Central Iowa Norwegians: Book Series Review

Family researchers, genealogists and Find A Grave volunteers often bump into each other— in person, at historical society meetings, via webinars or social media, or through connections made during their research work. Through my encounters, I had the pleasure of virtually bumping into researcher and author Arlen Twedt.

Arlen is a lecturer and author of a series of books about the Central Iowa Norwegians, a subject close to my heart as I have many relatives, neighbors and friends who were or remain part of the Norwegian communities near me.

Arlen is a retired educator and descendant of two of the original Howard Township, Iowa, pioneer families. His work on the book series got it origins from the Central Iowa Norwegian Project, established in 1989. At the time, Arlen hoped someone would write a general history about the central Iowa Norwegians to help family researchers better understand the historical context in which their ancestors lived, especially when little or no direct information about their own ancestors had been preserved. It was after preparing a historical talk in 1993 that Arlen realized maybe he could be that “someone.” Thus, his commitment to researching and writing the books began

Arlen and I crossed paths while I was compiling cemetery records for the Roland Cemetery (located in Story county, Iowa) as a Find A Grave volunteer. My research involved recording, photographing, researching, and then linking by family relationships more than 5,000 memorials in that cemetery. Then I collected and transcribed 1,000s of obituaries that were added to the online memorials. Arlen was extremely helpful in contributing content to those memorials.

If you are interested in American history or have a Norwegian relative that immigrated to United States, you’ll find these well-written, thoroughly researched, and immensely interesting books excellent additions to your must-have reading list.

The Central Iowa Norwegians: Volume I; click on cover to learn more

Norwegian immigrants founded a settlement southwest of Cambridge, Iowa, in June 1855, and a second colony east of Story City, Iowa, in June 1856 (located in Howard township, later Roland, Iowa). Twenty-five years later 6,500 Norwegians were living in central Iowa. This book traces their migration from hillside farms along fjords in southwest Norway to the prairie of northern Illinois and westward to Iowa. Discover why Lisbon, Illinois, 60 miles southwest of Chicago, was an attractive initial destination. Read early histories of the two central Iowa settlements. Learn about what life was like in 1860 for the 97 families living in log cabins and dugouts in Story, northern Polk, and southern Hamilton counties. Follow the experiences of 46 of these new Americans who volunteered for the Civil War.

The Central Iowa Norwegians: Volume II; click on cover to learn more

This book features biographical profiles of the Norwegian families who lived in central Iowa during 1855–1860. Trace the 396 immigrants from their farms in southwestern Norway to central Iowa. Discover the prices they paid for land and timber lots and agricultural products they reported on the 1860 Census. Experience what life was like in frontier Iowa through memoirs written by central Iowa Norwegians, and learn about their contact with the Meskwaki Indians who hunted and trapped alongside the Skunk River.

The Central Iowa Norwegians: Volume III; click on cover to learn more

This edition describes 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. The history also explores religion and church life, educating the next generation, amusement and culture, seeking political influence, and becoming a Midwestern mother settlement.

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