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Danish Immigration to America: Danes in America

Danish Americans were unlike Americans of other Scandinavian descent, in that while others congregated with their own countrymen, Danes spread nationwide and comparatively quickly disappeared into the melting pot. The disproportionate surplus of male immigrants caused many Danish men to marry non-Danish women, and of all the Scandinavian immigrants the Danes were the least cohesive group and the first to lose consciousness of their origins. The mother tongue, too, experienced significant changes on the new continent.

Danish activity in America before the nineteenth-century includes Danes in the Revolutionary War, and travelers to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. The period between 1800 and 1840 includes seamen, artisans and adventurers, but immigration in large numbers began in 1840, when the Mormon Danes arrived. While Norwegian emigration began in 1825 as a flight from religious persecution and was followed by a mass migration of rural folk, Denmark's laws were comparatively benign toward dissident sects and once the movement began in the mid-nineteenth-century it included both rural and urban emigrants. Indeed, religion was a relatively minor factor compared to the increase in the birth rate and the economic difficulties of a small country faced with a rapidly increasing population. Only Danish Mormons can be said to have emigrated for religious reasons, and theirs was not a flight from persecution so much as a gathering-in to "Zion" of co- religionists. Other Danish religious life in America was characterized by the pervasive influence of the Gruntvigian/Inner Mission schism, a phenomenon unique to the Danes, and by familiar religious symbols brought from Denmark. After 1850, non-Mormon
emigrates were leaving Denmark primarily for economic reasons.

    1) Bille, John H.
    A history of the Danes in America / [by] John H. Bille. - [San
    Francisco : R and E Research Associates, 1971] - 48 p.
    E184.S19B4 1971

    Reprint of the 1896 ed., which was issued as v. 11 of the
    Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and
    Bibliography: p. 39-41.

    A thirty-nine page essay describing the Danish experience in America up to the time of publication (1896), when Danish
    immigration was already fifty years old.

    The author elucidates the differences in the circumstances of life in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.

    A six-page appendix lists 1890 Federal census statistics on numbers of Danes, Swedes and Norwegians in each county of
    Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan's upper peninsula, and the Dakotas. A fold-out map shows the locations of Scandinavian communities in these states, does not name the communities, but indicates the number of inhabitants and whether they are Danish, Norwegian or Swedish.

    A bibliography and bibliographic footnotes indicate further sources.

    2) Bridge (Salem, Or.)
    The bridge : journal of the Danish American Heritage Society.
    - No. 1 ([May] 1978)- -[Junction City, Or., etc.] : The
    Society, [1978?- - v : ill.
    Title from cover.

    As of this writing, the Library of Congress has five volumes of this periodical, covering the years 1978-1993; this number
    will increase as time passes. The most efficient way to see the contents is to request all volumes and browse through them page by page. The Bridge contains articles, advertisements, names and addresses of interest to those researching Danish-American history and genealogy. It is a rich source of information, but provides no general index.

    3) Danes in North America / edited by Frederick Hale.
    Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1984. - xx, 231 p., [16] p.of plates : ill.
    E184.S19D19 1984

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    Letters to Denmark from immigrants in America, translated by the author. They are presented in chapters intended to show the various factors that caused Danes to emigrate and the variety of conditions they found in North America. The
    author's introduction shows his familiarity with the circumstances of emigration from other Scandinavian countries
    as well, and he points out the factors that most characterized the Danish movement.

    Chapters tell of the Atlantic crossing, farms, urban settings, politics, religion, women, and the Danish identity in America.

    The index lists personal names and place names in both Denmark and America.

    4) Danske i Amerika. - Minneapolis og Chicago : C. Rasmussen
    publishing company, 1908- - 1 v : ill. (incl. ports.)

    A comprehensive history of exploration and settlement in North America by Danes, beginning in the year 1000. The first three chapters describe especially Leif Erickson's voyage, and Jens Eriksen Munk's "New Denmark." Names of other individuals appear beginning with Dutch settlement in North America, which included many Danes. Church and missionary activity began in 1742 and is documented in detail with dates, personal and
    place names, and photographs.

    Hundreds of individuals living in America between 1800 and 1840 are mentioned, from Philadelphia to California. After
    1850 settlements described include Neenah and Hartland, Wisconsin, Chicago, Gasconade County, Missouri, South
    Carolina, Georgia, and Michigan.

    Immigration to urban areas, and to the West Indies occupy separate chapters.

    Danish churches and Danes in the arts, Danish ethnic organizations, businesses, and schools are described with many
    names of individuals and photographs.

    A complete list of illustrations of people and places is given, but the book contains no other index of names except
    those mentioned in the eight-page table of contents.

    5) [Henius, Max], 1859- comp.
    Den danskfodte Amerikaner. - Chicago, 1912. - 232 p.

