Renee Ryan discusses: Norwegian Immigration

Pic - R.RyanI love stopping by Petticoats & Pistols in the role of guest blogger.  It’s always a fantastic experience for me.   Mainly because I like to think some of the amazing-ness of the lovely, talented Fillies will rub off on me.  (Hey, a gal can hope.)  I also enjoy focusing on one of my favorite topics/passion—all things Western, especially all things Old West.

I have no idea when my fascination with the Old West first started.  Unlike my husband’s side of the family, I have no direct connections to the area.  My family came from Scotland in the early 1700s (they were outcast Highlanders).  The Andersons settled in Virginia, migrated to Georgia and ultimately ended up in Jacksonville, Florida sometime in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story that goes back to that outcast thing.

On the other hand, my husband’s family—the Halversons—came to this country much later.  They traveled directly from Norway and settled on the fertile Midwest prairie.  This was really just an interesting factoid to me until I signed on to write my latest Love Inspired Historical, HEARTLAND WEDDING: Book 2 in the AFTER THE STORM historical continuity series.  Waving to Vicki Bylin, one of the Fillies who wrote Book 3 in the series, KANSAS COURTSHIP, which will be out next month.  Valerie Hansen wrote the Book 1, HIGH PLAINS BRIDE, which came out last month.  Both books are fabulous!!!

But I digress.  One of the great things about HEARTLAND WEDDING is that it features a Norwegian Immigrant heroine.  Rebecca Gundersen is a cook at the local boarding house in High Plains, Kansas.  I loved researching Rebecca’s background because it afforded me the opportunity to explore my husband’s heritage as well.   

In my research, I came across many of the reasons why people left Norway.  I’m going to give you what I think are the top six.

  1. The promise of fertile land.  This was true of many of the pioneers, but especially true of the majority of the emigrants from Norway.  These Scandinavians were mostly farmers.  Settling in the Great Plains made sense, especially the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  This area was often called “New Norway” since over eighty percent of Norwegian immigration settled there.
  2. Heavy promotion by emigration agents and newspapers.  These entities worked tirelessly to advertise the benefits of a new life in the United States.  The Norwegians liked what they heard and took a chance on the promise of a new life.
  3. Railroad and mining companies promoted the stellar employment opportunities.  Jobs in American cities also offered more work at higher wages than was available in Norway at the time.  Are we seeing a pattern here?  Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.
  4. Handbooks were published and distributed throughout Europe, and especially Norway, praising the climate and stellar living conditions in the United States.
  5. Political freedom and the opportunity to vote.  Although there wasn’t universal voting in the United States in the nineteenth century, the right to vote in Norway was only available to an elite minority of the population.  The majority of the Norwegians who came to the United States were not in the upper class.
  6. Word of mouth, or rather letters sent to friends and families back home.  The sender often urged the receiver to join them in America. 

R.Ryan - image02So, there you have it, the top reasons for Norwegian (and most other) immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century.  Aside from learning about the Norwegian’s motives, one my biggest pleasures throughout the research phase of this book was learning how to cook some of my husband’s favorite Norwegian dishes.  Most of Norway is above the Arctic Circle so of course these dishes are rather harder.  

Although I was bred on southern cooking, I took it upon myself to make a few of the easier Norwegian recipes in my own kitchen.  Unfortunately, I managed to fail more often than not.  I will never mastered Kumla, one of my husband’s favorites.  Essentially, Kumla is potato dumplings plopped into a boiling broth and cooked until the dumplings are cooked through the middle.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Here’s a typical recipe for Kumla:

Cover with water about 1/2 the depth of ham.
Boil from 2 – 3 hrs., or until tender and done.
Cook the ham in a large kettle with a lid.
When the ham is done, take out of the broth to be served later with the potato dumplings.

How you make the Dumplings:
Start preparing the dumplings about an hour before the ham is done.R.Ryan - image01
5 cups grated and peeled raw potatoes
About 6 cups unsifted flour
9 tsp. baking powder, should be level

Taste the broth to see if it is salty- if not salty add 1 tsp. or a little more salt.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the grated raw potatoes.
Stir together, should be like biscuit dough.

Take some of the dough the size of a small baseball, roll in flour to absorb some of the
stickiness, shape into round dumplings with your hands- drop into boiling ham broth.

