The emigration from Sweden
"They were the first of many to leave their village. They came from a land of small cottages and
large families. They were people of the soil, and they came of a stock which for thousands of
years had tilled the ground they were now leaving".
Vilhelm Moberg - The emigrants (Utvandrarna)
During the Swedish emigration to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries,
about 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden. Not only did they leave for the U.S. A large number
of Swedish citizens also left for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Germany,
England, Denmark and Norway among several countries. Some factors especially encouraged
The Emigrants by S. V. Helander (1839-1901)
A young farmer takes a sober farewell of friends and relatives.
Why did they leave?
The reasons why people left Sweden for homes elsewhere are called "push" factors. These
factors are varied and often work in conjunction with the "pull" factors (reasons to migrate to
particular area)of a certain part of the world.
One reason people left Sweden was due to a lack of available land. By the mid-1800s, the
population of Sweden was on the rise due to improvements in modern medicine and a more
stable food supply. This increase in population led to a strain on the amount of land available,
especially for farming, forcing many Swedes to leave their homeland and to search for land in
other countries. To make matters worse, work was scarce because of the invention of laborsaving
Religious persecution was another factor that pushed Swedes to leave their homeland. The
government of Sweden was connected to the State Lutheran Church, and, until 1858, people
who practiced another religion faced being fined, put in jail, or exiled from the country. Even
though these practices stopped in 1858, many Swedes continued to be intolerant of their fellow
countrymen and -women who practiced a religion other than that of the state. Because of this,
many Swedes left Sweden between 1840 and 1860.
Some people chose to leave Sweden because of the mandatory military service required by the
government. In 1860 young men were required to train in the Swedish military for 30 days out
of the year. The Swedish conscription laws became increasingly strict and demanding. Some
young men decided to leave the country rather than to face this conscription.
Other reasons include a lack of social mobility in Sweden due to its social system, as well as a
political system which was unfriendly to certain groups. Other people may have had their own
personal reasons for leaving Sweden.
Stockholm office: Post Sveriges Släktforskarförbund,
Anderstorpsvägen 16, SE-171 54 Solna, Sweden
Visits: Anderstorpsvägen 16, Solna (Subway: Huvudsta - line 10)
Phone +46 8 440 75 50 Fax + 46 8695 08 24
is published by Sveriges Släktforskarförbund.
The Federation of Swedish Genealogical Societies