Norwegian Heritage in Story
County and Central Iowa

Kong Sverre

Kong Sverre (1841-1898)
Upon this ship in 1847 arrived some who seeded the settlements in Central Iowa.

[Norwegian Immigrant Registry of Central Iowa] [Central Iowa Norwegian Project] [History] [Mailing List] [Genealogies] [Artifacts] [Lookups] [Site Map] [Online Resources] [Queries]

There are now 788 Farms in 20 Bygdebøker Available for Lookups!


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.

The Central Iowa Norwegians Volume 2 Released!

Local historian, Arlen Twedt, publishes Volume 2 of The Central Iowa Norwegians (May 2018)

Norwegian immigrants founded a settlement southwest of Cambridge in June 1855 and a second colony east of Story City in June 1856. Twenty-five years later, 6,500 Norwegians were living in central Iowa, and it 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.” The most prominent Norwegian-American writer, Ole E. Rølvaag, also took note of the central Iowa Norwegians. In “The Vikings of the Middle West,” he used the settlement southwest of Cambridge as an example of the romantic spirit of the immigrants who “threw themselves blindly into the Impossible and accomplished the Unbelievable.”

Five and one-half years after Norwegian immigrants began settling in central Iowa, at least 644 Norwegians had moved to or been born in central Iowa. In Volume 2 of The Central Iowa Norwegians, Twedt identifies each of them in biographical profiles of the families who lived in central Iowa during 1855–1860. The family profiles contain information about when and where 396 of them emigrated from in Norway, where they settled in the United States, when they moved to central Iowa, when they died, and where they are buried. Volume 2 also contains memoirs and biographies describing pioneer life in central Iowa in the 1850–60s plus an essay containing descriptions of pioneers’ interactions with the Meskwaki Indians who hunted and trapped alongside the Upper South Skunk River into the early 19th century.

Volume 1 of The Central Iowa Norwegians was published in 2017. In it, Twedt’s history of the settlement period 1855–1880 traces emigrants’ migration from hillside farms along fjords in southwest Norway to the prairie of northern Illinois and westward to Iowa. He 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. He also follows the experiences of 46 central Iowa Norwegians who volunteered for the Civil War.

The signature piece in Volume 3 is “The Town Building Period: 1880–1905” followed by translations of Norwegian newspaper articles about the central Iowa Norwegian settlements, reports of the 50th anniversary celebrations in Cambridge and Story City in 1905, and an extensive bibliography for learning more about the central Iowa Norwegians. This volume of The Central Iowa Norwegians will be published in 2020.

Arlen Twedt is a descendant of two families who helped found the settlement east of Story City. 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 began researching his family’s history. In 1995, Twedt started the Central Iowa Norwegian Project to collect information for writing a history of the first 50 years of settlement.

Volumes 1 & 2 of The Central Iowa Norwegians are available on, and they can also be ordered through local bookstores.

Site Contents

Norwegian Immigrant Registry of Central Iowa
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. Do you know of other immigrants? Please help out by submitting them using the Add Norwegian to Registry form.

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.

Norway-Central-IA Mailing List
See this page for information about the Norwegian Heritage in Central Iowa mailing list. If you are researching Norwegians in Central Iowa, this is the list for you!

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 items for which volunteers will do lookups for you. Consider becoming a volunteer yourself. Not only are the lookup sources listed, there is also an index of all the farm names in the farm books.

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.

Take advantage of this message board which was created to give you a place to post queries. They should pertain to Central Iowa.

Please take a moment to stop by and sign our guestbook. Comments about the site are welcome.

[Norwegian Immigrant Registry of Central Iowa] [Central Iowa Norwegian Project] [History] [Mailing List] [Genealogies] [Artifacts] [Lookups] [Resources] [Site Map] [Queries] [Guestbook]

Please E-Mail Mark Christian with your questions, comments, or suggestions.

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