Emigration from Finland - a Short Review


From time to time the genealogist in Finland comes across people who emigrated, mostly to Sweden or America. To find relatives in America has become somewhat of a hobby for many. For people living in America, Europe is the major continent from which their ancestors left. Ancestors from Finland can be found, even if the number of immigrants from Finland was only about 0.5 % of all immigrants to America. Below you will find a short review of the Finnish emigration, a list of literature and links to home pages with information useful in your search for Finnish ancestors.

Finland has traditionally been a country of emigration. During the past one hundred years over 1 million people have moved to other countries. Depending on the time and country, 20-40 % of the emigrants returned to Finland. Without any emigration there would be 6-7 million inhabitants in Finland (now about 5 million).

In Finnish history one can separate several different eras of extremely large migration. The first era was in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Finns settled down in the uninhabited backwoods in the middle parts of Sweden, even one area on the Norwegian side of the border.

The most important wave of emigration took part from the 1860's and went on to the 1930's, when emigrants headed mainly for North America. The next wave of some dimension was the emigration to Sweden which started in the 1950's and diminished in the 1970's. It was so strong that the population of Finland decreased.

The table below show the approximate size of Finnish emigration during the period 1860-1945:

Emigration from Finland 1860-1945 (number of people)
Continent or country

1860-99

1900-23

1924-29

1930-39

1940-45

North America

81.000

259.000

28.000

5.500

350

The rest of America

..

..

500

350

20

Australia & New Zealand

200

1.000

250

-

Asia & Africa

..

300

100

200

100

Sweden

(35.000)

(5.000)

1.000

3.300

1.200

Russia/Soviet Union

(40.000)

..

450

1.500

10

The rest of Europe

..

..

700

1.000

120

Total

..

..

31.750

12.100

1.800

(Korkiasaari 1989, p. 8)

Literature about Finnish emigration