Boil very gently for 1 hour, turning dumplings for more even cooking.
Do not put too many in kettle, allow some room to raise.  Use the cover when boiling dumplings.  Serve with lots of butter!


ENJOY!  If you dare.  Remember, most Norwegian recipes are very, uh…hardy.  This one more than others.

Cvr - R.Ryan 

Thanks again, to all the Fillies for having me here.  I’m giving away three copies of HEARTLAND WEDDING.  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing.


Renee Ryan is a multi-published author with Steeple Hill.  She writes for both Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical.  Find out more about her upcoming releases at


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44 thoughts on “Renee Ryan discusses: Norwegian Immigration”

  1. hi and welcome Renee; I am Swedish and Norwegian on my Mom’s side. I have a horse in red like your blue one. Mom went to Sweden with 2 sisters of hers many years ago to see where her Dad was born and lived. He came to Canada when he was a teenager from Sweden.
    The dumplings are different from ours but Dad was German so that might be the reason. We don’t cook ours that long.
    Your cover is very nice and I’d love to read the book.


  2. Hi, Renee! Your post was fun and interesting. I am particulary intrigued by the “handbooks” promoting life in America. So…hearty Norwegian fare is also hard to prepare : ) My family is Scottish, Irish and German, mainly settling in VA and TN. Have you ever cooked a salt-cured country ham? My Gran was the best cook ever, and this was her method to prepare such a ham: Soak ham overnight in cool water. Next day, scrub ham with stiff brush to remove any mold from surface. Boil ham in covered pan until rind is loose. Cool until able to handle, and then remove most of ham rind with a large, sharp knife. Leave a thin layer of fat rind to cover ham. Stud ham with whole cloves and pack surface with brown sugar. Bake ham in covered pan at 350 degrees until brown sugar has glazed on ham. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  3. Researching family history is exciting to me. My family started gathering information some years ago and it has been very interesting. We managed to get a copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate and instead of a state it just says born in Indian territory, she was Cherokee. As regards the cooking, I’ve often said I would never have made it in the old days because I like my appliances and already prepared food items, you know, like noodles in a box. I tried making homemade noodles once and it wasn’t pretty. I can’t wait to read your book, I grew up in Kansas.

  4. Hi Renee! I’ve been looking forward to reading your book since I first heard of it – can’t wait. And how cool that you got to learn more of your husband’s heritage as part of your research. As for myself, I was born and raised near New Orleans and trace my father’s heritage back to the Acadians who came down from Nova Scotia and my mother’s ancestors came over from Spain

  5. Hi Renee! It’s great to have you at Petticoats & Pistols! I had no idea that immigration to America was so heavily promoted in Norway. What a journey that must have been! I have ancestors from Sweden. My grandfather’s parents came over in the 1890s.

    Loved your book! There’s nothing like a marriage of convenience with two wounded souls. No spoilers, of course. But I really enjoyed the way you brought them together.

  6. Hi, Renee. I really want to read your book because it sounds good and I like reading about immigrants, especially since my grandfather immigrated from Denmark. I also have a great-great grandmother who immigrated from Sweden.
    We do a lot of the Danish traditions still in my family, especially during the Christmas holiday.
    Thank you for sharing your post today!

  7. i like visiting Petticoats and Pistols. You always have something new for me to learn. And those potato dumplings sound yummy. Thanks Renee!

  8. Good morning and welcome, Renee! My great-grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated from Norway to North Dakota. They were wheat farmers, just like so many who came.

    And take heart: those dumplings aren’t easy to master!

  9. Great post! I have never heard of patatoe dumplings before. I make chicken and dumplings and I don’t use any baking powder in those. This recipe sound like it uses a lot of baking powder, as much as they would rise it would be really hard to get them done in the middle. They do sound good though.

  10. Renee,

    Welcome to P&P. I love to read about other customs. I found it very interesting to learn of different cultures.

    Because of this wonderful post I learned about the immigration from another country.

    Thank Renee for giving me the chance to learn something new

    I have put your book on my must read list I hope to win a copy today

    Have a wonderful day and walk in harmony always


  11. The handbooks are interesting… that was a fact I did not know about… thanks for sharing the recipe with us! 😀

  12. HI Renee!

    I learn such fascinating things at this blog! Great recipe! My husband’s grandparents came from Hungary for the reasons you mentioned, they didn’t head west though, they stayed in Eastern Canada. My family is Scottish/Irish, settled in Georgia, then when the war broke out in 1776, they stayed loyal to the crown, and after the war, became a ‘loyalist’ in Eastern Canada. There is a story there somewhere…love ancestry.
    Your book sounds wonderful!

