New World Finn: How many Finnish Canadians and USAmericans?

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: Those who like to insult and ridicule immigrants and refugees in Finland, and who still believe Finns are some lost tribe in this part of Europe who have not mixed with anyone, should pay close attention to the statistics below. If over one million Finns would not have emigrated from this land from 1860, our population would be over 7 million today.

Thanks to immigration, Finland’s cultural diversity is richer than what many of us want to believe. The interesting question to ask is why this hasn’t been acknowledged. Is it because it would force us to ask serious questions about who we are as a nation? Would many of our myths about ourselves be challenged?

Thanks to New World Finn, an English-language quarterly published in the United States for this information.


During the late-19th century and early 20th century, over 300,000 people from Finland migrated to the United States and, to a lesser extent, Canada. While there had been a sporadic flow of immigration before the mid-19th century, the bulk of the migration did not start until about 1870.

The 2000 United States Census lists 623,573 persons who claimed Finnish ancestry. Finnish-Canadians, who claimed Finnish ancestry, according to the 2001 census, number over 114,000. There are many of Finnish ancestry who do not claim it.

The states with the largest Finnish-American populations are: Michigan – 101,351; Minnesota – 99,388; California – 56,526; Washington – 40,290; Wisconsin – 36,047. The communities of Thunder Bay, Toronto and Sudbury form the main centers of Finnish-Canadian activity. Thunder Bay boasts the largest Finnish population outside of Scandinavia.

How many Finns emigrated abroad?

Table 1. Emigration from Finland in 1860-1999

Destination                   1860-1944                              1945-1999
Sweden                             45,000                                    535,000
Other Europe                  55,000                                    125,000
United States                  300,000                                    18,000
Canada                                 70,000                                    23,000
Latin America                      1,000                                       5,000
Asia                                              500                                       6,000
Africa                                       1,000                                       4,000
Oceania                                   3,500                                    20,000

Total                                      476,000                                 736,000

Source: Jouni Korkiasaari and Ismo Söderling: Finnish emigration and immigration after World War II. Migration Institute 2003.                 

  1. George

    Immigration of Finns to the US and Canada (and countries closer to home) is a well-known and -studied phenomenon in Academic circles. Thinking back to my high school days in the 1960’s, I suddenly realized that while it was certainly touched upon in my history curriculum, not much was said about its extent and duration. I wonder what is being taught today…
    Here’s a link to (the) Institute of Migration:

    • Enrique

      George, the Migration Institute is a fine place to study this topic. I have been involved on and off with this institution since 1978. You raise an interesting point about how much Finnish immigrants/expats were mentioned at your school. These people who left Finland are a constant reminder to us that we are a part of this world because of their restlessness.

      Are you interested in studying this fascinating topic?

  2. Eija

    Sellanen kysymys: kun vaarini ja mummoni sekä vaarin sisko lähtivät USAan, he olivat Venäjän kansalaisia (ennen vuotta 1917). Kun vaari ja mummo tulivat takaisin, he olivat Suomen kansalaisia. Vai miten?

    • Enrique

      Hei Eija, tämä riippuu siitä milloin he tulivat takaisin Suomeen.

  3. I-am-here

    Perhaps more important to me, is how these Finnish emigre´s were treated in their adopted countries.How are Finnish emigre´s to other countries treated? From all indications, Finns who have left Finland, and settled in other countries,were/are given opportunities to integrate into the mainstream culture! Finns in Finland do not afford this opportunity to immigrants here!

    Finns who leave Finland, and settle in other parts of the world are allowed to work in these countries.Even with their very strong accents, Finns in the US and the UK are given employment opportunities. I guess the consensus in these countries is that someone who learns a language can never speak it as well as a native speaker.So for that reason, when a Finn shows up for a job interview in the UK and the US, and speaks English with a weird Finnish accent, the employers realize that the accent is trivial, and in no way affects the employee’s productivity.

    Yet in Finland, day after day, foreigners who speak grammatically correct Finnish are told by employers that their Finnish is not good enough. Does this sound fair? It is unfair to expect someone who has learnt Finnish as a second language to speak it as well as a native Finnish speaker.Why are immigrants denied employment here in Finland because of their “accent” when they speak Finnish?

