Tracing your Norwegian ancestors? Want to know how to find out more about your family genealogy? Read our guide for more facts & information…
During the 19th and early twentieth centuries, thousands of residents emigrated from Norway to the United States and Canada in search of a better life in the New World. Many of their descendants want to know more about their family trees and are curious about relatives that may still reside in Norway. There are excellent records of passengers who sailed to both the United States and Canada.
A Name Is Often Not Enough
In order to trace ancestors, descendants of immigrants should start with the year their relatives arrived in America. The name of the ship that carried them across the Atlantic is also important. Many immigrants altered the spelling of their names upon arrival or had the spelling altered by the English speaking immigration officials who were unfamiliar with Nordic languages. If immigrants had a common Norwegian surname, it may be difficult to locate them without knowing the year they arrived and the name of the ship which brought them to America.
Locating Passenger Lists
There are many websites that have copies of passenger lists for ships which brought immigrants to America. There are also specialized websites that have the ships’ passenger lists from particular countries including Norway. For descendants who know the name of the ship and the date of the arrival of their ancestors, finding their relative’s name should be fairly easy. If the name of the ship is unknown, knowing the port of arrival can narrow the search.
There are websites that specialize in tracing ancestors which offer helpful pointers including common misspellings of Nordic names. It is usually necessary to become a member on these sites and pay a fee. While the internet allows descendants to locate and read passengers lists of immigrant ships from Norway, other records like birth or baptismal certificates may not be readily available. Many amateur genealogists find they must either visit the country of origin or hire someone in that country to research additional records.
Other Areas to Investigate
Not all immigrants came directly from Norway to America. Some may have gone to nearby countries like Great Britain, France or Belgium and booked their passage to America from ports in those countries. Traveling across the Atlantic was fairly arduous, particularly in the early part of the 19th century and ships did not leave on the voyage regularly. Some immigrants may have worked as crew members to pay their passage, so checking crew lists may be helpful.
Before the late 19th century, immigration laws in the Americas were fairly lenient and passports and visas were not required. The passenger lists of immigrant ships from Norway often offer the best way of tracing ancestors who sought a new life in the New World.