Across the atlantic and back: Tracing the lives of Norwegian-American migrants, 1850-1930

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Between 1825 and 1960 900,000 Norwegians emigrated. Before 1930 more than 95 per cent went to the United States. The rate of return to Norway was low in comparison to many other nations who sent large numbers to the us after 1880. High quality census enumerations in both countries, that are now available in electronic format, allow the possibility of reconstructing the lives and voyages of some of these migrants. Even with a low rate of return-migration there were more than 50,000 return migrants. Constructing a large sample of return migrants observed in both Norway and the us becomes more feasible with electronic search and matching strategies. This article gives an overview of available and soon forthcoming sources in the North Atlantic Population Project, the possibility of electronic linkages, and the challenges of this research strategy. Using a group of 448 Norwegian migrants matched between the 1900 American and 1910 Norwegian census, an empirical analysis shows that migration and marital transitions were likely to have been closely linked. Machine-linked records hold the promise of being able to trace several thousand Norwegians across the Atlantic and back again.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-313
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Migration History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018


  • Census data
  • North Atlantic Population Project
  • Norway
  • Return migration
  • United States

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