    On the occasion of the first gathering of a representative group of Danish Americans, Henius compiled articles by sixteen authors on the history of movements and institutions founded by Danes in the United States. Subjects are the geographical spread of immigrants, Danish churches, schools and newspapers, Danes in cities and in rural areas, and a study and list of Danish-American organizations. Personal names mentioned are those of founders, directors and other prominent figures.

    A 12-page bibliography lists Danish language books published in America.

    6) Kvist, Anton, 1878- ed.
    Den gamle pioner fort‘ller. - Kþbenhavn : Berlingske forlag,
    1935. - 179 p : incl. ill., plates, ports.

    The immigrant experiences of Danish-born Americans as told to the author. States represented are Michigan, Illinois,
    Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Utah. Narrators are Jens Darius Theobald Bogh, Martin N.
    Esbaek (a Danish translation of part of his English-language diary), Henriette Lunddahl, Jens Frederik Svinth, Jens A.
    Anerrsen and Peter Ebbesen. Other people are named in the narratives, and each section is illustrated with photographs.

    7) Nielsen, George R.
    The Danish Americans / by George R. Nielsen. - Boston : Twayne
    Publishers, 1981. - 237 p. -
    (The Immigrant heritage of America series)
    Bibliography: p. 230-232.
    Includes index.

    Discusses causes and characteristics of Danish immigration. Part I describes the circumstances in Europe that gave rise to the migration movement. Part II describes the religious aspects, in which Danes differed from other Scandinavian
    immigrants by joining American churches and leaving the Danish churches in America as a relatively minor influence. Part III addresses the geographical distribution of immigrants, in which the Danes again differ from others by spreading thin over a wide area and thus hastening their assimilation. Part IV addresses Danish American innovations.

    A bibliography and detailed notes listing sources for each chapter are included.

    8) Pope, Wiley R.
    Danes, Denmark, and Danish Americans : a checklist of
    materials available at the Minnesota Historical Society
    Reference Library / compiled by Wiley R. Pope. - St. Paul,
    MN : Minnesota Family Trees, 1985. - 36 p.
    Z1361.D3P66 1985

    Includes index.

    Bibliography of books on Danish emigration and immigration, some family histories, specialized dictionaries, handbooks,
    and many histories of Danish settlements in North America.

    9) Simonsen, Henrik Bredmose.
    Kampen om danskheden : tro og nationalitet i de danske
    kirkesamfund i Amerika / Henrik Bredmose Simonsen. - rhus :
    Aarhus universitetsforlag, 1990. - 256 p. -

    (Studier i Indre missions og de religiþst-folkelige bev‘gelsers historie ; 1)
    E184.S19S56 1990

    Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-250) and indexes.

    The story of Danish churches in North America and the attempts to establish Danish communities in the new lands in order to preserve Danish culture and language. The author points out differences between the flourishing Norwegian and Swedish American churches and the struggle of Danish churches to maintain unity and a sense of "Danishness" among immigrants who, more than their Scandinavian neighbors, tended to spread out geographically and assimilate rapidly. This is a unique view of immigration from the points of view of the churches.

    The bibliography provides copious, up-to-date sources, and there is an index of personal names.

    10) Salomons almanak ... : De Forenede Staters danske almanak,
    haand- og aarbog ... - Seattle : Wash., Danish publishing
    house of the Pacific coast, 1913- - v : ill., plates, ports.

    Begins in 1914 and continues through 1917. The researcher may want to request all four volumes at the same time.

    This almanac presents information of interest to Danes in America, including lists of parliamentarians elected in
    Denmark, and articles on the effects of World War I on Denmark.

    More interesting to the researcher on immigration or genealogy are the exhaustive lists of ethnic societies in the U.S.,
    Danish newspapers and presses, religious groups, schools, retirement homes and businesses, most listed by state and
    city. All give names of presidents or owners, often with a street address. Pastors are listed, and articles describe the
    immigrant experience, list ships sailing between America and Denmark, and the almanac for 1915 tells the story of Icelandic immigration to America.

    Copious personal advertisements give names and addresses of advertisers, and statistics of the U.S. government provide an excellent idea of the geographical and demographic distribution of Danes in America. In addition, the articles
    and advertisements show changes in immigrant use of the Danish language.

    None of these volumes contain indexes, so that the researcher must browse page by page.

    11) Vig, Peter Sorensen, 1854-
    Danske i kamp i og for Amerika, fra ca 1640 til 1865. - Omaha,
    Neb. : Axel H. Andersen, inc., 1917. - 5 p.l., [13]-393 p., 2
    l : ill. (incl. ports., facsim.) pl.

    A detailed history of Danes who fought in and for America from 1640 through 1865, most of whom fought in the American
    military, although some fought for the British or French. The Civil War section (pp. 180-381) is particularly detailed,
    often giving names, regiments, dates and places of birth, and other facts of use to genealogists.

    The earlier sections also provide many names of individuals. Certain information, perhaps unknown to many researchers in American history, is also included. For example, during the American Revolution many Danes were listed by Americans as Hessians.

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