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This site is intended to be a resource to those researching the history and genealogies of people of Norwegian ancestry in Central Iowa. Goals of this effort include developing a registry database of all persons of Norwegian birth who resided in and near Story County, faciliting focused communication for those researching here, publishing genealogies, and gathering information for The Central Iowa Norwegian Project. It will take time and collaboration to meet these goals. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.
Norwegians in all Central Iowa counties are covered by this site, however the principal settlement areas covered are in Story County and nearby settlements in Hamilton, Hardin, and Polk Counties. Click here for a list of the primary townships and communities.
Twenty-five years after starting the Central Iowa Norwegian Project to collect information for a history of the central Iowa Norwegians, local historian, Arlen Twedt, is pleased to announce the publication of the third and final volume of The Central Iowa Norwegians.
Norwegian immigrants founded a settlement southwest of Cambridge in 1855 and a second colony east of Story City in 1856. By 1870, central Iowa was the third most popular settlement area for Norwegian immigrants in Iowa. In Norwegian Settlement in the United States, Carlton C. Qualey states, “When the settlers arrived in the lands on June 7, 1855, they found themselves in central Iowa, in Story County, where they launched one of the largest Norwegian settlements in Iowa and one of the more famous in America.”
Volume 1 of The Central Iowa Norwegians published in 2017 covers the settlement period from 1855 to 1880. It traces emigrants' migration from hillside farms along fjords in southwest Norway to the prairie of northern Illinois and westward to Iowa. Twedt describes what early frontier life was like for 97 families living in log cabins and dugouts on the virgin prairie of Story, northern Polk, and southern Hamilton Counties in 1860. He also follows the experiences of 46 central Iowa Norwegians who volunteered for the Civil War. This volume also includes important early histories of the central Iowa Norwegians by other authors.
Volume 2 of The Central Iowa Norwegians published in 2018 contains biographical profiles of the families who lived in central Iowa during the first five and one-half years of settlement, 646 Norwegians who moved to or were born in central Iowa before 1861. It also contains memoirs and biographies describing pioneer life in central Iowa plus Twedt’s essay describing the pioneers’ interactions with Indians from the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, Iowa, who hunted and trapped alongside the Upper South Skunk River into the early 20th century.
Volume 3 of The Central Iowa Norwegians begins with a description of how farming changed when modern agricultural machinery became available after the Civil War and how rural life changed when additional rail lines entered central Iowa in the early 1880s. Twedt also explores topics like religion and church life, educating the next generation, amusement and culture, seeking political influence, and becoming a mother settlement. This volume also includes important histories of the central Iowa Norwegians by other authors.
In 1905, an estimated 12,000 Norwegians were living in central Iowa, and it was time to celebrate. Cambridge and Story City held festive 50th anniversary celebrations. Today, descendants of Norwegians who immigrated to central Iowa before and after 1905 are still celebrating their central Iowa Norwegian heritage at church and community anniversary celebrations and at family reunions.
Arlen Twedt is a descendant of two families who helped found the settlement east of Story City in 1856. He grew up on a farm south of Roland, Iowa, and began learning about the history of the central Iowa Norwegians in 1977 when he started researching his family’s history.
The Central Iowa Norwegians is available on Amazon.com and can also be ordered through local bookstores.
Norwegian Immigrant Registry of Central Iowa (Frozen as of 2001)
The purpose of this registry is to help researchers locate Norwegians who lived in Central Iowa. Where possible this includes enough information to locate their Norwegian roots. There are currently 846 people in the Registry.
The Central Iowa Norwegian Project (Updated January, 2011)
Arlen Twedt is developing a book based on his extensive research of the Central Iowa Norwegian settlements in Story, Polk, Hamilton, and Hardin counties up through 1905 including a list of the Norwegian pioneers who were living there by 1860. An overview of the book, a database of the early settlers, and a selected bibliography are included here.
This is a very brief history of the Norwegian migration and settlements.
Do you have family histories, a personal web site, or GEDCOM files which include Norwegians in Central Iowa? Please consider submitting them to Mark Christian for publishing here.
Here are places where you can further your research. While literally hundreds of sites may be of value to you, listed here are a few selected sites which are of particular use to researchers of Norwegian Heritage in Central Iowa.
Please take a moment to stop by and sign our guestbook. Comments about the site are welcome.
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