The Journey from Finland to America

(Clemensson & Andersson 1996, p. 46).

The Finnish emigrants usually traveled from an English harbor to America and only a small number used a German harbor. In the beginning the route went via Sweden, and from one of the harbors there they took a ship to England or Germany. In 1911 the Swedish America Line opened a direct route from Gothenburg to New York This was a popular way for the Finns particularly in the 1920's. Direct traffic was also established from Norway to North America and the person who used Copenhagen as a way-station usually went via England or Germany.

The majority of the emigrants traveled to Hull, England and then by train through England to Liverpool, Southampton or Glasgow. There they embarked on some of the big steamers to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The most important shipping companies were the German HAPAG and Norddeutscher Lloyd, and the English lines Cunard, Inman, National, Dominion, White Star, Anchor, Allan, State and Wilson.

There are no passenger lists preserved for the departure ports for the traffic across the Atlantic Ocean. Links to passenger lists, shipping companies, ships, as well as general information about this topic can be found on a list maintained by Chris Gaunt.

The Emigration via England

In the 1880's the German shipping companies Norddeutscher Lloyd and HAPAG started routes from Hanko (Hangö) to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Lübeck and soon also to Hull in England. In the autumn of 1891 the Finland Steamship Company (F.Å.A.) started a direct route from Hanko to Hull. For some years the company totally dominated the traffic from Finland to England.

The Manuscript Department of Åbo Akademi University Library has passenger lists for the Finland Steamship Company. These lists contain the name of the passenger, home district, place of destination and time of departure. The passenger lists can be of help when looking for the final destination of the immigrants in America. The table below shows how unreliable the information in the passenger lists can be:

The locations of first years of employment in the United States for emigrants from North Satakunta during the years 1901-14. The data is compared with the destinations mentioned in the passenger lists of the Finland Steamship Company
Location of first place of employment is same as the destination mentioned in the passenger list


59.2 %

Location of first place of employment is a neighboring locality to destination mentioned in the passenger list


5.9 %

Location of first place of employment is not close to the destination in the passenger list but in the same state


17.1 %

Location of first place of employment is not in the same state as mentioned in the passenger list but quite close


2.6 %

Location of first place of employment is very far from the destination mentioned in the passenger list


15.1 %



(Kero 1974, p. 13)

The passenger lists of the Finland Steamship Company include only third class passengers who bought their ticket in Finland to their place of destination in America. The lists do not include passengers of first and second class, nor passengers who bought their ticket in England to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The Institute of Migration in Turku, Finland has transferred passenger lists of the Finland Steamship Company to computer. The database is accessible on the Internet to registered users.

The Emigration via Sweden

In the 1870's and 1880's almost all the Finnish emigration to America went through Swedish harbors. This changed at the end of the 1880's when direct routes were opened from Hanko (Hangö) to Hull. Most of the people who still traveled through Sweden came from the Åland Islands or from Oulu province because it was easy to travel to Stockholm on the steamships from the northern parts of Sweden. In 1869 Sweden passed a law requiring that all emigrants were to be registered and the passenger lists were established at that time.

Parts of the Swedish passenger lists are on computer and released on a CD called Emigranten. The CD can be searched in the library of the Genealogical Society of Finland. The CD has passenger lists for Gothenburg (1869-1930), Malmö (1874-1930), Stockholm (1869-1930), Norrköping (1859-1919) and Kalmar (1880-1893). There are a total of 1.3 million people and among them are many Finns.

Gothenburg was the biggest harbor for emigration in Sweden until 1951, when the traffic of The Swedish American Line was canceled. There are 1 million passengers in the passenger lists and during the years 1870-1914 there were 56,000 Finns registered.

The second harbor in size was Malmö with over 160,000 passengers during 1874-1939. In the years 1870-1914 about 1,100 emigrants from Finland used this harbor.

During the period 1869-1930 Stockholm had about 23,000 emigrants, of which about 4,400 were from the years 1880-1914.

The Emigration via Norway

In Norway passengers were registered by local police authorities. The harbors were Bergen, Fredrikstad, Kristiansand, Kristiansund, Larvik, Oslo (Kristiania), Sandefjord, Stavanger, Trondheim (during 1870-1914 about 1,500 Finns used this route) and Ålesund. It is not known if the Finns used all these harbors. Some of the ships went straight to America and others went to a harbor in England.

The Emigration via Denmark

In Copenhagen all passengers were registered for the years 1868-1940 and the material has been transferred to computer. It is searchable at the Danish Emigration Archives. It is not known how many Finns traveled this way. One can assume there were some Finns, because the steamers on their way from Hanko to Hull in the late 1880's landed in Copenhagen. From Copenhagen the emigrants usually went to Hamburg or Bremen via Lübeck, and then took a ship from there to America. One route from Copenhagen went to Oslo and then to New York.

The Emigration via Germany

Bremen and Hamburg were the harbors for the traffic across the Atlantic Ocean to America. The passenger lists for Bremen were destroyed during the Second World War, but in Hamburg there are passenger lists for 1850-1934 with about 5 million records. Unknown how many Finns are found in the records. A project to bring the records online on the Internet is going on. At the beginning records from 1890 to 1914 will be online in a pay database (1890-1898 was online in July 2004).