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Tips for Norwegian American Researchers

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Strategy[edit | edit source]

The best place to start your Norwegian American research is at home!

What do you already know? Have you talked to older relatives; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins? They may have information that can be very helpful. Pay special attention to any mention of people, names, places, and old family stories.

Pay extra attention to last names. If the last name does not end in -sen or -son, it could be a farm name. Farm names can help you identfiy a home parish in Norway. If you have a possible farm name, look it up in a Norwegian gazetteer. If there are only a few names like the one you are looking for, you may have found the place in Norway where you ancestor was born, married, or at least lived at some point during his/her life.

Make sure you look for information in old Bibles, journals, letters, books, on postcards and old photos.You may find information in US sources like US Censuses, naturalization records, military records, homestead applications, Norwegian American Lutheran church records, obituaries, and newspapers.

You may be lucky and find records written in Norwegian; it is possible to find help to translate those records.

Did your family members serve in the military? Were any members of any Norwegian fraternities? What about county histories from where your family lived in the United States?

Cultural Context[edit | edit source]

To put your Norwegian emigrant in his/her cultural context, and to obtain a greater appreciation of what he/she may have experienced in this country, you may want to read the epic novel (trilogy) of Norwegian immigrant homesteaders in Dakota Territory “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Rølvaag. It is a classic story of a Norwegian pioneer family’s struggle with the land and the elements as they try to make a living in their new home land. It portrays the trials of loneliness, separation from family, and longing for the old country.

Information about record sources and life in Scandinavia can be found volume 8 of the papers given at the 1980 World Conference on Records, held in Salt Lake City. The papers are available at the Family History Library and online in the Digital Books collection.

Other Societies[edit | edit source]