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Disappearance of emigrants
Posted on August 12, 2002 at 05:09:20 PM by June
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.
Re(1): Disappearance of emigrants
Posted on August 13, 2002 at 01:47:17 PM by Hasse
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
Posted on August 13, 2002 at 04:20:22 PM by June
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
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
Posted on August 14, 2002 at 01:11:58 AM by Hasse
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
Posted on August 14, 2002 at 05:09:08 PM by June
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
Re(5): Disappearance of emigrants
Posted on August 15, 2002 at 00:33:53 AM by Anonymous
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
Posted on August 15, 2002 at 03:50:22 PM by June
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
Posted on August 12, 2002 at 08:51:02 PM by Kevin
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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