Reasons for Emigration
Library of Congress
Very much like in Sweden, the predominant reason for emigration was the hope for a better life. Crop failures, growing population number lead to poverty and starvation. On the other side of the ocean a fertile plot of land was waiting for the poor Norwegian farmer thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act promised 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original 13 colonies to anyone applying for it. The only condition the applicant had to comply with was that he had never taken up arms against the US government. Under this Homestead Act some 1.6 million homesteads were granted between 1862 and 1964 covering about 10% of all grounds in the USA. The first Norwegians settled in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, later they moved further westward to Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.