  13. thanks for guest blogging!
    very interesting! i think people who came to america so long ago were very brave
    speaking of brave–hats off to you for attempting that recipe–sounds like a set up for failure with my kitchen skills 🙂

    thanks for doing the 3way giveaway!

  14. Hi Renee,

    Welcome back to P&P! It’s always a treat when you come to pay us a visit. And what an interesting blog subject! I didn’t know that about the Norwegians. And I didn’t know that the U.S. actively advertised for immigrants in Norway. That’s fascinating.

    Congratulations on your new release! It looks like an awesome story. How neat that it’s part of a series written by three different authors. I love series books.

  15. Okay, I’m here at last. It’s been a crazy morning in my home…swim meets, work schedules, hubby’s work…WOW.

    Anyway, so glad to be here.

    RobynL, Sounds like your family is a lot like mine…a real mix. Aren’t dumplings the best? My family’s dumplings are far different from kumla. And might I say, PHEW!!!

    Oh, Virginia, my family is Scot-Irish on my father’s sise. Bet we have a lot in common! Never tried to cook a ham that way. I’m printing out your directions. My daughter will love me forever!


  16. Oh, by the way, not only am I giving away three copies of HEARTLAND WEDDING, but I’m going to give a copy of all three books in the AFTER THE STORM contiuity series to one grand-prize winner. 😉

    Linda H., WOW, I love the tidbit about your grandmother. A Cherokee, huh? That makes you a true American. And I’m with you, appliances are a MUST!

    Waving to Winnie!!! Did I ever tell you my momma is from Houma, LA? She has an interesting family history. Her great, great, (don’t know how many greats) grandfather was supposed to be a priest in the Catholic but got caught up in a scandal in court life in France and had to stowaway to New Orleans when it was still a newish colony or face prison. Yep, a proud family tradition there!!

  17. Hi Stephanie,

    Oh, yeah. Anything with butter as a main ingredient MUST be great. God Bless Julia Child. 😉

    Vicki!!! I love marriage of convenience stories but this one was especially challenging. The hero was very resistant to falling in love. But, oh, wasn’t it fun to watch him fall??? My copies of KANSAS COURTSHIP came two days ago. What a fabulous read. You did such a lovely job bringing two very resistent characters together. I loved Zeb and Nora’s story.


  18. anon…Oh, yes, I completely agree with you. The people who started this country and had the guts to move across wilderness to find a better life were incredibly brave. I can’t imagine, especially since I’m sitting in Nebraska as I type this, buried under two feet of snow — in my heated house. Those people who chose to travel by wagon train were truly facing life and death. Boggles the mind.

    Deb, I love hearing your family came from Scandanavia as well. Seems a lot of the Midwest/West was settled by those hearty people.

    Hi marylou, kumla can be yummy, but it can also turn out to be a big flop. All the men in the family seem to love, love, love it. The women? Not so much…a lot of work for a big, dense ball of potatoes and flour. LOL

  19. Tracy, wow, another Norsky (as my hubby would say). Thanks for the encouragement. Making dumplings are not for the weak. 😉

    Quilt Lady, so glad you;re hear today. And, oh yeah…you hit the challenge of making kumla right on the head. The dense balls take forever to cook all the way through.

    Hi Melinda, so glad you enjoyed my post. I think that’s what I love about writing historical fiction — all the research involved. I always walk away from a story with a new fascination for the people and cultures that went before us!


  20. Hi Colleen, I agree about the handbooks. Until my research I never realized how much “recruiting” was done to populate this country.

    Karyn, your family history sounds fascinating. I’ve always wondered about the Americans who remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution. I think our history books make it seem like it was a very cut and dried issue, but after teaching American History I learned how murky the waters were. This country was started on an experiment. Kind of frightening when you think about it, how so much hinged on a few men trying to redefine government!


  21. Hi Karen B, no kidding about all the stuff we didn’t learn in school. I’m a former high school teacher. During my days in front of the classroom I often felt confined by the textbooks. I always brought in other resources…even then…there was only so much time. You know?

