Norway Emigration and Immigration
Norway Emigration and Immigration
These sources can be very valuable in helping you determine where in Norway your ancestor came from. They can also help in constructing family groups. If you do not find your ancestor, you may find emigration information about your ancestor's neighbors. People who lived near each other in Norway often settled together in the country they emigrated to. You may want to visit the Norwegian American page for more information specific to Norwegian-American sources in the United States.
This section discusses the following:
Fortunately, Norwegian emigration records are numerous. There are also some helpful records of Norwegian immigrants in the United States.
How to Find the Ancestor's Town of Origin
Once you have traced your family to an immigrant ancestor, you must determine the city or town the ancestor was from. Norway has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records. These records were kept locally.
Several sources may contain your ancestor's place of origin. You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to older family members. Family members or a library may have documents that name the city or town, such as:
If your ancestor has a surname that does not end in sen or son, the name itself may be a clue to the place in Norway where the family came from. Check a Norwegian Gazetteer such as Norsk Stedsfortegnelse (FHL 948.1 E8ns, 1972; microfiche number 6054629) to determine if the surname appears as a place name and where it is located in the country. See the "Names, Personal" section for further information about Norwegian naming customs.
History of Emigration from Norway
Between 1836 and 1920 an estimated 900,000 people left Norway. Most of them went to the United States and Canada. This wave of emigration was caused by the increase in Norwegian population and a desire to own land. While people of many occupations left Norway, most of these emigrants were farmers. The first emigrant ship left Norway in 1825, but the real wave of emigration started in 1836. Most who left Norway before 1825 first went to other European countries and then traveled to their destination.
1836 to 1865. An estimated 200,000 emigrants left Norway during this period. The emigration movement took root all over the country. Groups of emigrants came from every county and most communities. Every spring, ship left from ports all over Norway. In this early period the emigrants sailed to their various destinations, supplying themselves with food and commodities for a trip that could last as long as three months. Ninety-five percent of these went to the United States.
1866 to 1920. In the mid 1860s, large numbers of people began leaving Norway on steamships. Most emigrants sailed to Hull, England; then traveled by train to Liverpool, England. From there they sailed to the United States and Canada. Steamships took only two to three weeks instead of three months, so emigration increased. During this time period 700,000 people left Norway. However, emigration declined in the mid-1870s because of a recession in the United States. The numbers of emigrants to America had also been declining during the cival war years.
No passenger lists exist for any of the Norwegian ports before 1867. Prior to this time, emigrant groups generally bought or chartered a ship and left from almost any of Norway's many ports. For earlier emigration records, check the Family History Library Catalog:
These records may be on microfilm, on microfiche, or in book form. Some emigration sources are listed in periodicals, listed in the local histories (Bygdebøker), or found as passport records. Some Norwegians emigrated via Altona, Norway, and Hamburg, Germany.
After the mid-1860s, most Norwegian emigrants left through the ports of Kristiania (Oslo), Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger. The records of departures from these ports are called passenger lists. The information in these lists varies over time but usually includes the emigrants' names, ages, occupations, last places of residence, and destination. When a family group emigrated together, the list also contains the members' relationships to the head of the household. Passenger lists are available for most ports used by Norwegian emigrants. Most are indexed at least by the first letter of the surname.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the following original records. The film numbers are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
NORWAY - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - [PORT].
A typewritten version of the Bergen lists has been copied and indexed on microfiche. The passenger list from Bergen is also available on the Internet at:
Choose Database Selector, then from the Sub-Category choose emigrants, thenships' lists, and you will find the passenger list from Bergen.
Choose Database Selector, then from the Sub-Category choose emigrants, then ships' lists, and you will find the passenger list from Bergen.
Trondheim is a city and municipality in the county of Sør-Trøndelag, Norway.
These lists have been indexed alphabetically by first name and surname(s). The index is on microfilm and is typewritten.
Some have been transcribed and are available online at Index to the Trondheim Emigrant Protocol 1867-1925.
The original passenger lists from Stavanger were destroyed. A list of emigrants from Rogaland County has been reconstructed from many other sources such as registers of people moving out of the parishes, newspaper articles, obituaries, and local histories. This emigrant list, known as the Rogaland emigration index, covers the earliest emigration period until the present day. It is alphabetized by the first letter only. For example, all the surnames beginning with "A" will be filed together in no particular order.
Alesund (1878 to 1930).
Passport journals also exist for Kristiansund (1837 to 1909)Alesund (1852 to 1916), and Romsdal rural district (1846 to 1925).
There is also an alphabetical list by given name, then surname of the people who emigrated from Telemark County, Norway, between 1814 and 1900:
Emigrant kartotek Telemark frem til år 1900. (Emigrant Card Index for Telemark up to the year 1900). [S.1.:s.n., 1982]. (FHL fiche 6350054.)
An excellent index to most of the above passenger lists is found on the Internet in both Norwegian and English at:
(Click on "emigranter", then registers and search the list of your choice.)
This site includes indexes for the following:
Records of Norwegian Immigrants in the United States
Most early Norwegian immigrants to the United States settled in the Midwest, but many also settled in other parts of the United States and Canada.
Passenger lists. Most Norwegian immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and Quebec. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records of all the major North American ports. Some are indexed. See the United States Research Outline for further information about United States immigration records.
The following is a bibliography of over 2,500 published lists of emigrants and immigrants:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigrations Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900. 2nd ed. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1988. (Family History Library book 973 W33p 1988.) More than 1,000 of these lists are indexed in P. William Filby, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 9 vols. (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981-; Family History Library book Ref 973 W33p). This does not index official U.S. arrival lists. Many of the names are from post-1820 published sources.
