by Sture Torikka © copyright 2002-2007 all rights reserved
"During the Civil War the solicitation of Finnish miners in Norway inaugurated the mainstream of immigration from Finland to the United States. In 1864 they located in the copper Country of northern Michigan, sent two agents to solicit miners from Norway. Consequently, in the two ensuing decades perhaps between 700 and 1000 Finns came via Norway to the United States. Although few in number, these arrivals made Michigan better known to their homeland, and the state became the first major center for the much greater numbers of emigrants leaving unsolicited from Finland."A. William Hoglund (Finnish Immigration in America)
In times of recession, failed crops and want, the fishing in northern Norway was the salvation of many. In the difficult years in the 1830s and 1860s, people went in droves to northern Norway. At the end of the 1860s alone, 500 people left the Torne valley, which illustrates some of the consequences; especially of the "year of weakness" - 1867-68.
Those migrating northwards contributed to the development of small holdings beside the fjords of northern Norway. These Finnish-speaking immigrants brought their knowledge of soil fertilization as well as changing salmon fishing in the fjords valleys by introducing the special river and rapids boats used in the Torne valley and Finnish Lapland. The same immigrants learned from the Sámi how to manage reindeer, which hunting techniques were suitable for different types of hunting, and to make clothing for the climate.
I have done some drafts about emigrants from two villages (Niemis and
Armasjärvi) in Hietaniemi parish, Norrbotten, Sweden. It's located about 50
km up north the Bothnian Bay, just on the Tornio river shore. The Tornio
river is also the borderline between Sweden and Finland.
Nearly everybody here is Finnish by origin, but our nationality is Swedish. The language has always been Finnish, and they have been called "Finns" everywhere else in Sweden.
The first people from this area who emigrated directly from their valley homes to America, started their trips and Atlantic crossings in the spring of 1865. But there had already been Tornio valley people - both from the Swedish borderside and the Finnish too - who had gone from North Norway already in 1864. Unfortunately these emigrants are not always that easy to find in Norwegian records.
However; from Norway the rumors about the amazing North America reached the Tornio river valley, and then the valley inhabitants were ready to leave all their historical family security and go to America themselves.
To give a further background showing all this, I have recently wrote an article explaining even more about the first emigrants from the Eastern Norrbotten County of Sweden, including the Tornio valley.
Here are four drafts:
1. The first emigrants from Övertorneå Parish (starts 1866). English Version
2. The first emigrants from Hietaniemi Parish (starts 1865). English Version
3. The first emigrants from Karl Gustaf Parish (starts 1865). English Version
These are neighbor parishes.
4. Emigrant list for Niemis and Armasjärvi villages, with some additional information about people from Niemis village who have emigrated from some other village in the neighborhood. (Three Pages) English Version
5. Tornedalska pionjärer i Nordamerika - The emigration from Tornio valley. English Version
6. Map of the Area - Detailed map of the area you can view online.