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Introduction

This bibliography covers the historical section of the catalog of the Norwegian-American Collection. In order to shed light on its historical development, we have kept to the chronological order of the catalog for most of the subjects.

The bibliography follows the progress of our emigrating countrymen from when they left their homes in Norway until creating new lives in the "Promised Land," -- from the time when they set out across the sea in their fragile vessels until they landed at their destinations in North America and moved further inland, as far west as the Pacific Ocean and south in Texas. Works listed in the bibliography cover their everyday life as pioneers and provide information about the community spirit they formed within their church societies, bygdelag, and other institutions.

The bibliography begins with a chapter about Viking voyages to Vinland because many Norwegian-Americans consider these voyages to be a part of their own history. Leif Eriksson's discovery of America has given them a special sense of belonging to the new country and a sense of identity. These strong feelings are expressed in many books and pamphlets, a number of which are in the collection as well as several articles written by foreign and Norwegian researchers who attempt to shed light on different aspects of the Vinland settlement.

Immigrants from the same rural district in Norway often settled near each other in America. They often gave the new settlement the same name as the place of their origin. This strong feeling of belonging to a district led the immigrants to form mutual societies no matter where they resided in the country. These "local communities," known as bygdelag, produced publications which provide us with important and reliable source material about emigration from Norway and the history of the different settlements. We have found it practical to mention Norwegian-American bygdelag publications in the chapter about emigration from the different districts and also in the chapter about Norwegian-American life in local communities. We have not yet managed to go through the abundant amount of material related to local history. On the other hand, some articles from Norwegian newspapers and local publications on this topic have been included.

Histories of Norwegian-American congregations are registered with the histories of the individual settlements, with which they are strongly connected.

Only a small number of printed letters from America have been included. The largest collection of America letters in Norway is housed in the National Archives, Department of Publications. Many America letters also exist in the Library's Manuscript Collection, registered according to the name of each letter-writer.

The chapter Biography includes the books we have about Norwegian-Americans and available written material. As Thor M. Andersen's bibliography of Norwegian-American literature will soon be available in two volumes, it has not been necessary to try to find other biographical material. This bibliography will be the main work on everything written by or about Norwegian-Americans. [Today the TMA Bibliographical Database, one of the databases of the National Library.]

The chapter about Immigrant life as expressed in their literature may be supplemented by Dorothy Burton Skårdal's The Divided Heart: Scandinavian Immigrant Experience through Literary Sources (Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1974.) The other side of the picture, emigrant life as it is depicted in Norwegian literature, has not been included. This subject is dealt with in Jørund Mannsåker's doctoral thesis, Emigrasjon og dikting: Uvandringa til Nord-Amerika i norsk skjønnlitteratur. (Oslo, Samlaget, 1971).

Emigrant songs and ballads is a body of fascinating material that will bring forth both smiles and tears, and is included at the end of the bibliography.

Johanna Barstad [1975]

 

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