North Dakota Emigration and Immigration

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Pre-statehood settlers of North Dakota generally came from Norway, Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and Iowa. Important but smaller groups came from Germany, England, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, and the older midwestern states of Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio. Many of the Canadian immigrants were of Scottish descent, and most of those from Russia were of German origin. When North Dakota became a state in 1889, about 70 percent of the total population were either foreign-born or the children of foreign-born parents.

Immigrants from overseas also made up a large part of the second Dakota boom, which lasted from about 1898 to 1915. At the end of this period, Norwegian immigrants comprised about 20 percent of the state population, and ethnic Germans, including Germans from Russia, another 20 percent.

There were substantial numbers of Canadians of English and Celtic origin, Swedes, Danes, Czechs, and many smaller European groups. There also was an important influx of settlers from the other midwestern states during the early twentieth century.


Most overseas immigrants to North Dakota came through the port of New York or other east coast ports. The Family History Library and the National Archives have U.S. passenger lists or indexes for the years 1820 to 1943, and for Canadian ports, 1865 to 1900. More detailed information on these sources is in the United States Research Outline.

Records of ethnic groups, such as Black Sea Germans, are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under NORTH DAKOTA - MINORITIES. An especially helpful book that describes the background and 1965 location of major ethnic groups in most of the North Dakota counties is William C. Sherman, Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota'(Fargo, North Dakota: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1983; FHL book 978.4 F2s).