The marks are by no means restricted to the Lindaas parish in Hordaland but can be found throughout the country usually appearing in the parish registers in the 1700s although Notto Salvesøn Hornnes put his mark on the stabbur or storage building at Lunnen, Hornnes, Aust Agder with the date 1642. His mark was an S overlaid with an N and sometimes was found inside a double circle with his name written in full within the rings as Nottvl Salvesøn. Most of the marks I have found so far are symbols rather than letters suggesting that the men may not have been able to write their names but several are comprised of symbols mixed with letters so I am not sure how many of them were literate. The literacy rate in Scandinavia as a whole has always been very high, however.

Bumerke of Notto Salveson Hornnes, 1624, Hornnes, Aust Agder, Norway
[image from: p. 335, Hornnes I by O.O. Uleberg]

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