Index    |     Introduction


A brief history of Norwegian-American immigration
Getting started - research outlines, bibliographies, etc.
Hvordan finner jeg etterkommere av de som utvandret til USA?
Genealogy on the Internet
Choosing a genealogy software program
Ahnentafels, gedcoms, the township/range system, and other strange creatures


First of all, I would like to welcome you to my web site! I find Norwegian - American genealogy to be a fascinating hobby. It seems that every day I learn something new about my ancestors, or the history of Norwegians in America, or both. As you surf through my web site you will find that the Internet contains many excellent sources of information on the subject of Norwegian - American genealogy. I hope this very brief overview will be of some help to you in your search for your Norwegian ancestors.

Most Americans of Norwegian ancestry are already familiar with the viking exploration of North America: Leif Erickson arrived here in approximately A.D. 1003, landing somewhere along the east coast between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia. (If you wish to explore this topic further, you will find links on my web site to some excellent web pages on vikings -- look in the section called "Welcome to Norway!").

While many people know about of the viking explorations in North America, fewer people are aware that Norwegians were among the early settlers in the American colonies. As James M. Cornelius notes in his book The Norwegian Americans (New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989), p. 31-32:

Mr. Cornelius points out, however, that ".....Norwegians did not figure significantly in the development of colonial America." Indeed, if we are to talk about sustained Norwegian emigration to the United States, the generally accepted starting point is 1825, when the sloop Restauration from Stavanger arrived in New York harbor. Nevertheless, the fact that Norwegians were living in the colonies is certainly noteworthy, and a descendant of one of these early Norwegian settlers has set up a web page where you can read about Dirck Volkertson De Noorman ("the Norwegian") who arrived in New Amsterdam in the 1620's as a ship's carpenter.

With regards to sustained Norwegian immigration to the U.S., pastor L. M. Gimmestad wrote in his book Nordfjordingernes historie i Amerika (Lutheran Free Church Publishing Company: Minneapolis, MN, 1940):

(I am currently in the process of translating pastor Gimmestad's book into English)

Almost a century later, in 1926, the scholar Theodore C. Blegen translated Ole Rynning's book into English. Unfortunately this translation is now out of print, but you can obtain it through inter-library loan. As for the history of the sloop Restauration, the Emigration Museum in Stavanger has a great web page where you can read more about the history of this voyage. (You can find a link to the museum in my section "Ancestors from Norway").

By 1840 only about 400 Norwegians had emigrated to the United States. Ten years later, in 1850, the number had soared to about 15,000. While the number of Norwegian immigrants declined sharply during the Civil War, the wave picked up again immediately after the end of that war, and in 1866 more than 15,000 Norwegian immigrants arrived here. From then until the outbreak of World War I, about 750,000 immigrants from Norway arrived in the United States.

Unfortunately, there is little information about the history of this immigration available on the internet. Countless books have been published, however, and a few of these deserve special mention:

  1. Norwegian Migration to America, 1825 - 1860, by Theodore C. Blegen (New York, NY: Arno Press, 1969, 413 pp).
  2. Norwegian Migration to America, The American Transition, by Theodore C. Blegen (Northfield, MN: Norwegian - American Historical Association, 1940, 655 pp).
  3. West of the Great Divide: Norwegian Migration to the Pacific Coast, 1847 - 1893, by Kenneth O. Bjork, (Northfield, MN: Norwegian - American Historical Association, 1958).
  4. New Land New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest. Compiled and edited by Janet E. Rasmussen, (Northfield, MN: Norwegian - American Historical Association, 1993, 320 pp.)
James M. Cornelius' book The Norwegian Americans, which I quoted from earlier, also deserves mention. Its focus is less scholarly, which makes for lighter and perhaps more enjoyable reading, especially for younger readers. The 110 pages of this book are richly illustrated with photographs, and give a nice overview of the history of Norwegian immigration to the U.S. In addition, there is the fantastic book The promise of America: a history of the Norwegian-American people by Odd S. Lovoll (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press in cooperation with the Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1984).

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Getting Started is a brief introduction that I have written on how to get started with Norwegian - American genealogy research.

Family History Library Research Outlines from the LDS (Mormon Church) are available on the web. I would highly recommend that you download the U.S. outline and read it carefully. It will save you a great deal of time! This web page also has downloadable Research Outlines for each state in the U.S. These Research Outlines can also be downloaded at Everton's web page.

The Library of Congress has put together a bibliography of the books it has on Norwegian-American Immigration and Norwegian Local History.

Norwegian - American Bibliography (large file - 167 KB) is a bibliography that I have put together on the books that the Library of Congress has on Norwegian-American Immigration (this one is more recent than the one mentioned above).

