The Emigration of Dissenters from Troms in the 1860s

150 years ago, two big emigrant ships sailed directly from Tromsø in the north of Norway to America, a quite unusual event. At that time, and also later, it was thought that dissenters constituted an essential part of the emigrants, with considerable negative effects on their Free Apostolic congregations left behind at home.

This article describes the extent of this emigration and the development of the congregations. It also discusses possible factors behind the weakening of the Free Apostolic Church during the 1860s. The part played by emigrating dissenters is less than what was, to some degree, supposed earlier, but it was still considerable. From the two important Free congregations in Tromsø and Balsfjord, about a quarter of the members emigrated within a few years. Some of the minor congregations lost many members, too. Six out of nine leaders emigrated as well. Four of them were not replaced, and their congregations were formally dissolved.

Not only emigration weakened the free congregations. They also lost members because of regional migration, internal conflicts and/or switching to competing dissenter groups such as Quakers and Baptists.

Finally, the article discusses whether a religious factor might be a particular aspect of this emigration.