    Wish I could tell the rest of the world to treat Finnish immigrants the same way they treat immigrants in their country.Let the Swedes and Americans and British etc deny them employment because of their “accents”

    • Enrique

      Hi I-am-here, nice to hear from you again. It is pretty ridiculous, isn’t it. But you know what, language is only one excuse. Go to Spain and you will find many hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who speak Spanish as their mother tongue. Some still suffer from discrimination. Language is only an excuse. Granted, there may be some that speak poor Finnish, but this depends on who you are and what profession you are in. I wonder if the same language requirements are placed on Nokia foreign engineers as those employed in janitorial work? What about if you are from Somalia and from Germany? Is there a difference? Certainly there is and that is what is called discrimination!

  4. JusticeDemon

    Eija hei

    Uudesti syntyneenä itsenäisenä valtiona Suomen lainsäädännössä oli kansalaisuuden saamisesta ja menettämisestä vain niukasti säännelty. Nähdäkseni ainakin jos isovanhempasi olivat/olisivat olleet äänioikeutettu vuoden 1906 eduskuntauudistuksen tultua voimaan, niin he olisivat jo alun perin sekä Suomen kansalaisia että Venäjän tsaarin alamaisia Suomen suuriruhtinaskunnassa.

    Toisaalta Suomen kansalaisuus oli suhteellisen helppo menettää itsenäisyyden alkuvuosina. Vuonna 1927 voimaan tulleen asiaa koskevan lain esitöissä (N:o 84/1925) mainitaan silloisen perintökaaren edellytys, jonka mukaan Suomen kansalainen, joka on luopunut kotimaastaan ja asettunut kokonansa elämään ja asumaan vieraan vallan alle on menettänyt Suomen kansalaisuutensa. Tällaiset säännöt ovat etupäässä vaikuttaneet juuri Pohjois-Amerikkaan siirtyneiden oikeusasemaan.

  5. Tiwaz

    Ah language…

    Employer if anyone knows how much Finnish you need to do some job.
    Same way, you have to take into account the NEED of workers in different fields. Most people who are refused on grounds of not speaking language are trying one of two things:

    1) Job with customer contact. In Finland, that means fluent Finnish. FLUENT.
    2) Job where there is zero requirements. That means they are on the line behind dozens of different applicants, including Finns without educational merits. These people have same abilities as immigrants AND perfect Finnish.

    Question is about someone having more skills than someone else.
    Or someone not having required skills to work.

    Finally, regarding the stupidity about “Finns have moved abroad too”…
    If you want to say that Finns should accept foreigners because century ago Finns immigrated elsewhere, I demand that those who want to immigrate to Finland today should receive exactly same welfare benefits as those Finns who immigrated elsewhere.

  6. George

    @ Enrique. I’ve read a lot about Finns (and Swedes) having emigrated to different parts and it’s a fascinating topic as you say. E.g. the fact that so many have chosen to settle in places where the climate resembles that of Scandinavia, is, to repeat myself, quite fascinating. As to the study of emigration/immigration, that’s not what I do really. But I do have an ongoing interest in the subject and I’m glad you chose to include it in your blog! Thank you.

    • Enrique

      Thank you George sharing your knowledge and views with us. It’s pretty funny but when the Finns established a colony in Argentina in 1906, the government thought that they would enjoy living in Patagonia where it is windy and very inhospitable. They preferred, instead, to move to Misiones province, which is subtropical. If you look at Finnish migration, it was mainly to the United States (eg Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota etc) and Sweden.

      If you have some time, look up Konni Zilliacus. He thought that emigration was a bad thing for Finland and wanted the government to play a role in this. He thought it would be a good idea to send them to the tropics like Costa Rica for a while and then return them back to Finland. Funny, no? By the way, his writings about his trip to Costa Rica and Central America was awfully racist.

  7. JusticeDemon

    Tiwaz, you old Nazi

    We’re a bit better informed than your brownshirt friends here.

    If you want to say that Finns should accept foreigners because century ago Finns immigrated elsewhere, I demand that those who want to immigrate to Finland today should receive exactly same welfare benefits as those Finns who immigrated elsewhere.

    1. With respect to mass emigration of Finns to North America, immigrants to Finland should also pay the same tax rates and have the same access to employment.

    2. With respect to mass emigration of Finns to Sweden in the 1960s, immigrants in Finland should enjoy the same standard of social security, passport-free travel and naturalisation.

    • Enrique

      Thanks George. Look forward to it! Thank you for the link.

  8. Tiwaz

    Ah, and here we have JusticeIdiot again making her unfounded accusations. Say, Enrique, where is your eagerness to demand that people are not insulted? Hmm? Or about using nicks?

    How many times exactly you have told JI to change her nick? What? Zero times?
    Does that not make you a hypocrite?
    Or her constant ad hominem attacks? Hmm? Hypocrite again?

