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.

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.

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.

Det Norske Utvandrersenteret (The Norwegian Emigration Center)
Strandkaia 31
N-4005 Stavanger, Norway

Phone: 47 51 53 88 60
Fax: 47 51 53 88 63

The Norwegian Emigration Center in Stavanger, Norway, is a foundation supported by the county or Rogaland, the city of Stavaanger, and the community of Tysvær. The center has a copy of most of the published material about Norwegian families as well as an almost complete collection of Norwegian church, census, and emigration records. The center also has passenger lists from the Norwegian American Line and one of the largest collections of farm books (bygdebøker). They answer questions and do research for a nominal fee.

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.

They have an extensive collection about Norwegians in America. They have more than 7,000 emigrant letters, microfilm of about 2,000 Norwegian Lutheran Churches in America from around 1840-1900, and a collection of about 9,000 photographs.

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.

Finding Your Ancestors' Town in Norway[edit | edit source]

Genealogical records are organized by geographical locality. Civil registration (government birth, marriage, and death records) and church records (christenings/baptisms, marriages, and burials) were kept at the local level. To search these records, you must know the town where your ancestors lived.

If you do not know your ancestors' town, see the article, Norway Finding Town of Origin, to identify other records that might provide that information.

Historical 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.

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 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]