View Full Version : The importance of the emigration from Ostrobothnia

Göran Cainberg
28-11-03, 22:17
Alavo Parish

One of my colleagues showed me a description of the history of Alavo (in Finnish Alavus) parish.
From the text I pointed out some interesting details. In 1901 there lived 1964 families in Alavo and 366 of them lived as farmers, 859 ! families lived in crofts (torp eller backstuga). The high number of crofts in relation to the number of farmers seems to be very different from what I think the figures during that time were in the coast area (between Karleby and Sideby). What are the reasons for the differences? I think there are many reasons, but one reason could be the high emigration from coast area ?? The people from the coast area moved to other countries and that way they make the life easier for the remaining people to stay on the farms.
Attached a “map” showing the farms in Alavo in 1750. The parents of Anders Andersson Palm (b.1756 and ancestor of the Palm familes in Nedervetil (and USA) moved from Alavo during that time, Anders Anderssons father Anders Henriksson from Taipale farm and his wife Susanna Bertilsdotter from Röysky farm.

Göran C

29-11-03, 04:02
This percentage difference is very interesting. Were soldiers required in higher numbers from parishes nearer the saltwater than in the interior (higher risk of invasion??)? That might explain the rate of crofters. Another explanation might be the size of the land grants to absentee owners in earlier centuries?

Gunnar Damström
29-11-03, 18:48
One explanation might be that as the shipbuilding and tar manufacturing industry in the coastal area of Ostrobothnia broke down in the 1860's to 1890's the recession hit the coastal population harder, forcing many to emigrate to seek sustenance elsewhere. Torpare and backstugusittare were obvious candidates for emigration. According to Kurt Jern (Svenska Österbottens Historia III) close to 50% of the population of Swedish Ostrobothinia emigrated between 1880 and 1913.

June Pelo
30-11-03, 18:43
Mari Niemi wrote "Hunger or Yearning for Freedom? Migration from South Ostrobothnia to North America" in the book "Exploring Ostrobothnia". Her article includes charts showing the number of emigrants from S. Ostrobothnian municipalities 1893-1993, and also by provinces. Between 1870-1914 about 52% of emigrants were from the Province of Vasa. Even in the 1920s 40% of emigrants were from Vasa. Emigration was greatest from the Swedish-speaking areas of Ostrobothnia. The majority were young, unmarried men in the 16-25 year age group.

The author cites economic conditions as the most important factor. S. Ostrobothnia had a surplus population; crop failures, years of famine; new farming practices; the division of farms meant that land owners of small farms couldn't earn a living. According to inheritance practices the oldest son got the farm and paid his siblings a cash compensation, and they had to find work elsewhere so they emigrated.

Tar burning and shipbuilding were affected when the world switched from wooden sailing ships to steamships in the 1850s. Emigrating became "fashionable" in the 1870s. "America Fever" was caught first by Ostrobothnians. Another reason for emigration was the resentment to conscription edicts from the Russian Czar 1899-1917. Many men avoided conscription by emigrating. Some young men were motivated by adventure and there was a saying: "Should I buy a bicycle or go to America?".


02-12-03, 16:55

Professor Heikki Ylikangas mentions the same reasons as June in his two books about the "Puukkojunkkari"-period in southern Ostrobotnia during the 19th century.

The younger sons of a farmer often became crofters under their eldest brother. In the same time the forests suited for tar production became scarce. That lead to a vicous circle. Many men used to wealthy conditions on a big farm or as tar producers became poor. And the amount of crofters increased.

This lead to social unrest and the goings on were much like in the Wild West. Instead of guns they fought with knives.

Eventually there was a big famine in the early 1860ies and that triggered off the emigration.

By the way Anders Henriksson Palm was my mothers grandfather's (Karl Edvard Alfred Backlund b 1857, d 1936) great great grandfather.


June Pelo
02-12-03, 20:17
Anders Henriksson Palm's great great great grandson Anders Arvid Andersson Palm, 1858-1927, married my father's mother's sister in Ludington, Michigan. My father worked in his uncle Anders Palm's furniture store when he was a young man.