Børge Solem, 1999, 2007
Norwegian Emigration Records
Norwegian records - Norwegian Police Emigration Lists (1867 - 1973), - What about the Danes? - What about the Swedes? - Norwegian church records - Norwegian church moving lists (1820 - 1915)
The Police Emigration Records:
Norwegian Police Emigration Records (1867 - 1973).
The mass emigration from Norway started about 1865-66, after the Civil War was over. Several ship-owners saw the opportunity to earn good money by transporting emigrants to America. They would carry passengers to America, and take cargo back for Europe. Despite of the US and British Passenger Acts, the conditions for the passengers on board many of the ships was horrific. The newspapers in Norway were filled with stories about passengers suffering and dying on the transatlantic crossing. There were also stories about how people had been tempted in to emigrate even though they did not have enough money to pay for their passage. They had signed contracts to work for companies in America, and pay their fee by labor after arrival. Many of them had been tricked to sign contracts they could not get free from. Complaints had actually been going on for many years when the Norwegian government at last decided that they wanted to monitor the activities of the transportation companies and their agents. As a result of this, the first emigration records were started as a temporary arrangement in May 1867.
A new law was passed May 22nd, 1869 concerning the transporting of passengers to foreign parts of the world. This law was intended to protect the emigrants against trickery from the agents. According to the law, the agents now had to be authorized by the police annually, and the shipowners had to deposit a considerable amount of funds as a security for the wellbeing of the passengers. According to the law, the agents also had to sign a written contract with the emigrants. The contract was to specifically state everything included in the ticket. Before the contract was valid, it had to be shown before the police commissioner, and it was then signed by both the agent and the police commissioner.
When the contract was shown and signed at the police commissioner's office, the emigrants were registered in the police registers of emigrants, including personal information about the emigrant, and linking this information to the agent or line responsible for the conveyance. This prevented the agents from making false promises to the emigrants. If the agents were caught violating the act, they could lose their authorization, or be sentenced to pay a compensation or fine.
Paragraph 6 in the "Act concerning control of conveyance of emigrants to foreign destinations":
The agent is to produce a written contract between him and the emigrant, which must contain detailed information about in what manner, and to which destination the emigrant and his clothing shall be conveyed, whether there is any obligations regarding the feeding and lodging of the emigrant in case the ship due to any misfortune, should have to remain in port, about further transportation in case of shipwreck, or if the ship for other reasons can not complete the voyage. It shall also contain information about the payment details, like how much the emigrant has paid for the voyage, and if any further payment should be paid later during the voyage.
Any other conditions, that for practical reasons should be given further clarification, shall be left up to the King to determine.
Any agreement involving arrangements that implements the journey to be paid for in total or partly by the performance of labor following arrival at the foreign destination is null and void, and will result in a punishment in form of a fine for the agent in accordance with § 10.
The contract shall be shown before the police commissioner, and must bear his signature to be valid; the document shall then be handed to the emigrant who, if possible, should personally be present to receive it.
It is important to keep in mind, that the registers produced by the police (called "Emigrasjonsprotokoll" "Emigration Protocol", or "The Police Lists") are not passenger lists for specific ships. They are lists of persons intending to emigrate from Norway. The emigrants were entered in to the lists as they appeared at the police office to get their contracts signed. People traveling on different ships from different lines were entered in the lists regardless of what ship or company they traveled with. The majority traveled via England or Germany, except those travelling on Norwegian or Danish ships. The ship they traveled on from Norway are feeder ships. There are no specific passenger lists existing for feeder ships sailing between Norway and other European ports. The emigration registers are the only outbound source. There are no surviving inbound passenger lists for these ships in England or Germany.
The police listed various information in the registers. Note also that the registers were not kept the same way at all times and by all police offices. The first entry in the Trondheim registers was made on April 24th 1867. It was for the passengers departing on the Bark Neptunus, which left Trondheim on May 2nd for Quebec.
Note that the dates given in the registers might be the date when the contract was signed at the police office, and not necessarily the date of departure. (often the day or two before the actual departure).
