Emigrants from Övertorneå Parish 1866-1880

by Sture Torikka © copyright 2002 all rights reserved


I have created a list of the earliest emigrants who left for North America from Tornio valley, those who did go “directly” from home over the Atlantic to their new homeland. With “directly” I mean those emigrants who were not settled in North Norway for any time. Otherwise this was quite common that “Finnish” people from Tornio valley (both from Sweden and Finland) once moved up to Norway to find livelihood. While there, it was easy to get on a boat (from Vadsö) to Trondheim, and then the Atlantic was open for North America.


The people from Tornio valley had been walking and skiing up to Norway for hundreds of years before the emigration to America started from there (Norway) during the 1850s. The Gulf Stream didn’t freeze so up there they could always get some work on the sea or in the fish business. There were also the mines in the area (especially Kåfjord). The miners started their emigration after 1864, maybe already 1863? (enlistment campaign from Quincy Mine, MI).


From Karl Gustaf Parish we can see this very clearly around 1865. The rumors from Norway about the (new) Promised Land named America, had come down to the valley. The church records show many people who did go up to Norway at this time, but the same sources tell that the real reason was North America.


Some researching problems arise in the fact that some of the travelling people had requested official certificate of change of address (exit permit) - both for Norway and America - but they didn’t go away at all. We also find some who were intended for America, but they arrived somewhere completely different. Sometimes they had not left the country at all. There were also those who did emigrate without telling anyone at home, especially not the local vicar. They are hard to find.


The first set of Tornedalians heading for North America did travel from North Norway during the spring and summer of 1864. These people had already been in Norway for at least a couple of years, and were now ripened for the Atlantic crossing.


These emigrants were native of both sides of the Borderline, which represents the Swedish parishes Nedertorneå, Karl Gustaf, Hietaniemi and Övertorneå, also from Karunki and Alkkula parishes on the Finnish side.


Nikkala-born (Nedertorneå Parish) Petter Lahti (b. 1834, d. 1911 in Franklin, Minnesota, USA) did travel to North America from Norway 1864. While there in the States he functioned as a united and mediated link for the Finnish talking immigrants in The United States of America. It has been told that he participated in the Civil War 1864-1865, but this has not been confirmed to me yet.


The following people fulfill the criterions for requested certificates for emigration to North America. Most of them did also get away over the Atlantic, but – anyhow – some did return back home again from Norway. For some unknown reasons they never come on board.


Övertorneå’s first emigrants to America did travel away from home during summer of 1866:


1866 :

1.      Crofter in Haapakylä village

Isak Annasson Parpa (Barberg) b. 1833 d. 1883

Wife Eva Maria Johansdotter Rovainen b. 1833 d. 1895


Greta Johanna b. 1859

Karl Johan b. 1866

Finnish talking family

Certificate from the local vicar for emigration to N. America requested 14.6.1866. Later residing in Cokato, Minnesota, USA


2.      Crofter in Kuivakangas village

Isak Nilsson Brännström b. 1833 d. 1873

Wife Eva Abramsdotter b. 1831 d. 1912


Karl b. 1865 d. 21.8.1866 in America

Finnish talking family

Certificate for emigration to N. America requested 14.6.1866. Residing in Cokato, Minnesota, USA. Returned back home  - together with wife and daughter Kaisa Maria, b. 7.2.1867 in Cokato (who later emigrated to America herself in 1898) - to Kuivakangas and Övertorneå already 22.7.1867. At home Isak Brännström became a Laestadii-preacher and drowned 1873. At least, he HAD BEEN TO America


1867 : No emigrants to N. America

1868 : No emigrants        “

1869 : No emigrants        “

1870 : No emigrants to N. America


1871 :

3.      Farmer’s son in Haapakylä village

Abram Isaksson Heikkilä b. 1849

Finnish talking

Certificate for emigration to N. America requested 26.3.1871


4.      Crofter in Haapakylä village

Jakob Johansson Rovainen b. 1828 d. 1898

Wife Anna Greta Isaksdotter Pyhäjärvi b. 1831 d. 1913


Greta Johanna b. 1862

Jakob b. 1863

Johan b. 1864

Maria Kristina b. 1866

Isak b. 1869

Finnish talking family

Certificate for emigration requested 3.7.1871. Later residing in Cokato, Minnesota, USA


5.      Farmer’s son in Kuivakangas village

Erik Aron Isaksson Rautio b. 1847

Finnish talking

Certificate requested 17.7.1871


1872 : 7 emigrants to N. America

1873 : 12 emigrants        “

1874 : No emigrants        “

1875 : 4 emigrants        “

1876 : 2 emigrants        “

1877 : 1 emigrant         “

1878 : No emigrants        “

1879 : 3 emigrants        “

1880 : 41 emigrants to N. America!


During all these years (1865-1880) many emigrants from this Parish also moved to Norway and Finland. Of those who left for Norway, we can be pretty sure that several later showed up in America. We then know that some emigrants never told their local vicar about their plans. They just left.


In the 1880s this direct emigration from Tornio Valley to N. America steadily increased, but the people above were the pioneers from Övertorneå Parish, Sweden


Why Did They Go            Finnish in Copper Country

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