    To the points made(or rather avoided):
    “1. With respect to mass emigration of Finns to North America, immigrants to Finland should also pay the same tax rates and have the same access to employment.”

    They hardly can pay less taxes as they are leeching off the welfare.
    And employment is not something controlled by state, but by employers who determine if they do not need people without useful skills.

    2. With respect to mass emigration of Finns to Sweden in the 1960s, immigrants in Finland should enjoy the same standard of social security, passport-free travel and naturalisation.”

    Only applies to Swedish immigrants.

  9. Hannu

    “Finns who have left Finland, and settled in other countries,were/are given opportunities to integrate into the mainstream culture! ”


    No indians or finns.
    We dont employ finns.
    Finns not welcome
    no finns

    These are old signs in australia and usa, heard by relatives or relatives of friends who emigrated there.

    Can you please have something else than romanticed view on past?

    • Enrique

      Hannu, you should be proud of that. Many Finns that emigrated to the United States were socialists and communists. They spoke out for better rights and therefore people would not hire Finns because they were “trouble makers.” I, personally, am very proud of them and that they stood up for their rights. Discrimination was also a problem in the US. Nobody is claiming otherwise.

  10. George

    I probably shouldn’t even bother, but Tiwaz’ comment on insults and nicks is hilarious 🙂
    Or would be, were he himself not indeed using a nick with a direct connection to neo-nazism. Please click on the link and scroll down to the middle of page to see the tiwaz rune in context:

    I *could* say I’m insulted by his nick

    @ Hannu. To use hearsay “heard by relatives or relatives of friends” (!) may be a bit counterproductive, don’t you think… (I doubt not the occasional veracity of these kind of signs but maybe you would like to substantiate your case by pointing to a definite source?)

  11. Mary Mekko

    In Berkeley the Finns were Socialists, who started co-ops. The Finnish Brotherhood Hall is still there, and I attended some events there, pretty entertaining! They had coffee and cake down in the cafetaria later, but it was hard to speak to these Finns, even though they’d been in USA for many years – or generations – but if you weren’t part of their tribe, well, that was just too bad. I did bring a Finnish friend with me once, but even with her they were very cool.

    Finns are known to be closed to outsiders, even in USA, but not to be disrespected, because they worked hard and studied well. They stayed “out of trouble”, as the chinese tend to do nowadays, so in a way, although both groups are hard to get to know, they are not treated badly since their labor and knowledge, their gung-ho spirit is valued.

    I met a group of Estonian fellows last week in Napa Valley – I heard their language and went over to chat with them. They were very jolly, drinking champagne, on vacation. They said that they are just like the Finns, terribly introverted, so that is why they spent eight months of the year in cubicles or at home, on computers, with a pile of boiled potatoes and beer bottles to get through the winter. One said, “We’re only one million Estonians, so we’re not really a nationality, but a hobby.” I said, “Maybe it’s a habit.” They laughed, “Yes, we are a bad habit, we are Estonians!” Finns and Estonians crack me up, their humor is so goofy, so self-deprecating. Plus, they look almost the same, so pale, their eyes, their thin hair!

    One fellow as a Russian Jew raised in Estonian, and clearly made it known that he was NOT Estonian and never could be. However, he lived in Tallinn and worked as a lawyer. I advised him to consider writing a new serious of Estonian murder mysteries, such as Stieg Larsson did for Sweden. One terrible murder, with a dead body found in a potato patch, will pop up, and it will lead to many other horrible things in the history of the USSR’s control of Estonia. It will dig up the leaders who cooperated with the Soviets, etc… You can expose the whole messy and disgusting time that Estonia was occupied!!

    He said he would actually consider it. I told him, “It will sell, for sure, it’s a whole genre, the Scandanavian murder genre. People like me, and people everywhere, will pick it up. We love reading about trouble over there so far from our problems here.”

    One problem, he pointed out: he grew up with parents who were in favor of the Soviets, not against them. Of course, I replied, because they were not Estonians,a nd probably gained advantage moving to Tallinn and taking good jobs. But that’s perfect: use your parents as models of the Russian Communists who came in (with good intentions!) and ran Estonia, not aware that they were creating evil, that Estonians hated them.

    Enrique, do you really think anyone can be any nationality she decides to be? I hardly think that would work well, if a Nigerian declares to you that she’s a Finn, since she’s your neighbor for five years? Either Finland and Nigerians are nations, with their own ethnic groups, or they’re not.

    You should post your picture online, as well as your kids’, so we can see how Finnish you are.

    You are still not giving us any concrete examples of your own sufferings in Finland as an Auslander.