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Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 205.161.239.109
Posted on August 12, 2002 at 05:09:20 PM by June Pelo

While going over a list of emigrants from Finland, I can't help but notice the lack of information about them after they left Finland. It seems that most of them had no further contact with friends and relatives in the "old country." Many of them were young men and women and I can't help but wonder why they never contacted their parents to let them know where they were. The majority of the names on the list don't even indicate a death date - there's a notation that they were declared dead after a number of years elapsed. It's sad to think of their parents and family in Finland, wondering why they didn't get a letter from America. I remember my father telling me about his aunt who left Finland for America and she never wrote to her old parents, who patiently waited for a letter. My father said that when he came to America, one of the first things he did was to look up that aunt and find out why she didn't write. He discovered that she met a man from Sweden in Wisconsin and married him and then she had 11 children in a row so she didn't have time to write. But that couldn't be true of all the other emigrants who never wrote to their parents. It would be interesting to have the viewpoint of others as to why communication ceased. It's something I hear from other researchers who can't find relatives in Finland because all contact was dropped between emigrants and Finland.

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Re(1): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 194.157.63.156
Posted on August 13, 2002 at 01:47:17 PM by Hasse Nygård

From what I have heard from "tales" in my family there were quite active correspondence from some of the emigrants to the old country. I guess the contacts were more active during the lifetime of their parents, but diminishing after that. Maybe the folks at that time were as busy as people nowadays, having little time writing letters to relatives. They had no e-mail narrowing the gaps...

One peak in the correspondence activity seems to have been during and after the finnish-russian wars 1939-44. Many in my mothers family at least got packages, so called "amirika paket" with consumables and "luxury" articles that couldn't be obtained in Finland those years. Some letters from that time with attached photos seem to have been posted, showing how emigrants lived. One particular photo I can remember clearly. An old aunt sent a photo of a car in front of their house. The caption wrote "Jag har köpt mig en ny car".... The folks back home wondered what kind a life their relative lives in Amirika. ("car" sounds like "karl" in swedish, meaning "man")
After the wars a few emigrants visited the old country, some even every year. Erhard Alm from our neughbour's came every year from Toronto, and never forgot his swedish language. Even his children was over - but afther the death of Erhard everything stopped.
Basically - correspondence stopped eventually, in some cases earlier, in some cases later.
The notation i papers that emigrants were declared dead could also originate from the need to get in contact with living relatives after the deaths of the parents. If no address was obtainable and the inheritance had to be devided, the officials had to declare the emigrant dead after a certain number of years.

Fundamentally people seem to be equally busy with their daily lives, thus having little time over for keepin in touch. Hopefully e-mail makes this easier these days.

Re(2): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 205.161.239.37
Posted on August 13, 2002 at 04:20:22 PM by June Pelo

Yes, I know that many emigrants did keep in contact with Finland, but there were still hundreds who did not. During my research projects, I have heard all kinds of stories from people who either didn't know where their ancestors came from or were given false information. One woman told me her grandmother wouldn't even mention Finland. She said they were so poor that she often went to bed hungry and she vowed that if she could ever leave Finland, she would never return. And from then on she would not ever talk about Finland or her family there. She had no happy memories and wanted to forget her childhood. I worked on another case where an emigrant told his children he was from Sweden where he was a shipbuilder for the King of Sweden! He always wore a captain's cap and acted like a sea captain. I never found any trace of him in Sweden and had a hunch he was from Finland. I couldn't find any record of him under the name he used, but when I began to search for men born on his birthdate in Karleby, I found him. He had changed his name, but kept his birthdate. I eventually found out that he was a farmer's son who did not like the woman his father married after his mother died. So he ran away and never contacted his family again. They had no idea where he went until I told them he went to Montana. And the strange thing was that I eventually discovered that he had siblings living in Montana and Washington who had emigrated after he did. None of them knew he lived nearby and of course, he didn't know because he never kept in touch with anyone in Finland. These are only two examples, I have others. And all one has to do is to read some of the queries posted on Finngen as well as in genealogy publications to notice how many descendants are searching for their ancestors and have no idea when or where they were born. Just read some of the mail from Finland where people are searching Ellis Island records, hoping to get an idea where their relatives went when they emigrated - because there had been no further contact afer emigration. I have a 40-page list of emigrants from Karleby with names, birthdates and date of emigration. Most of them have no destination or death date. This list was compiled by a genealogist in Finland, presumably from church records. That indicates to me that neither the emigrant nor his family kept in touch with the Church of Finland. Didn't the Church keep the records open for a time period after an emigrant left? I am under the impression that anyone born in Finland was considered a citizen even if he emigrated. And the Church wanted to know when the emigrant died. I have a friend who was born in Sweden, but emigrated to the US and lived in Washington, D.C. The Swedish Embassy there used to send him invitations to all kinds of events and he was entitled to attend because he was still a Swedish citizen. He was even invited to meet the King of Sweden when he visited the US. I don't know if Finland honors its emigrants that way. Do they know where Finnish citizens are living in the US?

