Author Archives: Eric

Slideshow: Hauge Lutheran Church, Canoe Township

Slideshow: Hauge Lutheran Church, Canoe Township Continue reading

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1940 census images released

The National Archives has released photographic images of all census forms collected in April 1940. Census records, by law, are released 72 years after collection, and the images are now available to download. FamilySearch.org has an indexing project that will … Continue reading

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Ole Rynning’s True Account of America, 1838

Based upon his travels in America in June of 1838, Ole Rynning’s True Account of America (Sandfærdig Beretning om Amerika) gave practical information and courage to thousands of Norwegian peasants who were curious about their chances in another country. It was the … Continue reading

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Must-read social history of pre-emigration life in Norway

Between Rocks and Hard Places by Ann Urness Gesme is a social history of the Norwegian farmers who made up the bulk of emigrants to America. Focusing on the Norwegian period of their lives makes this book uniquely informative and … Continue reading

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Path to citizenship for the generation of immigrants

Information about naturalization, while not usually a treasure trove for a genealogist, can be helpful in confirming or discovering a few facts: the county where an ancestor lived (especially helpful during the years between censuses), their year of immigration, and … Continue reading

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Free genealogy lookups available

The Decorah Genealogy Association has an excellent library of local resources, but I also have a pretty good library of books on subjects related to Norwegian genealogy, such as Norwegian local histories (bygdeboks), printed collections of church records, and historical … Continue reading

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Diaries of early preachers reveal frontier life in the 1850s

A number of preachers from Norway (and other Scandinavian countries) were among the first settlers in the Norwegian Ridge area. They were making rounds to settlers before congregations were officially organized and a pastor was funded and “called” from Norway … Continue reading

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Money Creek and other local place names explained

Black Hammer is so-named because Knud Olsen Bergo came upon the prairie bluff after a wildfire blackened its sides, and Money Creek was named after a gust of wind blew the contents of an unlucky early settler’s wallet into the … Continue reading

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Southern Minnesota Railroad Company service in Houston County

Early railroads (and their tycoons) were the beneficiaries of a great gift from the government: to run rail lines to the West, railroads were typically granted every odd-numbered section for six or so miles on each side of the tracks … Continue reading

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Leprosy epidemic hits Spring Grove in 1886

Sometimes small-town news spreads far and wide. This pair of stories shows that extreme medical conditions gave Spring Grove a small amount of fame in its first few decades.

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NYTimes Observes “Our Scandinavian Population” in 1866

Imagine Decorah being at the front of the American frontier when you read this bit from the New York Times, originally published April 20, 1866: Our Scandinavian Population. A correspondent of the American Messenger estimates the number of Norwegians settled … Continue reading

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Historic Norwegian “Amtskart” Maps

Continuing my series on maps, here is a beautiful historic map that covers all of Norway and clearly shows farm locations. Provided by Statens Kartverk, this map is actually a searchable composite map created by stitching together  multiple historic “Amtskartene” … Continue reading

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High-Resolution Plat Maps for Houston, Allamakee and Winneshiek Counties

Plat maps are an excellent resource for local history research. They show where a family lived and farmed, can demonstrate migration over time, and provide context when digging through census records. They can also be used to identify the locations cited … Continue reading

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Highland Township’s Early History

It’s hard to believe that Highland Township, in the northeast corner of Winneshiek County, Iowa, was once at the western edge of civilization. Here are excerpts from some early histories that show the difficulties as well as the promise of … Continue reading

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Understanding Norwegian Naming Patterns

As you go back through the generations, you will see many different names used to describe the same family. There a few different forces of history influencing this phenomenon. Let’s clear it up a bit.

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