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Nordic and Scandinavian Emigration to the United States

Norway Emigration

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Women in traditional Norwegian clothing examine a loom at Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American museum and heritage center in Decorah, Iowa. 2016. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Documented Norwegian migration to North America began on July 4, 1825, with the sailing of the sloop Restauration, from Stavanger, bound for New York City. Norwegian Americans have meticulously documented their migration movements, lives of the immigrants, and the developed settlements. This documentation takes the form of parish registers, ships' manifests, lists of emigrants published in Norwegian newspapers, personal memoirs, letters from America, and book-length histories of new settlements.

In addition, immigrants from various towns, valleys, and fjords maintained contact in their new country through regional societies that published newsletters, held periodic reunions, and disseminated information on members' places of residence, professions, marriages, and new births. Norwegian Americans' pride in their considerable influence on American life has led to the publication of lists and entire dictionaries of biographical and genealogical information on thousands of individuals. Martin Ulvestad's work, published in 1907, was based on 450,000 questionnaires sent out to Norwegians in America, and Thoralv Klaveness' work detailing his epic journey through immigrant settlements for the sole purpose of writing down their histories, are examples of Norwegian-Americans' interest in documentation.

If a researcher in Norwegian-American genealogy or history encounters problems, it will not be due to a lack of materials but due to the scattered nature of the abundant documentation already in existence. It is to assist with this dispersed nature of records that the resources here have been compiled. An understanding of the history of the migration movement will help in tracking down many materials. The two-volume work by Theodore Blegen is listed for readers who wish to pursue this research. Understanding the geography and the political and religious divisions of Norway is particularly important for the genealogist. Works listed here will help accomplish this.

Genealogy Resources

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.