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Finland Emigration and Immigration
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or coming into (immigrating) a country. For Finland, emigration information is usually found in passport records and passenger lists. The information in these records generally includes the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, and destinations and their places of origin.
In addition to determining where an emigrant came from, emigration and immigration records can help you construct family groups. If you do not find your ancestor, you may find emigration information about your ancestor’s neighbors. People who lived near each other in Finland often settled together in their new country.
Records were created when individuals emigrated from or immigrated to Finland. Other records document an ancestor’s arrival in the destination country. This section discusses:
- Finding the emigrant’s town of origin.
- Emigration from Finland.
- Immigration to Finland.
- Finnish passport lists.
- Passenger lists (departures).
- The Institute of Migration.
- Records of Finnish emigrants in their destination countries.
Finding the Emigrant’s Town of Origin
Once you have traced your family back to an emigrant ancestor, you must determine the city or town where he or she was from. Finland has no nationwide index prior to 1970. Birth, marriage, and death records were kept locally and chronologically.
Several sources may give your ancestor’s place of origin. You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to older family members. Members of your family or a library may have documents that name the city or town such as:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- Family Bibles.
- Church certificates or records.
- Naturalization applications and petitions.
- Passenger lists.
- Family heirlooms.
Emigration from Finland
Through the years, many Finns have immigrated to many places—mostly Sweden, Norway, North America, Russia, and Australia.
As early as 1638 Finns and Swedes colonized New Sweden, which was located around the Delaware River. Many of these Finns had been living in central Sweden, and their ancestors had left Finland during the 1500's.
From the 1860's onward, an estimated 316,000 Finns, primarily from Ostrobothnia, immigrated to the United States. Most settled in Michigan, especially in the upper peninsula. Many Finns also settled in Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California.
From 1860 to 1996 about 92,000 Finns immigrated to Canada, especially Toronto. Finnish immigration to Canada peaked in the 1920s.
About 10,000 Finns have immigrated to Australia since World War II.
Sweden and Norway
Throughout the years, many Finns, including colonists, refugees, and laborers, have immigrated to Sweden. Many Swedes, especially during the Swedish Era, have emigrated to Finland as well. Some localities in northern and central Sweden have had a Finnish population for several centuries. Since World War II, about half a million Finns have moved to Sweden. An authoritative history of the Finns in Sweden is:
Tarkiainen, Kari. Finnarnas Historia i Sverige (The History of the Finns in Sweden). 2 vols. Helsinki: SHS, 1990. (FHL book 948.97 W2t).
Many Finns have also moved to northern and east-central Norway. From Norway, many of them have immigrated to the United States.
Russia, especially its former capital, St. Petersburg, was a destination for Finnish laborers, officials, and military personnel serving both the Russian Empire and the Grand Duchy of Finland. At the turn of the century, 36,000 Finns lived in Russia, and 83 percent of them were in the St. Petersburg region.
Finns living in St. Petersburg were a mobile group, and many of them later returned to Finland. A history of St. Petersburg and the Finns that lived there is:
Engman, Max. St. Petersburg och Finland, Migration och influens 1702–1917 (St. Petersburg and Finland, Migration and Influence 1702–1917). Helsingfors: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1983. (FHL book 948.97 W2en).
From the 1820's on, long before the general wave of Finnish immigration to the United States, hundreds of Finns came to Alaska as representatives of the Russian Empire, making up about one-third of the Russian population there. Among them were the families of government officials, Lutheran clergymen, and many seamen. After 1867 many of these Finns became early settlers in California.
Immigration into Finland
After World War I, about 30,000 Russian subjects immigrated to Finland, many of whom were Karelian or Finnish.
In World War II, Finland lost its eastern regions to the Soviet Union. Nearly half a million people were evacuated from the areas.
The following five-volume set lists most of the evacuated Karelians who resettled in post-war Finland:
Siirtokarjalaisten tie (The Path of the Evacuated Karelians). 4 vols. Turku: Nyky-Karjala Oy, 1970–71. (FHL book 948.97 W2si; films 1124548–1124549). This work indexes the evacuees by their home parishes and indicates the place to where they moved. The index is on film 1124579, item 2.
The evacuees brought most of their church records with them. These records are available at the Family History Library and at the Mikkeli Provincial Archives (for the address of the Mikkeli Archives, see Finland Archives and Libraries).
A special project is in progress in the Mikkeli Provincial Archives to extract and alphabetize all persons listed in the Karelian church records from the time they begin until 1949. The archive staff does not perform genealogical research but can provide information, such as lists of surnames, from their database for a fee. You can write to the archives at:
Finnish Passport Lists
The Finnish passport lists are the primary source for obtaining the immigrants’ places of origin. The lists began around 1820 and are available on microfilm through 1920. The early lists are not as informative as the ones from the mid 1800's on. These lists record the passport recipients in chronological order and contain:
- Home parishes.
- Destination countries.
- The number of children included in the passport.
Immigrants could receive a passport in any county. Many received them in the county from which they embarked, not from their home county.