    Tabitha, welcome. And, er, yes, it was a set-up-to-fail sort of venture. I’m convinced my Scot-Irish/French blood doesn’t have what it takes. But ask me to make a seafood gumbo and…woohooo, I’m all over it!


  22. Hi Linda! Thanks for having me back!!! I loved working with the other authors on this series. Valerie Hansen (who wrote Book 1) is such a pro. She was invaluable in the whole process. And, of course, P&Ps very own Vicki Bylin (she wrote Book 3) was a blast to work with as well. I feel like I have two new lifelong friends. I really treasure the experience.

    Dina, thank you for your sweet works about the cover. That scene comes directly from the book. Pete (the hero) has to propose a few times because he doesn’t quite get it right at first. 😉


  23. Hi abi, I’m with you. I’ve enjoyed all the Love Inspired Historical books. I’m really proud to be a part of the line. Steeple Hill is a fantastic publisher!


  24. Enjoyed reading the comments. Really appreciate the recipe for the dumplings.
    The book has been added to my TBR list. Sounds really interesting.

  25. Okay, I’m off to my daughters last basketball home game… ever! She’s a Varsity Cheerleader and a senior in high school. This is it!!! Sniff, sniff. They’re introducing all the senior cheerleaders and parents.

    So, everyone have a great night. I’ll check back in the morning!


  26. I would love to read your books and will be trying to get my hands on them.
    My grandparents came to Nebraska from Denmark. and their stories have always fasinated me whether about the “New world” they came to or the Old Country.

  27. Am late tonight. We went to the symphony concert. We have such a good small orchestra here and my coworker is one of the violinist.
    Anyway, nice post. One of the best things about this country is the wide variety of backgrounds our people have. It adds so much to all our lives. I like the recipe and will be trying it. We do dumplings, but not potato ones. These take a little longer to cook, but sound good.
    Good luck with the release of HEARTLAND WEDDING. This sound like a wonderful trilogy. I’ll be getting it and sharing it with my daughter.

  28. Hi Renee, my dear friend! I am so sorry to have had no time today (until now, 1 a.m. Sunday) to chat with you. We’ve had our three-year old grandson all day, which is fantastic…but makes computerizing impossible LOL.

    I totally loved this blog and the recipe sounds delish, the book TBR and keep forever. Congratulations on your career with Love Inspired. You do inspire ME.

    I used a lot of my mother’s German heritage in my first book. My dad was of Russian descent and after visiting Ellis Island (his folks came through ther) I promised myself to get to know that side of my heritage better. One of these days LOL. Now that we have a grandchild, these things do gain importance.

    Welcome to the Junction! oxoxoxoxoxo

  29. Hi Vickie,

    Welcome! I hope you have great luck with the recipe!

    Connie, I bet your family’s stories are fascinating!

    Hi Patricia, How was the symphony? Knowing someone in the orchestra must have made all that more special. My sister used to play in the junior symphony when we were kids. At the time I didn’t realize that was as a big a deal as it was. 😉 And I love that you’re going to share your book with your daughter. That’s one of the great benefits of the Steeple Hill books.

    Hi Tanya, waving frantically!!! And no worries, time with family is important and time with a fiesty grandson is even better. Thanks for your kind words. It’s been a long road for us both, huh???


  30. Rene,

    I learned of some of the things you mentioned when researching North Dakota for a series I wrote. We visited the Medora area and ate at a cafe that served knoephle (spelling?). I believe it’s a Russian dish similar to chicken soup with potatoes and tiny dumplings in it. Very good!

  31. Hi Vickie,

    That soup sounds amazing. Speaking of North Dakota, I just read an article that said the three states with the best economic situation right now (i.e. the least hit by the downturn) are Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Who would have thought?


  32. Hi, Renee — Love your info on the Norwegians who came over. My grandfather was one of them — he homesteaded in eastern Montana (lots of Norwegian did — it was close to the Dakotas so guess it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to get there).

  33. I love LIH novels, and stories about immigrants, so I am very excited about this book Renee! Also it speaks to me, being that my great-grandparents came over from Russia to the US. One of their children was even born on the boat trip over! That daughter had to become a US citizen when she was of age, due to the fact that she was born before they got into US waters.

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