A Scandinavian Heritage: 200 Years of Scandinavian Presence in the Windsor-Detroit Border Region


128 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919670-88-1






Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Joan Magee, a librarian at the University of Windsor and a former professor of Scandinavian studies there (1971-1981), is the author of Loyalist Mosaic and A Dutch Heritage: 200 Years of Dutch Presence in the Windsor-Detroit Border Region. The book under review, her third, reflects her continuing interest in the ethnic groups that have helped form Essex County.

Interestingly, the first Scandinavians who arrived in the area were Loyalist in origin (hence the reference to 200 years in the book’s title). In Magee’s view, however, serious Scandinavian immigration to the area effectively commenced only in 1854, with the arrival of the Great Western Railway in Windsor (p. 15). Thereafter, immigration continued, with the greatest influx occurring between 1922 and 1957. The Scandinavians included (in order of arrival) the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Danes, the Finns, and the Icelanders. Generally, these immigrants were attracted to the area for the usual reasons: impoverishment at home, and opportunity, at first in the agricultural and later in the industrial sector, in the area.

The book includes an incomplete survey of Scandinavians in Essex County in 1984, ten appendices (largely statistical), and a Foreword by “Mr. Essex County” himself, the Hon. Paul Martin. The most interesting part of Martin’s piece is that Canada’s former Secretary of State for External Affairs seems not to know that Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s first name is spelled without an “e.”

It is only fair to point out that this book has been sponsored by the Norden Society of Windsor and that, as a result, the genealogies and histories of many of that Society’s members appear in the text, guaranteeing not only vivid illustrations of more general historical trends but also, no doubt, a few sales. I say a few because Scandinavians in Essex County, as elsewhere in the country, form only a modest proportion of the area’s total population.

Surprisingly, though, the book will be of wider than local interest because Magee has attempted to put Scandinavian immigration in its European and North American context and in the process has enriched her text with original documentation and many photographs.


Magee, Joan, “A Scandinavian Heritage: 200 Years of Scandinavian Presence in the Windsor-Detroit Border Region,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36423.