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Nordic and Scandinavian Emigration to the United States

Compiled by subject specialists at the Library of Congress, this guide provides print and online resources for researching the genealogy of Scandinavian and Nordic families in the U.S., along with key national, state, and local histories.


Keystone View Company. A Norwegian woman about to start for America bidding her people farewell. Circa 1922. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Nordic and Scandinavian emigration encompasses the movement of peoples from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Geographically, it would appear Finland is situated under the umbrella term of Scandinavia. Finland's main language, Finnish, is a Uralic language, which sets the nation apart from the three Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This guide has been expanded to include Finland as a wider Nordic country, as many Finnish emigrants appear on the same passenger lists and ship manifests in which Scandinavian emigrants appear.

It is estimated that in the 100 years between 1820 and 1920, 1.2 million Scandinavians moved to America. Emigration was fueled by instability from social and political upheaval, accompanied by regional warfare. As they arrived in the United States, immigrants spread out across the nation. Large Scandinavian communities also formed in the Midwest, especially along the Great Lakes.

This guide contains resources for books about the emigrant experience, including religious, political, and historical reasons that propelled groups of people to leave their countries. There are also periodicals and microfiche selections from the Library catalog that may prove useful to the genealogist. The Passenger List section lists books and online resources that contain ship manifests. Name Indexes contains books with indexes of emigrants; many are lists of surnames. The page for each country contains General Resources, which provides books about emigration and immigration, as well as place-specific guide books. The Historical Overview tab contains books that provide background to events that spurred movement of peoples. Resources for specific immigrant communities, including records and indexes, are listed in the In America tab. Some pages also contain collections of periodicals, maps, and letters.

Please note: These titles are meant to be a helpful starting point, but the Library of Congress has thousands of additional works on this topic, which can be found in the library catalog by searching the subject headings listed here. Questions can be directed to Local History and Genealogy reference librarians using our Ask a Librarian service.

About Local History & Genealogy Reference Services

The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.