What you can find in the police emigration records:
The information in these records could actually be divided in two categories. The first category contains information regarding the emigrant, and then there is some information of more administrative nature related to the voyage and emigration process.
By the name of every emigrant there was a number. It was starting at no 1 for the first emigrant listed every year. This is really more of an administrative information, but is mentioned here anyway.
Udvandreren - Den Udvandredes Navn
In the column under this heading you will find the name of the emigrant. In many cases only the patronymic (the name of the father + sen or datter at the end) used as surname, and in other cases you will find a farmname or a family name used as a surname. this became more and more common as time passed. You should note that in many cases people would change their surname (farmname) when they moved from one farm to another. However, many people would use the farmname as their surname after moving in to the cities. See also the article: Those Norwegian names, tips for the "online" researcher
Navn - fam. forhold
This is more or less the same as the above, but was used at a later time to replace the old heading (After 1879) In this column you find the name of the emigrant, and information about family status, for example, if they where married
In this column we will find the name of the place where the emigrant had last been living. Note that this is not necessarily the same place where he was born. Let's say we have Ole Pedersen Strand 35 years listed in 1867: Hjemsted (home-place): Trondheim. To find out if he was actually born in Trondheim we could consult the 1865 census. In the census the place of birth is supposed to be listed. Quite a few of the emigrants did not move for the first time as they emigrated to America. Many would travel from the rural areas to a city to look for work, and maybe stay there for a while before deciding to cross the pond.
Under this heading you will find the age of the emigrant. For the early years in particular, this is not necessarily very accurate for children, as the fee in some cases depended on the age of the child. There were different rates for adults, children 1 - 14 and for infants under 1. It is amazingly few entries of children at the age of 14, while there are a lot of children at the age of 13 in the early years of the records.
In this column you will find information about the occupation of the emigrants. Often not vary accurate in the early years. Most people would be lists as Arbeidsmand or jordarbeider, even though they were often more specialized in their occupation. Later this was more accurately.
The final destination is listed here. In many cases one will be surprised to find that the emigrants did not necessarily sail on a ship landing in the nearest port to the final destination. Quite a few of the immigrants would enter the US from Canada, even if it would have been a shorter inland voyage from a port in the US.
M - K - Kjønn
This is information about what sex the emigrant was. M is male, K is female
this column you will find the name of the agent. In the years from 1867 to 1880, the name of the company was not listed, only the name of the agent. You will find a link to a page with information about what companies the agents represented further down on this page. This information is important to obtain to narrow the search for a passenger list for the arrival in America, as knowing the company will narrow your search down to only a few ships.
Appearing on the lists after 1879 you will find this column giving the name of the transatlantic company. There were quite a few odd abbreviations used, and the British lines had Norwegian names. The White Star Line was often called "Hvide Stjerne Linien", often abbreviated "Hv. st", "H. Stjerne" or "Hvide". Anchor Line was called "Anker Linien", often listed just as "Anker".
Skipet (or Skibet)
In this column you will find the name of the ship the emigrant left the port Norway. Note that this in most cases, is not the ship on which the emigrant arrived to America on, but a feeder ship to ports in England or an other European country. The last sailing ships going directly from Norway to America departed in 1875. The steamships took a greater percentage every year starting in the middle of the 1860s, and most of the emigrants we are tracing in the police lists traveled on steamships via an other European country. The most common route was via the port of Hull in England, and from there by train to Liverpool. You can find out more about the destination of the ships from our annual ship index. To find the name of the ship on which the emigrant crossed the Atlantic, you must find the name of the transatlantic company he had purchased tickets from. After 1880 this will be listed in most of the protocols, but prior to this they only listed the name of the agent. To see a list of the agents and what companies they represented, follow the link further down on this page. When you have identified the name of the transatlantic company, the next step is to find the names of the ships belonging to that company. Then you must trace down the lists of the ships which departed Europe in the nearest one or two weeks after the emigrant is thought to have departed from Norway. Usually an arrival should be expected about 3 week after departure from Norway +- a few days. The voyage from Norway to Hull would take from 3 to 4 days. Then another day across the country by train to the departure port. Some times the emigrants would have to wait for a few days in England, so you should allow some room. Then the transatlantic crossing would last for about 7 - 9 days, all depending on what ship they traveled on. When you know what ships to look for, a systematic search of the passenger lists from NARA or NAC can be done. See also the article about the The British Board of Trade outbound passenger lists below.