People tracing Norwegian Latter-day Saint ancestors should see the LDS Research page Tracing LDS Ancestors for additional sources.
From Norway to Minnesota
War records. Civil War service and pension records and World War I draft registration records sometimes give clues as to what a person's place of origin in Norway was.
Naturalization. Naturalization records from county, state, and district courts may give important clues as to where an immigrant was from and when he or she lived there.
Census records. The United States federal censuses for 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 list the year of immigration and indicate if a person had been naturalized.
Church records. Church records from Norwegian churches in America can be useful in your research. (See the "Archives and Libraries" section for an address to the Evangelical Lutheran churches in America.)
An important work on early emigration from Norway to the United States is:
This book describes many early Norwegian immigrants in every state in the Union, most with a place of origin.
Another useful book about early Norwegian immigration to America is:
The Norwegian Emigration Center is a division of the regional archive in Stavanger. The center has a copy of most of the published genealogical material about Norwegian families, as well as a complete collection of the church, census, probate, and emigration records. Workers there will answer questions and do research for a nominal fee. The center's address is:
The Norwegian Emigration Center
The Norwegian Emigration Museum (Norsk Utvandrermuseum), which has an archive, is located in Otterstad, Norway. It has an extensive collection of records of Norwegians in America. It also provides a network of local genealogists who, for a fee, will conduct private research through correspondence.
My Norway Heritage
Records of Norwegian Immigrants in the Other Countries
Although not emigration records, Buenos Aires, Argentina had a small population of Scandinavian immigrants. They primarily belonged to Norwegian sailing families. Church records have been microfilmed from 1888-1919, with some later records appearing on the Norwegian National Archives website. These records include, many times, places of birth in Norway.
History of Early Emigration from Norway
Norwegians have always been a seafaring, exploring people, and extensive travel was common; even before historical times. In the epic “Edda” which describes the times around 800 A.D., and is the earliest recorded history, the spice cardamom is described; and already widely in use. It was picked up in travels to India, and is incidentally still a very popular spice today.
Early Emigration (1600-1700)
In the 1600s the Dutch were known as the leaders of all oceans and occupied around one third of the world’s ships which at that time included about 15,000 ships.
The Dutch would travel to Norway to obtain timber and building materials. There was a saying in the 1600’s “Amsterdam is on Norway”. In 1622 the population of Amsterdam was 100,000, and in 1662 the population was 200,000.
Norwegians traveled to Holland (some settled there) and people from Holland traveled to Norway (many settle there), and several Norwegians ended up immigrating to America with the Dutch. History states that Norwegians serving in the Dutch Marine were Netherland’s best sailors.
Norwegians traveled with the Dutch to New Amsterdam (New York). In 1624 there was a colony of Norwegian immigrants in New Jersey, at the site of the present city of Bergen.
In 1633 in the early days of the New Netherland’s colony, Norwegians came over in Dutch ships and settled in the Dutch colony. In 1700 there were a number of families of Norwegian and Danish descent living in New York. In 1740, Norwegian Moravians took part in founding a colony at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The 1850 US Census records about 1,800 persons of Scandinavian birth.
The 1880 US Census list 449,262 persons and in the 1890 US Census the number was 933,249.
1871-1875: 1500 persons emigrated from Norway to Australia. The number of persons going to Australia later was much smaller. They settled mainly in South Victora and New Zealand.
The Sloopers and other early emigrants wrote to relatives and friends in Norway about their conditions in the new land, but it was the writing of Ole Rynning (1809-1838) who emigrated on the ship “Ægir” who energized Norwegian immigration. Every spring sailing ships left from ports all over Norway. During the sailing ship period the emigrants, most of the time, had to provide themselves with food and commodities
Many records are available, both in the United States and in Norway to trace immigrant ancestors who came to this country. The Family History Library has a paper called “Tracing Immigrant Origins,” to help suggest sources one can use for all areas of immigration to the Unites States.
Before the early 1870’s Quebec was the busiest port of arrival from Scandinavian ports. In the 1870’s with steam ship companies arranging travel, New York received the bulk of the immigrants.
What to do next.
Also get background material such as family surnames. Remember that your ancestor could have changed his/her name from what it was in Norway. A farm name could be used and may be an important clue to help you find a place of origin in Norway. A patronymic name may be used or the last name of his/her father. The names that ended in “datter” or “sen” in Norway were usually changed to the ending son in the US.
In many places the change to a permanent surname took place in 1923, when a law was passed (in Norway and in the United States) to use permanent surnames from this time on. However, permanent surnames may also have taken place around the turn of the century. Sometimes you may find permanent surnames from the 1850s in the cities, a little later in the rural areas. Examples of farm names are: Bakken, Stordal, Mundal, Grimstad. Foreign names were also used. When someone from a foreign country moved to Norway they usually used their family name in Norway (sometimes the spelling changed in Norway). Examles: Collett, Welhaven, Schrøder, Conders etc.
Sons of Norway
Phone: 612-827-3611 Internet: http://www.sofn.com
ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Universities and Historical Societies
Normendene i America
• Search the emigration Records from Norway
If your ancestor is not listed in the place listed as place of residence in the emigrations records – search the surrounding parishes.
If you cannot find your ancestors in the Lutheran Records, make sure to search other denominations (Church Records) such as - Catholic, Methodist, Mormon records etc.