Scandinavian Males and Marriage: Few and Far Between

In comparison to the other immigrant groups studied, Scandinavian males were more likely to immigrate to the United States on their own accord and live among fellow Scandinavian males who worked similar jobs. The 1920 US Census for Alexandria, Virginia features a pattern of mostly single Scandinavian males, with few exceptions to the rule.1

Marital Status of Scandinavian-American Males in Alexandria, Virginia, 1920


Swedish Danish Norwegian Finnish Total
Single 7 6 4 31 47
Married 5 4 3 11


Of the 70 Scandinavian males listed in the 1920 US Census, nearly 33% of them were married; over 67% were single. Nearly all single Scandinavian males were between the ages of 18 and 40, while married Scandinavian males were generally older than 40. However, these statistics also include several Americans born to Scandinavian parents. Such is the case with Stanford and Gerald Anderson, age 20 and 19 respectively, who were born in the Michigan to a Danish father and a Norwegian mother.2  There are other notable exceptions to the data presented. For example, Peter J. Fineen, a Swedish-born soldier who was stationed at Fort Hunt and became a naturalized citizen in 1919 (eight years after immigrating to the United States), was 27 and married at the time the census was conducted.3 Nonetheless, even among married Scandinavian-American males, there were few family units in comparison to the number of single Scandinavian men.

Such data suggests the migratory nature of Scandinavian Americans–both foreign-born and native-born–in early twentieth century America. Nearly all single men were listed as working for the Alexandria Shipyard; shipbuilding was one of the largest industries in Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Comparatively better working conditions, wages, and economic opportunities, especially in shipbuilding, could all have factored into Scandinavian migration to the United States.4 Groups of Scandinavian men would also live together within the same boarding houses. For example, married Finnish immigrants, Victor and Saima Lehto, shared their home at 409 Prince Street with fifteen single Finnish men, ages ranging from 19 to 43; all sixteen men, Victor Lehto included, worked at the shipyard.5 This suggests the sense of community that immigrants created for themselves by living with others of the same ethnic and working background.

Krystyn R. Moon, “1920 Census Data for Alexandria, VA,” Unpublished Spreadsheets (2014).



David C. Mauk, The Colony that Rose from the Sea: Norwegian Maritime Migration and Community in Brooklyn, 1850-1910 (Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 9-12.

“1920 Census Data for Alexandria, VA.”

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