Frakt og innskriving
In this column we will find information about how much the emigrant had paid for the ticket, or of the ticket was prepaid in America. There might also be other business information.
This is the date when the contact was signed, which would in most cases be when the ticket was bought. Note that this is not necessarily the date when the emigrant departed.
This is the date the contract was signed by the police
Here we find different comments and notes, like if the emigrant had permission from the army to emigrate.
Information about how much the emigrant had paid for the ticket, or if it was prepaid in America
Dampskib eller seilskib
This column replaced the column called "Skibet" after 1879. In this column you will find the name of the ship on which the emigrant left Norway. Note that this ship, in most cases, is not the same ship on which he arrived to America, but a feeder ship to ports in England or ports in other European countries. Unfortunately some of the police lists does not contain this column, like the ones for Bergen. You can find out more about the destination of the ships our annual ship index. In some cases the name of the ship will not appear in this column, that is if the emigrant did not embark the ship in Trondheim. You might find "via Christiania" or "via X.ania", which indicates that the emigrant embarked the ship in Christiania (Oslo). They will then probably have traveled from Trondheim to Christiania by train. Chances are that they will also be listed in the Christiania lists. To find the name of the ship on which the emigrant crossed the Atlantic, you must track the name of the transatlantic company he had purchased tickets from. See the column for "Skibet" further up.
This is the date when the contract was signed, probably when the ticket was bought, not necessarily the date of departure
This is the date the contract was signed by the police, often the day before the actual departure.
You can now search for agents in our Agents & Shipping lines database
Norwegian emigration records that have survived in the Norwegian National archive "Statsarkiv":
- Christiania (Kristiania, Oslo): 1867 - 1966; original is kept by Oslo Statsarkiv
- Fredrikstad 1883 - 1890; origial is kept at Oslo original
- Christiansand (Kristiansand): 1873 - 1961; original is kept by Kristiansands Statsarkiv
- Arendal: (1903 - 1919) original is kept by Kristiansands Statsarkiv
- Bergen: 1874 - 1960; original is kept by Bergen Statsarkiv
- Ålesund: 1879 - 1925; original kept by Trondheim Statsarkiv
- Kristiansund 1882 - 1959; original is kept by Trondheim Statsarkiv
- Trondhjem (Trondheim): 1867 - 1926; original is kept by Trondheim Statsarkiv
- Larvik: 1887 - 1970; original kept at Kongsberg Statsarkiv
- Sandefjord: 1904 - 1921; original kept at Kongsberg Statsarkiv
- Stavanger 1925 - 1956, The Stavanger emigration records pre 1929 were destroyed by a fire.
- Stavanger 1903 - 1925 "Utvandrersenteret" in Stavanger is working to reconstruct some of the lists.
Most of the Norwegian Police emigration records mentioned above are digitized, or in the progress of being digitized, and will be found online at the Digitalarkivet. The Digitalarkivet (The Digital Archive), is a very powerful online source for Norwegian genealogy. It is a joint project between The National Archives of Norway, The regional Archive of Bergen and The Department of History, University of Bergen. At the Digitalarkivet you will also find the Norwegian National censuses of 1801, 1865 and 1900 for online searching. You will also find passports issued for travel to America from Bergen 1842-1860, passenger lists Bergen-Quebec 1865-1873, ship's list, Bergen-New York 1871-1873. Not all of the records are online yet, but new parts are added all the time. There is also a variety of other sources available from the digitalarkivet, and new material is being added every week. This should be the number one place to start your Norwegian genealogy.
- The Christiania White Star Line records 1883 - 1923 have survived, and is kept by Oslo Statsarkiv. There was also a protocol for Arendal, and maybe one for Drammen, which have been lost. It is possible however, to find lists from various police offices, which have not been microfilmed. From Ålesund (Aalesund)for example, the lists start earlier than the films, but they are in poor condition.
