Tips for Norwegian American Researchers
The best place to start your Norwegian American research is at home!
What do you already know? Have you talked to older relatives; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins? They may have information that can be very helpful. Pay special attention to any mention of people, names, places, and old family stories. The stories could be true!
Pay extra attention to last names. If the last name does not end in -sen or -son, it could be a farm name. Farm names can help you identfy a home parish in Norway. If you have a possible farm name, look it up in a Norwegian gazetteer. If there are only a few names like the one you are looking for, you may have found the place in Norway where you ancestor was born, married, or at least lived at some point during his/her life.
Make sure you look for information in old Bibles, journals, letters, books, on postcards and old photos. You may find information in US sources like US Censuses, naturalization records, military records, homestead applications, Norwegian American Lutheran church records, obituaries, and newspapers.
You may be lucky and find records written in Norwegian; it is possible to find help to translate those records.
Did your family members serve in the military? There could be pension records. Were any members of any Norwegian fraternities? What about county histories?
Some of the following sources may have information about your ancestor, Search:
- Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, online at http://www.elca.org
- FamilySearch Catalog for Norwegian-American churches
- The Scandinavian Mission Index (if your ancestor was a member of the Mormon Church).
- Lutheran Church directory at the Family History Library (FHL)
- Norwegian American Genealogical Center (NAGC) at http://www.nagcnl.org
- Sons of Norway at http://www.sofn.com
To put your Norwegian emigrant in his/her cultural context, and to obtain a greater appreciation of what he/she may have experienced in this country, you may want to read the epic novel (trilogy) of Norwegian immigrant homesteaders in Dakota Territory “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Rølvaag.
It is a classic story of a Norwegian pioneer family’s struggle with the land and the elements as they try to make a living in their new home land. It portrays the trials of loneliness, separation from family, and longing for the old country.
Other great descriptions about life in Scandinavia can be found in papers given at the 1980 World Conference on Records, held in Salt Lake City.
Volume 8 is the one to access for Norway and the other Scandinavian countries. World Conference On Records: Preserving Our Heritage Authors World Conference on Records (1980 : Salt Lake City) (Main Author) Notes: This is the 13-volume set of the proceedings of the 1980 World Conference on Records, held August 12-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Contents: v. 1. General assemblies, forums, speakers -- v. 2. Personal, family and local history -- v. 3. North American family and local history, part I -- v. 4. North American family and local history, part II -- v. 5. British family and local history, part I -- v. 6. British family and local history, part II -- v. 7. Continental European family and local history --
v. 8. Scandinavian family and local history</u -- v. 9. Latin American and Iberian family and local history -- v. 10. Australasian and Polynesian family and local history -- v. 11. Asian and African family and local history -- v. 12. Historical changes in population, family and community -- v. 13. Index to proceedings. Language English Publication [Salt Lake City, Utah : Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980] Physical 13 v. (various pagings) : ill. ; 28 cm.
Subject Class 929.1 W893 1980 References (Indexed In) Index to proceedings (Indexed In) 1980 World Conference on Records microfiche numbers Contains General assemblies, forums, exhibits, speakers
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