Emigrants from Hietaniemi Parish 1865-1880

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.


Hietaniemi’s first emigrants to America did travel away from home during summer of 1865:


1865 :

1.      Settler in Saarijärvi village

Johan Larsson Sundbäck b. 1823 d. 1908

Wife Greta Adamsdotter b. 1818 d. 1866


Johan Jakob Johansson Sundbäck b. 1843 d. 1913

Nils Petter b. 1849 d. 1936

Maria Charlotta b. 1850 d. 1928

Anders Gustaf b. 1852 d. ?

Lars Olof b. 1855 d. 1877

Johanna b. 1856 d. ?

Oskar b. 1858 d. fall 1865, during the Atlantic crossing

Karl b. 1860 d. fall 1865, during the Atlantic crossing

Swedish talking family

Certificate from the local vicar for emigration to N. America requested 15.7.1865. Through Stefan Sundbäck´s researching (Thanks to him!) we do know that the family did arrive to New York on the bark McRathbone 4.11.1865. Family later residing in Manistee, Michigan, USA


2.      Settler in Kiilisjärvi village

Karl Petter Nilsson b. 1835

Wife Brita Katarina Henriksdotter b. 1839


Nils Henrik b. 1859

Karl Johan b. 1860

Katarina Helena b. 1862

Marta Matilda b. 1864

Swedish talking family

Certificate for emigration to N. America requested 17.7.1865. But they never left… Two years later (1867) the local vicar has noted that they didn’t emigrate to America (“Reste ej till Amerika”). A year later the family moved to Överkalix Parish


3.      Settler in Kiilisjärvi village

Olof Elias Olsson b. 1824

Wife Anna Elisabet Johansdotter b. 1825


Anna Matilda b. 1855

Maria Katarina b. 1863

Swedish talking family

Certificate for emigration requested 27.7.1865 (the head is herein wrongly named “Elias Eliasson”). Sundbäck points out that this family probably is identical to that Olof  Olofsson family, who was on the bark McRathbone, arriving New York 4.11.1865


1866 :

4.      Crofter in Vitsaniemi village

Johan Persson Kangas b. 1827

Wife Eva Matilda Eliasdotter Puhkuri b. 1838


August b. 1859

Hilda Maria b. 1862

Mina b. 1864

Finnish talking family

Certificate for emigration requested 25.2.1866, but they didn’t get any further than Norway, from where they returned back home 29.12.1866 (“1866 29/12 återkomna från Norge”).


5.      Farmer in Vitsaniemi village

Johan Johansson (Matinheikki or) Paloniemi (Palm) b. 1835

Wife Maria Johanna Johansdotter Paavola b. 1836 d. 1917


Svea Maria Bernhardina b. 1860

Greta Josefina b. 1861

Sofia Johanna b. 1862

Karl Johan b. 1864

Finnish talking family

Certificate for emigration requested 26.2.1866. Later residing in Dassel, Minnesota, USA


6.      Former farmer in Vuomajärvi village

Per Persson Välimaa b. 1828 d. 1904

Wife Maria Magdalena Persdotter b. 1829


Maria Johanna b. 1853

Karl Jakob b. 1857

Finnish talking family

Certificate requested 17.6.1866. Later residing in Holmes City, Minnesota, USA


7.      Former farmer in Koivukylä village

Johan Johansson Palm or Mäki b. 1833

Wife Greta Johansdotter Paavola b. 1834


Margareta Josefina b. 1858

Gustaf Adolf b. 1860

Karl Jakob b. 1862

Henrik Wilhelm b. 1863

Hilda Kaisa b. 1866

Finnish talking family

Certificate to N. America requested 27.6.1866


1867 : No emigrants to N. America

1868 : No emigrants        “

1869 : No emigrants        “

1870 : No emigrants        “

1871 : No emigrants        “

1872 : No emigrants        “

1873 : 10 emigrants        “

1874 : No emigrants        “

1875 : No emigrants        “

1876 : 1 emigrant         “

1877 : 5 emigrants        “

1878 : 1 emigrant         “

1879 : 5 emigrants        “

1880 : 11 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 Hietaniemi Parish, Sweden.

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