Norway Emigration and Immigration

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Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or coming into (immigrating) a country. Norwegian emigration records can be a useful source of genealogical information. They are usually found as passenger lists. There are also some records of passports issued. The information in these records includes the emigrants' names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces.

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. This section discusses the following:

  • How to find the ancestor's town of origin
  • History of emigration from Norway
  • Passenger lists
  • Records of Norwegian immigrants in the United States 

Fortunately, Norwegian emigration records are numerous. There are also some helpful records of Norwegian immigrants in the United States.

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Databases and Resources[edit | edit source]

Bergen[edit | edit source]

Trondheim[edit | edit source]

Stavanger[edit | edit source]

  • 1903-1928 Emigrants from Stavanger 1903-1928 at DigitalArkivet, index
    • 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.
  • 1929-1955 Emigration protocols from Stavanger at DigitalArkivet, images
  • 1955-1967 Emigration protocols from Stavanger at DigitalArkivet, images
  • 1903-1975 Emigration protocol and Passport register for Stavanger at DitalArkivet, images and index

Kristiansand[edit | edit source]

Kristiansund[edit | edit source]

Ålesund[edit | edit source]

DigitalArkivet has additional passport records, emigration protocols, emigration lists, and ship passenger lists.

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

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 by talking to older family members. Family members or a library may have documents that name the city or town, such as:

  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bibles
  • Church certificates/records
  • Naturalization applications and petitions
  • Passenger lists
  • Passports
  • Family heirlooms
  • County histories
  • Military records
  • Census records

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 Norway Personal Names article for further information about Norwegian naming customs.

What to do first (place of origin in Norway):
Have these questions in mind:

  • Who emigrated?
  • Emigrated alone or with someone?
  • Emigrated as a child or an adult?
  • Married when emigrated?
  • When Emigrated?
  • Was ancestor in the US by 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, or 1940 (when US Federal Censuses were taken)?
  • Where did the immigrant reside in the US?

What to do next:

  • Talk to living relatives of your ancestor.
  • Search records where he/she lived in the US.
  • Search immigration records.
  • Search Vital Records, Bibles, Journals, Letters, Naturalization records.
  • Search US Federal Censuses.
  • Search records of places where ancestor lived.
  • Search county histories.

Also, get background information such as family surnames. Remember that your ancestor could have changed their 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 their father. The names that ended in “-datter” or “-sen” in Norway were usually changed to the ending "-sen"/"-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.

Some 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). Examples: Collett, Welhaven, Schrøder, Conders etc.

After finding place of origin:
Search the following Norwegian records both online at Digitalarkivet and on microfilm available at the Family History Library. The microfilms at the Family History Library may be available at some Family History Centers and some libraries.

  • Search the emigration Records from Norway
  • Afgangslister (Departure Records)
  • Confirmation Records
  • Birth Records
  • Census Records

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, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints records etc.
After searching these records you should by now have found your ancestors place of origin in Norway.

Organizations[edit | edit source]

Universities and Historical Societies in the Mid-West and North-West often have large Scandinavian collections. They may include Bygdebooks (farm books), obituaries, newspapers, biographies, and county histories.

Bygdelag: There are many organizations where the members are either descendants of or came from a specific area in Norway. These organizations are called BYGDELAG, such as Totenlaget (from Totne), Sigdalslaget (from Sigdal), Hallinglag (from Hallingdal) and include areas in all of Norway. These organizations have membership lists, most founded in 1916 and each organization include histories, genealogies, history of early settlers for each area they represent. All of the Bygdelags have genealogists and will share their information with others searching in a given area. They publish newsletters, where they publish inquiries. You may find their website (which includes contact information for each “Bygdelag”) on the internet at You may join the Bygdelag for the area where your ancestors came from and get access to their information.

Norsk Utvandremuseum
2312 Otterstad
Telephone: 47 62 57 48 50
Fax: 47 62 57 48 51
Hours: 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Norwegian American Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library (NAGC)
Formerly known as: Vesterheim Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library (VGC/NL)
415 Main Street, Madison, WI 53703-3116
Phone: 608-255-2224
Fax: 608-255-6842

Sons of Norway
Sons of Norway, International Headquarters
1455 West Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408-2666 Phone: 612-827-3611

ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Phone: (847) 690-9410
They will do quick searches free of charge, but may charge for more extensive searches.

Background[edit | edit source]

Norwegians have always been a seafaring, exploring people, and extensive travel was common throughout history. 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)
From early times Norwegians have traveled the seas and have been known for their expertise as sailors. The emigrants who left Norway before 1825, generally traveled to other countries and ports in Europe and left from there.

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 1600s “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), people from Holland traveled to Norway (many settled there), and several Norwegians immigrated to America with the Dutch. History states that Norwegians serving in the Dutch Marine were the Netherland’s best sailors.
1624: 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.
1633: 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.

1747: In 1747, one colony was settled at Bethabara, North Carolina.
1825: 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.

Sloopers: The undersized sloop “Restauration” sailed from Stavanger, Norway on July 4th, 1825. Onboard were 52 persons from the religious community of Quakers, Haugeans (followers of Hans Nielsen Hauge, who had been assassinated). This group of dissenter families left Stavanger after a particularly fierce religious strife with the Norwegian State Church.
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.