The lists have been filmed by the LDS, and you should be able to order copies from the LDS Family History Centers. Microfilms and fiches can also be purchased from The Riksarkivet in Norway. The 35 mm rolls costs NOK 12,91 per meter (average 30 meters), and the 16 mm rolls costs NOK 230 (regardless of length). A fiche costs about NOK 12,25. These prices are inclusive of 24 % sales tax which should be deducted when exported outside Norway. (rates of 1999)
The National Library of Norway (Nasjonalbiblioteket), Norwegian-American collection keeps records of 1st and 2nd class passengers traveling with the Norwegian America Line.
Aalesund list of 1882.
Lists much similar to the Norwegian Emigration lists were also made by the Swedish and Danish police. The Danes has put their records online like the Norwegians. You can search for Danish emigrants at: The Danish Emigration Archives
The Swedes has made a CD-ROM, containing emigrants between 1869&150;1930. The CD is a joint project between Göteborgs-Emigranten, The Provincial Archives of Göteborg, The Swedish Emigrant Institute, Växjö, and the Emigrantregistret/Kinship House of Karlstad. The CD actually contains four different databases, which are compiled from the Police Emigration Registers from the ports of Göteborg, Malmö, Stockholm, and the minor ports of Norrköping and Kalmar. This database contains of about 1,3 million individuals, and is very similar to the Norwegian registers. The CD also has a database containing information about emigrants which had lived at least 5 years in the town of Göteborg before leaving, and is based on the church records. The third database on the CD is based on the records of the Göteborg Seamen's Registry (Sjömanshus), which are very much like the Norwegian Maritime inscription - registers of sailors. It contains listings of sailors that jumped ship, and in that way became immigrants. The last of the four databases on the CD gives an index of all records of the various Swedish American churches that are microfilmed, some 2200 churches around the US and Canada. It is possible to order the CD 1-2/2001-American version at the price of 130 US$, included a small instruction manual, by going to the Göteborgs-Emigranten web site, or writing to: Göteborgs-Emigranten, P.O.Box 53066, S-400 14 Göteborg, Sweden.
Norwegian church records.
This is another source for finding emigrants from Norway. When someone wanted to move from the area where they lived, they needed some kind of identification paper. If a stranger was not able to present an identification paper he could be put in jail. The usual way of getting such identification papers was to ask for an attestation from the church. The church would then note this in their records, and was keeping records of those who left the parish and those who moved in to the parish. However, these records are not easy to use, as there are no indexes, and therefore it is time-consuming looking through them. They were not used consequently during the time they existed, and there might be lacunas for some parishes. The records in general only gives the names and age of those who moved out, and some scarce information of where they intended to go. You will also find the date given for the moving. A great number of Norwegian church records are now scanned and made available online by the Digitalarkivet: Skannede kirkebøker. Note that as this is being written (January 2007), the instructions are only available in Norwegian.
Part of a moving list from 1866
Register of Passport applicants:
In the period from 1803 to 1860 people had to hold a passport in order to be permitted to leave the country. The passports were issued by the police. The surviving registers are kept by the regional Statsarkiv. Only a very small part of the records are digitized and can be found at the Digitalarkivet: Emigrants, pass registers
Passport, (traveling permit)
issued by the Christiania police May 24, 1848 to Østen Helgesen Børtnes who intended to travel to America on the ship Norwegian emigrant ship Drafna
Hunting Passenger Lists - read more >>
- Chapter 1: Emigration Records - Sources (By Børge Solem & Trond Austheim)
- Chapter 2: Canadian Records (1865-1935) (by Sue Swiggum, Trond Austheim & Børge Solem)
- Chapter 3: Searching the Canadian Immigration Records Database (by Annette Fulford - 2002)
- Chapter 4: US arrivals - Customs Passenger Lists (by Sue Swiggum, Trond Austheim & Børge Solem)
- Chapter 5: Port of New York Passenger Records (By Jo Anne Sadler, 2003
- Chapter 6: Norwegian Emigration Records, (By Børge Solem)
- Chapter 7: The British Board of Trade outbound passenger lists (By Debbie Beavis)