The Treasure Maps' "how to" page is also a good place to go for some tips.

Everton's Genealogy Helper has various research tips and links. You can also subscribe to their magazine at this web page.

Webster's Dictionary is on-line, and can come in handy when doing research.

A Genealogy Dictionary comes in handy for looking up some of the words you come across when doing research.

Citing sources is a nice little web page from the Kingwood College Library in Texas.

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(For the many Norwegian visitors to my web page I have written a short article in Norwegian on how to trace the descendants of Norwegian immigrants in the US).

Hvordan finner jeg etterkommere av de som utvandret til USA? er en kort artikkel jeg har skrevet om dette temaet.

Du kan finne flere pekere til web sider om dette temaet p� min side "They Went to America" -- se under "Some Norwegian - American Organizations and Web Pages".

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If you are new to genealogy research on the internet, you are probably wondering how much genealogy information is currently available on the internet. Furthermore, if you are new to the internet itself, you may also be wondering about the meaning of words like Usenet, ftp, mailing lists, etc. When I started using the internet three years ago I also wondered about these same things. As you surf through my web site, you will discover that there are some excellent sources for Norwegian-American genealogy on the internet. The first that comes to mind is the entire 1801 census from Norway! But before you rush off to search through it, I urge you to take some time to visit some of the following web pages. They contain good, short explanations of things like the Usenet, ftp sites, mailing lists, etc. As we will see later on, knowing how to use these sources is the key to successfully using the internet for genealogy research.

A Little History of the World Wide Web by Robert Cailliau, is another interesting, short article. One little tidbit he mentions is that Tim Berners-Lee, whose software program "ENQUIRE" made the World Wide Web possible, created this software on a computer made in Norway by Norsk Data!

InterNIC is a cooperative activity between the National Science Foundation, Network Solutions, Inc. and AT&T. One of its functions is to register domain names and IP network numbers.

FAQ's about FAQ's explains what FAQ's are and how they are used.

Emily Postnews, "the foremost authority" on proper net behaviour, gives advice on how to act on the net.

E-Mail Etiquette is another great little article.

The Internet & Webbing Your Family History from the Harper County Genealogical Society is a nice little overview of genealogy on the internet, with explanations of gophers, FTP sites, and more!

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There are lots of genealogy software programs on the market today. How do you choose the one that is right for you?

The Genealogy Software Springboard has information on most of the available genealogy software programs, and also has feedback posted by users! A visit to this web site is highly recommended!

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When I started doing genealogy research I quickly discovered that I would need to learn a new vocabulary. There were many strange words, such as "Ahnentafel", "Tiny Tafel", and "Gedcom" to name a few. Fortunately, you can always find web pages that have explanations of these things!

AHNENTAFEL: a table of one's ancestors, from the German "Ahnen" (ancestor) and "Tafel" (table or list)

Ahnentafel Numbers Are Not As Mysterious As They Seem is a great article by Annelise Graebner Anderson.

The Sosa-Stradonitz System (or Ahnentafel) by Richard A. Pence is another good article on Ahnentafels.

To make things a bit more confusing, there are, unfortunately, some other systems in use:

Numbering Systems in Genealogy by Richard A. Pence covers them all. (I don't think we really need to know all of these other systems, but that is just my opinion).

TINY-TAFELS are an abbreviated form of the standard ahnentafel chart. A Tiny Tafel gives information about the most recent and the oldest generation in a surname line. It is intended to give a snapshot of your research so that others will know if they should contact you.

The Tiny-Tafel Matching System explains the history of tiny tafels and how this system is used.

GEDCOM was developed by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to provide a flexible, uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data. GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data Communication. GEDCOM allows genealogical software programs to exchange files with information about individuals and the accompanying family, source, submitter, and note records. We can compare this to the use of ASCII files for word processing programs: If you are using Wordperfect, and a friend is using Microsoft Word, you can save a file from your computer on a diskette as an ASCII file. Your friend can then view this ASCII file even though he or she is using Microsoft Word.

GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5 contains all of the gory details of the GEDCOM software if you want to study it!

METES AND BOUNDS and other real estate terminology can also be confusing.

Direct Line Software has a web page that explains real estate terminology.

Graphical Display of the Federal Township and Range System is a great web page from Infobahn Outfitters, Inc. that explains the township and range system!

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Please notify me of any links that are not working
properly as well as any suggestions for additional links.

Unfortunately my schedule does not permit me to answer
individual requests for assistance with genealogy research

John Follesdal
Copyright 1996 - 1999
This page was created December 12, 1996
Last updated on December 23, 1999