1836-1865: 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, ships 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.
1850: The 1850 Census records about 1,800 persons in the USA of Scandinavian birth. In 1880 there were 440,262, and in 1890 the number was 933,249.
1866-1920: During this time period 700,000 people left 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. 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 civil war years.

Steam Ships: From 1865-1873 most Steam Ships travel arrangements were more organized. Most emigrants left Norway for Hull, England, from there traveled by rail to Liverpool where they left for ports in the United States and Canada. Steam Ships shortened the length of time from 3 months to about 3 weeks, and the number of emigrants increased. Over the next half century around 70,000 emigrants left Norway. During the Civil War and in the 1870’s when the unemployment rate was relatively high in the United States, the number of emigrants decreased.
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 United 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.

1871-1875: 1,500 persons emigrated from Norway to Australia. The number of persons going to Australia later was much smaller. They settled mainly in South Victoria and New Zealand. Some Norwegians have settled in Argentina, and large numbers have settled in Canada. The majority, however, settled in Minnesota and North Dakota.
1880: The 1880 US Census list 449,262 persons and in the 1890 US Census the number was 933,249.
1930: In 1930, the total emigration from Norway was estimated at about 830.000.

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Emigration Records[edit | edit source]

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 FamilySearch 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 FamilySearch Catalog under:


Kristiania (Oslo) Passenger lists 1867 to 1902
Indexes 1867 to 1902
White Star Line (unindexed) 1883 to 1902

Records of Norwegian Immigrants in the United States[edit | edit source]

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.

County histories. Histories from the counties where Norwegians settled sometimes provide the immigrants' towns of origin.

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.) People tracing Norwegian Latter-day Saint ancestors should see the Latter-day Saints Research page Tracing Latter-day Saint Ancestors for additional sources.

Other Resources

  • 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. Contains over 2,500 published lists of emigrants/immigrants.
  • Ulvestad, Martin Nordmænderne i Amerika deres historie og rekord (Norwegians in America Their History and Record) Two Volumes. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA: History Book Company's Forlag, 1907. (FHL book 973 F2u pt. 1 and 2; film 0896612, item 1). - This book describes many early Norwegian immigrants in every state in the Union, most with a place of origin.
  • Naeseth, Gerhard B. Norwegian Immigrants to the United States, A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Five Volumes. Decorah, Iowa, USA: Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 1997. (FHL book 973 D3nn)
  • The Norwegian Immigrant Association was organized to create an exhibit for the Ellis Island Museum in 2000.  The Ellis Island Database may be searched for immigrants from Norway at:
  • Nasjonalbiblioteket (The National Library of Norway) has available "Norway to America" in a searchable database online. This is the bibliographical collections of Thor M. Andersen. You may search the collection at:
  • Norway in America: The bibliographical collections of Thor M. Andersen (TMA) online search
  • 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 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.

Records of Norwegian Immigrants in the Other Countries[edit | edit source]

Latin America[edit | edit source]

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.

The University of Oslo began a formal study of Norwegian immigrants to Latin America in 2011, which is now complete. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Norwegians traveled to Latin America between 1820 and 1940. A wide range of published and unpublished sources were used from archives both in Norway and across Latin America as well as from individual submissions to the project in the form of diaries, daybooks, journals, etc. The study resulted in the database:

There are four components to the database, only one of which is available in English:

  1. The HULA emigrant search (available in English)
  2. The HULA II document list
  3. The HULA II document search
  4. The HULA map

Canada[edit | edit source]

Passenger lists
Most Norwegian immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and Quebec. The Quebec passenger arrivals from 1865 can now be searched online at Library and Archives Canada - Immigration.

The Quebec, Canada list 1865-1873 is a supplement to the somewhat incomplete immigration records for this period. Aside from the regular listing of names with ages, occupations and nationalities, (Norwegians and others often listed as "aliens") there are several specific Norwegian lists which indicate an exact place of residence in Norway prior to departure. The entire set of records cover 1865-1900 and are also available on microfilm at the Family History library.

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records of all the major North American ports. All are indexed except for the port of New York. See United States Emigration and Immigration for further information about United States immigration records.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • Norwegian Migration and Immigration
  • Norwegian Emigration: The Experience
  • Ulvestad, Martin. Nordmændene i Amerika, deres historie og rekord : bidrag til og bindeled mellem Norges historie og Nord-Amerikas, de Forenede Staters i särdelshed Minneapolis, Minnesota : History Book Company's Forlag, 1907-1913. Volume 1, Volume 2 at FamilySearch Digital Library.
    • This book describes many early Norwegian immigrants in every state in the Union, most with a place of origin.
  • Naeseth, Gerhard B. Norwegian immigrants to the United States : a biographical directory 1825-1850. Madison, Wisconsin : Vesterheim Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library, c1993-. (These volumes include indexes of immigrants followed by a page number giving a history of an immigrant and where he or she came from in Norway). Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5 at FamilySearch Digital Library.
  • Haakenstad, Liv Marit . Slektsgranskerens guide til utvandringen 1825-1930. Bergen, Norway : Vigmostad & Bjørke, c2013. FHL book 948.1 W27hL 2013.
  • Statsarkivet i Bergen (Norge). Fornavnsregister til skipslistene Bergen-Quebec 1865-1873 (Given name Index to the Ship Lists Bergen-Quebec 1865-1873), Bergen, Norway: Statsarkivet, 1993. FHL book 948.33 W3b.
  • 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.)

References[edit | edit source]