Books on Monday: Norwegian emigrants

Here are a couple of books you might find interesting

Between Rocks and Hard Places
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 valuable, since there are already many good books about the American period. Ten out of twelve chapters concern aspects of life in Norway, such as the church, courting and marriage, education, and trading and markets. The remaining two chapters concern the circumstances that led to emigration and the founding of Norwegian communities in America. If you are researching your relatives in Norway, this book is a must-read, full of valuable, practical, and interesting information.   You might also want to have a look at
Must-read social history of pre-emigration life in Norway
In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream
Eric Dregni’s great-grandfather Ellef fled Norway in 1893 when it was the poorest country in Europe. More than one hundred years later, his great-grandson traveled back to find that—mostly due to oil and natural gas discoveries—it is now the richest. The circumstances of his return were serendipitous, as the notice that Dregni won a Fulbright Fellowship to go there arrived the same week as the knowledge that his wife Katy was pregnant. Braving a birth abroad and benefiting from a remarkably generous health care system, the Dregnis’ family came full circle when their son Eilif was born in Norway.

In this cross-cultural memoir, Dregni tells the hair-raising, hilarious, and sometimes poignant stories of his family’s yearlong Norwegian experiment. Among the exploits he details are staying warm in a remote grass-roofed hytte (hut), surviving a dinner of rakfisk (fermented fish) thanks to 80-proof aquavit, and identifying his great-grandfather’s house in the Lusterfjord only to find out it had been crushed by a boulder and then swept away by a river. To subsist on a student stipend, he rides the meat bus to Sweden for cheap salami with a busload of knitting pensioners. A week later, he and his wife travel to the Lofoten Islands and gnaw on klippefisk (dried cod) while cats follow them through the streets.

Dregni’s Scandinavian roots do little to prepare him and his family for the year in Trondheim eating herring cakes, obeying the conformist Janteloven (Jante’s law), and enduring the mørketid (dark time). In Cod We Trust is one Minnesota family’s spirited excursion into Scandinavian life. The land of the midnight sun is far stranger than they previously thought, and their encounters show that there is much we can learn from its unique and surprising culture.

5 thoughts on “Books on Monday: Norwegian emigrants

  • July 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Someone in my family has been doing LOT of research. On Geni, yesterday, I found (if it is accurate), I have royalty from Norway, Ireland, Germany, multiple countries including China and Mongolia(?). This dates back to the first century. There 5,000 entries over 500 pages. How can I verify that much data? It’s overwhelming. Exciting, but questionable.

    • July 17, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      I am sorry to say that it is questionable. When you go passed 1600 in Norway the sources become very scarce. There are those who claim to be related to a viking king. While I think it is arrogant to flat out dismiss such a genealogy, I have yet to see one satisfactionally supported by sources. What I have seen is many such genealogies picked to pieces by expert genealogists. Older “bygdebøker” and family history books had a tendency to include family lore. These books are today used to “prove” the relationship with Harald Fairhair and his fellows. Things are not nessesarily true just because it is printed in an old book. I have a genealogy chart that connects our family to Harald Fairhair. I keep it in a binder just for fun, but does not use it for my genealogy as it is completely impossible to prove.

  • July 17, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Both of these books sound interesting. Does the first book tell about life in Norway mostly in the 1800’s? That’s what I’m looking for.


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