To find the passport lists in the FamilySearch Catalog, look in the Locality Search under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Both county offices [lääninkanslia] and city offices [maistraatti] issued passports. The catalog lists the county offices first and the city offices second.
It is useful to know that in these records the city of Vaasa is often called Nikolainkaupunki/ Nikolaistad and abbreviated as N:stad.
Passenger Lists (Departures)
The Finnish Steamship Company [Suomen Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö/Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget]
In 1892 the Finnish Steamship Company [Suomen Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö/Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget] began to coordinate the travel of emigrants on several ship lines that left from the port of Hanko/Hangö.
The passenger lists of the Finnish Steamship Company are arranged by ship line and year and include the following information about emigrants:
- Port of departure
The records seldom indicate the emigrant’s last residence in Finland. However, they do use the farm name as a surname, which can be a clue to the home parish.
The passenger lists of the Finnish Steamship Company have been microfilmed through 1960. To find them, look in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
FINLAND - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Emigration through Other Countries
Finns also traveled through the ports of other countries, primarily Göteborg, Malmö, and Stockholm in Sweden, and Trondheim in Norway.
The Swedish and Norwegian passenger lists were actually lists kept by the local police of people leaving the country. These lists generally include:
- Last residence (the specific place of residence is given about half the time; otherwise, it lists only Finland).
Below is a list of the ports and their records available through the Family History Library. For complete bibliographic information and film numbers, please search the FamilySearch Catalog.
- Göteborg - Original records 1869–1920
- Index 1869–1951
- Index of Finns 1869–84 (FHL film 1043046)
- Malmö - Original records 1874–80
- Index 1874–1939
- Index of Finns 1879–1916 (FHL film 1613007)
- Stockholm - Original records 1869–1904
Index of Finns 1880–1932 (FHL films 1613015–18)
Trondheim - Original records 1867–1926
Index of Swedes and Finns 1867–90 (FHL film 1282961 item 3)
The Institute of Migration
The Institute of Migration in Turku, Finland, is preparing indexes to the following types of records:
- Passport record
- Passenger lists of the Finnish Steamship Company
- Emigrant letters
- Death notices of Finns who died abroad
The institute will search the databases for a moderate fee. You can contact the institute at:
Institute of Migration/Emigrant Register
Phone no.: Emigrant Register: 011-358-2-284-0471
Fax: 011-358-2-233 3460
To find a summary of the types of records in the collection and to check the progress of the database, check the institute’s Web site at:
The Institute of Migration publishes a quarterly journal, Siirtolaisuus (Migration). (FHL book 948.97 W2s).
Among the institute’s other publications is a bibliography of sources about Finnish emigration:
Koivukangas, Olavi, and Simo Toivonen. Suomen Siirtolaisuuden ja Maassamuuton Bibliografia: A Bibliography of Finnish Emigration and Internal Migration. Turku: Siirtolaisuusinstituutti, 1978. (FHL book 948.97 W23k).
The National Archives of Finland has the emigration lists that were kept by parish ministers for statistical purposes for 1882 to 1924. These are not available at the Family History Library, but you can obtain the information from them by writing to the National Archives (see Finland Archives and Libraries for the address).
Records of Finnish Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
Sometimes the best sources for information about your ancestor are found in the country to which he or she immigrated. These sources sometimes provide the town of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks, manuals, and Wiki articles for that country.
In U.S. records, especially passenger arrival records, Finns are often listed as being Russian or Swedish because Finland for a time was part of the Russian Empire or because many emigrants were Swedish-speaking Finns.
The following book gives a history of Finnish immigration to the United States and Canada and the names of many early Finnish immigrants:
Ilmonen, S. Amerikan suomalaisten historia (The History of Finnish Americans). 3 vols. Hancock, Mich.: by author, 1919, 1923, and 1926. (FHL book 973 W2i).
A translation to the third volume of this work, along with a comprehensive surname index to the names mentioned in the volume has also been made:
Ilmonen, S. The History of Finnish Americans. Vol. 3 of Finnish and Scandinavian Migration Series. Translated, edited, and indexed by Timothy Laitila Vincent. Salt Lake City: Family Sleuths, 1998. (FHL book 973 W2i vol. 3).
Another book listing the places of origin of many Finns is:
Vincent, Timothy Laitila. Journal of Pastor Johan Wilhelm Eloheimo from the Evangelical Lutheran Parishes from Calmut, Michigan and Ironwood, Michigan. Salt Lake City: Family Sleuths, 1998. (FHL book 977.49 K2or).
The following record might also be helpful:
The Records of the Russian Consular Offices in the United States, 1862–1928. Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1986. (On 169 FHL films beginning with film 1463389). These records contain data on subjects of the Russian Empire, including Finns.
These records are indexed in:
Sack, Sallyann Amdur. The Russian Consular Records Index and Catalog. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987. (FHL book 973 D22s; film 1605681).
You can also find more information about finding the origins of immigrant ancestors in Tracing Immigrant Origins.
- This page was last modified on 2 February 2015, at 21:04.
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