Immigrants to Canada

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The Norwegians

The following information is taken from Fjord to Frontier: A History of the Norwegians in Canada by Gulbrand Loken, Toronto: 1980.

The major reason for Norwegian migration appears to be one of economics. The Norwegian farms were often small and unable to support a family. Added to that was the lack of other employment to augment the family income. Between 1850 and 1910 approximately 681,011 Norwegians made their way to America. Very few originally stayed in Canada but some, after a stay in the American west, made their way across the boarder and settled in the present provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

One of the earliest Norwegian parties to America in the nineteenth century sailed from Stavenger on July 4, 1825. This party was lead by Kleng Pedersen (Cleng Peerson). The ship, Restauration, of 45 tons, master being Helland, was a rebuilt sloop carrying 52 passengers. To that number was added baby Larson, who was born on the voyage. Many of this party were Quakers, leaving Norway for religious reasons. The voyage took 97 days and they arrived in New York on October 9, 1825.

In 1836 the Norden and DenNorske Klippe sailed to America with 167 passengers. Another two vessels sailed the following year.

The British Government repealed the navigation laws in 1849 and from 1850 on, Canada became the port of choice as Norwegian ships carried passengers to Canada and took lumber back to Norway. The Canadian route offered many advantages to the emigrant. "They moved on from Quebec both by rail and by steamer for another thousand or more miles for a steerage fare of slightly less than $9.00. Steamers from Quebec brought them to Toronto, then the immigrants often traveled by rail for 93 miles to Collingwood on Lake Huron, from where steamers transported them across Lake Michigan to Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay." (pp. 13-14)

In 1855 there were eight vessels reported from Norway to Canada in the immigration report, averaging a 45 day crossing. These vessels carried 1,275 passengers. The following year, 14 vessels made the voyage averaging 54 days, and carrying 2,821 passengers. One of these vessels, the Orion from Stavanger, was said to carry 50 paupers all heading for the American west but, due to a lack of funds were sent to Buffalo. The passengers of the Gifion, all proceeded to Wisconsin. (Check out the Montreal passenger list - says many Norwegians on board and only one saved)

There were a considerable number of deaths among the Norwegians in 1857. Of the 6,507 immigrants who arrived in that year there were 100 deaths. In 1859, however, emigration dropped off with only 16 vessels arriving from Norway carrying 1,756 passengers. Of the over 28,460 Norwegians who came to Canada in the 1850s it is estimated that only 400 remained in Canada the majority moved on into the American west. (p. 16)

A small settlement of Norwegians was begun at Gaspe Peninsula, Lower Canada, in 1854. A report in 1859, stated that 25 families, totaling 126 persons, were settled in the Gaspe. They were joined in 1860 by another 50 persons. However, the Norwegians were not content, and after a very hard winter in 1861-2 they began to make their way to the American west.

About 14 families who arrived on the ship Flora from Christiania in 1856 went to the Eastern Townships, near present day Sherbrooke, Quebec. They were following in the footsteps of two other Norwegians who settled in this area in 1853. "Johan Schroder, who travelled in the United States and Canada in 1863, reported that a group of Norwegian immigrants, led by an agent, settled in Bury in the Eastern Townships in 1856. One of the first settlers in this area was Captain John Svenson who died in 1878." (p. 18)

Immigration Reports Dealing with Norwegians:

You will find information on the Norwegians in some of the government immigration reports. Those of special interest are:

Other Sources:

UWInfo | Genealogy | 19th Century Immigration | Young Immigrants | Local History

© Marjorie P. Kohli, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1998-2007
Last updated: February 18, 2007
Maintained by Marj Kohli