Re(3): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 12.86.24.141
Posted on September 1, 2003 at 03:16:54 PM by Pat

I want to wade in on this subject from the point that some of the emmigrants from the swedish speaking parts of Finland did not feel that they were Finnish. my great grand father Anders Victor Mattsson Skrabb from Karleby felt that he was Swedish. This is by his accounts that his family settled the area when Sweden occupied parts of Finland in the 1600's. In our community in the Upper Penisula of Michigan we have two types of Luthern Churches- Finnish and Swedish. He belonged to the Swedish and did not associate with Finns. To end not all swedish speaking Finns that emmigrated wanted to be known as Finns, they where Swedish.

Re(3): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 194.157.63.156
Posted on August 14, 2002 at 01:11:58 AM by Hasse Nygård

Yes June - it seems like many really disappered, even wanted to disappear. However - the folks left from poverty to a relatively speaking more prosper future. - Maybe people were ashamed of their past? Especially we Ostrobothnians tend to be quite proud people...
The other reason for leaving FInland during the Russilan opression era was the russian military enlistment. Maybe there was a fear that the parents and other relatives back home would suffer if the russian administration?


June wrote: "....how many descendants are searching for their ancestors and have no idea when or where they were born...

One thing I have wondered about is weather the people in those days even "knew" their birthdays. I guess it wasn't that important information back then? When somebody needed the birthday information it was in the priests office, and there the priest had his documents showing to which household the person belonged, listing his/her birthdate etc. Thus perhaps the person himself perhaps didn't always carry the information with him/her? - Did they even position themself as coming "from Finland" - the national state ideas began to arise during and after the first emigration waves?

The situation at Ellis Island can easily be understood to mess up the links to the old land. It wasn't difficult to be classified as a "swede", thus coming from Sweden if the person told his interpretor that "ja e svšnsk från Pedesi" proudly in his/her own dialect - an presumably the interpretor understood some 10-30 percent.

As a conclusion - is it so that the emigration in fact actively broke the links to the old country due to a combination of administrative mistakes in the registration process and due to active measures taken by the emigrant not communicating his/her position to the old country.?

Re(4): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 205.161.239.55
Posted on August 14, 2002 at 05:09:08 PM by June Pelo

Hasse, I guess we'll never know why so many emigrants cut off contact with their family in Finland. We should have tried to ask questions about 50 years ago while some of those migrants were still living. But many of us were young then and not interested in genealogy. I agree with you that many emigrants didn't know their correct birthdate. I have encountered that problem many times while researching data for other people. Some have mistaken the date by a few days or the wrong month - but I've also encountered some who used the wrong year and were as much as 10 years off! It's a pity more of us didn't ask questions when some of our emigrant relatives were still living. Now we can think of all kinds of questions to ask, but there's no one to ask. One thing that comes to mind, Hasse, is: Is the Church in Finland interested in being notified of the death dates of emigrants? Many of us have now been able to find this data which the Church didn't know. Since so many years have elapsed, I wondered if they want the data? I've had several people ask me if they should write to the parish church and notify them of the death dates of their emigrant ancestors.

 

Re(5): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 194.157.63.156
Posted on August 15, 2002 at 00:33:53 AM by Anonymous

June wrote:
ne thing that comes to mind, Hasse, is: Is the Church in Finland interested in being notified of the death dates of emigrants? Many of us have now been able to find this data which the Church didn't know. Since so many years have elapsed, I wondered if they want the data? I've had several people ask me if they should write to the parish church and notify them of the death dates of their emigrant ancestors.

IMHO I fear that the church, the recordkeeper, don't really actively "need" this information. If the emigrant moved away from the parish he was noted as "moved" in the same way as if he had moved to the neighbouring parish. Correct me if I'm wrong - but isn't it rare that a person who died in the "new" parish was marked also in the "original", birth parish? At least not the rule.
Also I believe that, in these days of IT and bookkeeping by means of computers and stuff, there wouldn't even be a practical way of registering the information. Nobody uses the old books anymore.
The question arises - what about the emigrants that "disappeared" from the parish without registering the "move"? Could they be reported and would (should?) the parish be interested in this subpopulation?


Re(6): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 205.161.239.58
Posted on August 15, 2002 at 03:50:22 PM by June Pelo

I think genealogists in Finland seem to be more interested in data about emigrants than the Church of Finland or the Finnish government. Leif Mether has set up the Migrant Register to record data about emigrants, but he is only accepting data that is complete, ie. death dates and places must be recorded. Based on the immigration lists that I have, I would guess that this data is missing about most of the immigrants. Once I get the list completed and entered on my website, it will be obvious that the death dates and/or places of most emigrants isn't known. Therefore it won't be entered into any index in Finland. I hope that my incomplete listing will be helpful for researchers who perhaps know the name of an emigrant, but not when or where he was born or when he emigrated.

 


Re(1): Disappearance of emigrants
IP: 65.137.71.28
Posted on August 12, 2002 at 08:51:02 PM by Kevin Paavola

I've had an opposite experience that is quite interesting. Recently a researcher in Finland located information about my Finnish immigrant grandparents and their family. They were married in Finland and came to the USA in 1906 and 1909. They died in 1951 and 1963 in the US. What I found interesting is that though there was no further info on my grandfather after he immigrated, there was great detail about my grandmother, including not only her death and place of death, but also the name of the Hospital. I found it strange that only details existed about her and not her husband. Maybe she was one who did correspond with the family back in Finland, or maybe the church somehow relayed the information. I wonder if there was some unwritten rule in the American-Finnish churches that they were required to notify home parishes in Finland of details concerning the immigrants?

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