The Norwegian American Genealogical Center, Madison, Wisconsin, is announcing the completion of its publication, Norwegian Immigrants to the United States: A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850.

The conclusion of this important resource, a significant addition to the field of immigration history, was accomplished with the recent publication of its fifth and final volume, which contains information for all known Norwegian immigrants who arrived in the United States during the year 1850. The earlier volumes in the series, published between 1993 and 2004, provide information for immigrants arriving from Norway between 1825 and 1849.

This project has a long and close connection with Decorah. From 1974 until the end of 2006, the Norwegian American Genealogical Center (NAGC) in Madison was associated with Vesterheim Museum in Decorah.

Gaining its independence in 2007, the NAGC is today an independent non-profit research institution, chartered in the State of Wisconsin. Decorah resident Dan Huebner serves as the independent organization's first chairman of its board of directors. Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, has been involved with this publishing project from its inception, printing all the volumes of the series as they appeared between 1993 and 2009.

Vision

This massive undertaking began as the vision of Professor Gerhard Brandt Naeseth (1913-1994), internationally renowned scholar in the field of Norwegian-American genealogy and immigration history.

Naeseth had deep roots in Decorah soil. Receiving his bachelor's degree from Luther College, Naeseth was related to the Brandt, Preus, and Koren families, all of whom helped establish Luther. His brother, the late Erling O. Naeseth, was a longtime faculty member at Luther, also serving as dean of students, and business manager.

As early as the 1940's, Naeseth began collecting the primary resource information and documents relating to Norwegians in the United States. During his lifetime, in an era before wide-spread computer use, Naeseth completed and published the first volume in the series, a directory of Norwegians who came to America between 1825 and 1843.

He chose as his beginning point 1825 and attempted to reconstruct the passenger list of those who came to New York from Stavanger aboard the sloop Restauration. That vessel has become the symbol of Norwegian-American immigration, a "Norwegian Mayflower," establishing the first organized emigration from Norway to the United States.

After Gerhard Naeseth's death, this ambitious research and publication program was carried forward by Naeseth's protégé, Blaine Hedberg, who is today executive director of the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library. Its headquarters building in Madison is named to honor the Center's founder.

Inspiring a team of volunteers, Hedberg pressed on, publishing volume two (1844-1846) in 1997; volume three (1847-1848) in 2000; and volume four (1849) in 2004. The recent appearance of the final volume also has been supplemented with the reprinting of the long out-of-print volume one, which has been expanded with a new and useful index.

When Hedberg delivered the typescript of the completed volume five to Erik Anundsen, he remembered Gerhard Naeseth who had started the project so many years before. Hedberg called it "...a day of both celebration and poignancy, filled with remembrance, reflection, and renewal." Hedberg remembered "promises made and kept to complete this work..." and was "struck, yet again, by the magnitude of such a task, which was now complete."

Enduring

The publication is of enduring value, not only for amateur genealogists, but also for advanced researchers and scholars, containing the basic data concerning each emigrant from Norway who arrived before 1851, and providing a grand synthesis from many sources.

Arranged by order of arrival, ship by ship, the volumes contain entries of names, parents' identities, date and place of birth, occupation, place of settlement in America, death date and burial place, and basic information on marriages and children. The volumes provide a context for the arrival of each immigrant, supplying information on his or her accompanying passengers, their places of origin and settlement.

The wider circumstances of ancestral immigration are gleaned from this information and the format in which it is arranged. Settlement patterns, immigration conditions and locales, and relationships of contemporaries in Norway, in transit, and in America can all be studied in depth throughout all five volumes. This series, and its indices, are the authoritative resource for this early period, with many insights gained from placing side by side various records for persons coming to America in the same year.

Further research

With the completion of Naeseth's vision for the series, the Norwegian American Genealogical Center is turning its attention to further research and publication. Discussions have begun, in both Norway and the United States, among students, volunteers and genealogists, about continuing this study by creating a directory of Norwegian immigrants to the United States for the years 1851 to 1865.

The explosion of immigration during this period will mean that unparalleled scholarly resources must be coordinated and marshaled to bring together this exciting story. With the help of computer resources and international communication that Professor Naeseth only dreamed of, the Norwegian American Genealogical Center is poised to continue building on this great contribution.

In Decorah

Next Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25, during Nordic Fest, Blaine Hedberg will be in Decorah, setting up a mini genealogy center in the Thrivent Offices, 517 West Water St., near Vesterheim. He will be welcoming visitors, and providing tips on genealogy methods and research.

All five volumes of the publication will be for sale. The volumes are also available from the Norwegian American Genealogical Center, 415 West Main Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703, telephone 608-255-2224, or via their secure e-store on the website: www.nagcnl.org.

The headquarters of the Center, the Naeseth Library in Madison, is open for researchers at all levels. Appointments for research help may be arranged by calling (608) 255-2224.

The Center also maintains an active and growing international membership made up of those who support the mission and publications of this independent, non-profit organization. Members receive discounts on research assistance. For more information, visit Blaine Hedberg during Nordic Fest, consult the NAGC website, or telephone (608) 255-2224.