The largest ethnic groups in Minnesota are Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians. By 1880 the foreign-born population in Minnesota included nearly 108,000 Scandinavians, many of whom were Norwegians; 66,000 Germans; and about 39,000 British, most of whom were Irish. Nearly 30,000 Minnesotans had come from Canada, most of whom were British and French Canadians. There were nearly 8,000 Bohemians (mostly Czechs) and 1,000 or 2,000 each from Switzerland, Poland, Russia, and France. There were also Mennonite Germans from Russia and some Jews from Germany. Jews from eastern Europe came later. More than 2,000 American Indians still resided in Minnesota and nearly 1,500 African Americans.
From 1890 to 1920 job opportunities in Minnesota’s cities attracted immigrants from central and southern Europe, including Russian Jews, Slavs, Italians, and Greeks. Large numbers of Finns began to arrive, and Germans and Scandinavians continued to come. The decade of the greatest Norwegian immigration was 1900–10. Significant numbers of Mexican Americans arrived in the 1930s, and refugees from southeast Asia in the 1970s.
Many books have been published about Minnesota’s people. For example:
- Holmquist, June Drenning. They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1981. (FHL book 977.6 F2t.) This 641-page book includes chapters on more than 60 ethnic groups, with reasons for each group’s immigration, its settlement patterns, religious practices, and social customs. Notes at the end of each chapter give sources for further study.
- Ulvestad, Martin. Nordmændene i Amerika: deres Historie og Rekord. (Norwegians in America: Their History and Record.) Minneapolis, Minnesota: History Book Company’s Forlag, 1907. (FHL book 973 F2u; film 896612.) In Norwegian. This includes a long chapter on Norwegian settlement in Minnesota, with names of some of the first Norwegian settlers in each county. It also includes lists of immigrant Norwegian county officers in Minnesota with their home towns in Norway; some immigrants who served in Civil War regiments; and villages in Norway with names of some emigrants and their places of settlement in North America. It is especially valuable for those who came before 1867, when lists began to be kept of emigrants leaving Norway.
- Ulvestad, Martin, ed. Norge i Amerika med Kart. (Norway in America With Map). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Norge i Amerika Publishing, 1901. (FHL book 973 F2n.) In Norwegian. This is a directory of thousands of Norwegians in North America about 1901. United States and Canadian cities are arranged in alphabetical order, with names and professions of immigrants. Most of the communities are in the midwestern states, including many in Minnesota. An included map shows the location of major Norwegian settlements in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota.
- Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) [Internet site]. Northfield, Minnesota: NAHA, 1999 [cited 16 Nov 1999]. Their Internet site is available at www.naha.stolaf.edu/. The goal of the organization is to locate, collect, preserve, and interpret Norwegian-American history.
- Strand, Algot E. A History of the Swedish-Americans of Minnesota: a Concise Record of the Struggles and Achievements of the Early Settlers...1910. Reprint. N.p. Available from Higginson Book Company, Salem, Massachusetts. (FHL book 977.6 H2s; film 1698188 .) This three-volume set contains brief biographical and historical information on early Swedish settlers of Minnesota counties and longer biographies of prominent Swedish Americans who were living in Minnesota in 1910. Name index at the beginning of volume 1.
- Plaut, W. Gunther. The Jews in Minnesota: The First Seventy-Five Years. New York, NY: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959. (FHL book 977.6 F2p.) This history includes appendixes listing Jewish physicians in Minnesota before 1900 and some Minnesota Jews who served in the Civil War and World War I.
Other records and histories of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in Minnesota are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MINNESOTA – MINORITIES