There are more than 4 million Americans of Norwegian descent in the US. Between 1850 and 1930 about 800 000 Norwegians emigrated to the US and Canada. As this was not that long ago, many Americans today have relatively close relations in Norway.
If you are of Norwegian heritage or descent and wish to visit the places your ancestors came from, Norway Exclusive will by happy to assist. With our limousines or luxury cars and our combined guides and drivers, we can bring you anywhere in Norway. We are not researchers and cannot identify your relatives for you, but if you know the name of the place your relatives came from, we can help. We verify this and find the correct place (as there are often several villages with the same name) and incorporate a journey there. Our driver-guide can take 1-3 persons in a luxury Benz S Class. Or for up to 6 persons in a Benz Van or for up to 12 people in a Benz Minibus.
Norway is a country of fjords and mountains. Although beautiful, fertile lands in the mountain areas are scarce, and during the 19th century many people went hungry due to the rapidly growing population. The population of Norway was 900 000 in 1800 and had reached 2.2 million by 1900. This was despite the great number of people who emigrated. The farming and fishing techniques of this era simply could not adequately feed all these people.
Luckily there are good records of people who arrived at the various ports in the US and Canada, such as the registry for Ellis Island https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger. In Norway, there are also passenger lists for ports such as Bergen at https://www.digitalarkivet.no/en/
If you have a complete name, including the person’s father’s first name, year of birth and place of birth, tracing a relative in Norway is very easy.
Registration was based on a person’s passport. However, many women would have later changed their names upon marriage, and both men and women would often Americanize their names and remove the Norwegian letters Æ,Ø,Å . For example, the name Jørgen would often be changed to «Jorgen» or «George».
Or the name would be fully Americanized, eg Anna -> Hannah. Andreas -> Andrew. Bernt -> Ben.
In Norway, up to the year 1900, most people did not have last names in the traditional sense. They would use patronyms – that is, they would have a first name, and then their father’s first name with the suffix «son» or «daugther» («datter»), eg Oleson, Olesdatter. This was particularly common in the countryside. Sometimes the name of the farm would be added as a third name. If you moved to another farm, which was common when a man married a woman who had inherited a farm, her husband would change his name to his wife’s.
During the second half of the 1800s many people would also move from the countryside to the cities due to increasing industrialization. When they arrived in the city, they would often use the name of the farm they came from as a last name. This name would then be passed on to their descendants. From 1925 this became the most common pattern.
Many of those who emigrated to the US used the name of the farm or village they came from as a last name, often in an Americanized form. This sometimes meant they used a different name than the «daughter» or «son» name recorded in their passport.
There are many books and resources on how to find relatives in Norway. One such book is Liv Marit Haakenstad: Slektsgranskerens guide til utvandringen 1825-1930.
The National Archives of Norway have a digitalised database open to everyone at https://www.digitalarkivet.no/en/ . If you get a search result on a name of a person who either was in the Norwegian national registry or who was recorded as an emigre, you will often also find their place of residence or place of birth. Although a lot of names are very common, so knowing the year of birth usually helps. But other information, such as the first names of the person’s siblings or the port of departure can also be useful in tracing the right person. Names of places an also often be counties or the name of the town or village in which the nearest police station was situated.
There is also an additional problem: Norway was a province of Denmark for 400 years. The Danish written language is somewhat different from Norwegian. Names of Norwegian places and villages were of Norse origin. However, Danish officials (such as priests) would rewrite and use Danish versions of these names. For example, the old name of Fjørstad was «Fjerilstad» during the Danish era. This has now been changed back to its original Norwegian name of Fjørstad. This means that the person who emigrated during the Danish period might have used the Danish version of their name.
Present-day farm and place names can be found in the database of Norwegian maps.
Once you have found the right name and place, it is time to seek the help of one of the very many genealogical researchers in Norway who have this type of research as their hobby. There is great interest in ancestral research in Norway, particularly the detective work involved in connecting US emigres to present-day Norwegians. If you contact The Norwegian Genealogical Society they will be very eager to assist you in locating present-day relatives. They have excellent experience using local registries, church books, court documents, taxation lists, etc to do this.
If your ancestors emigrated a long time ago, it is unlikely that you will have close relatives at the farm or in the village they departed from. But in Norway Exclusive we can take you to the places your ancestors came from. We can show you the village, countryside, and old farmhouses if they are still there. Norwegians are very hospitable and friendly and will often be very willing to help. Our combined licensed guide and driver will take you there in one of our comfortable cars. We can help you find the right farm, place, and maybe even the graveyard where your ancestors are buried. Should you wish to plan a multi-day trip with overnight stays, Norway Exclusive can organise this in collaboration with our partners.
Our Norway Exclusive combined licensed guide and driver will comfortably bring you to your roots in a luxury limousine, Van or Mini-bus.