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Emigrant Nabb-Kalle on a Visit to Terjärv


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Picture courtesy GSF
Finland has traditionally been a country from which people emigrated. Over a million Finlanders moved to other countries over the past 100 years. Without emigration, Finland would have 6-7 million residents. The most significant emigration began in the 1860s and continued into the 1930s, wrote Ole Granholm of Österbottningen newspaper when he interviewed Karl Byström of Terjärv.

Most of them moved to North America. Emigration statistics show about 1500 were from Terjärv. The next wave happened through emigration to Sweden in the 1950s and that continued to the 1970s. One of those who emigrated was Karl Byström from Nabba in Terjärv. He emigrated to Sweden with Manne Sandvik.

It was the fall of 1951 and Henning Björkbacka was at ASEA in Västerås. Karl contacted him about a job, but nothing turned up, therefore he went to Hofors. He worked at a foundry there, and visited his home in Terjärv yearly. But after five years, the allurement of America overcame him.

The first of August 1956 found him in America. The journey went from Göteborg on the Swedish American line and put in port in New York. In New Jersey he was taken in by his father’s sister Betty. The 26-year old did not want to work in a foundry. He was fascinated by the construction industry and got a job with Georg Nylund from Nykarleby. Nylund operated a construction firm and built houses in the area together with his son. Karl worked there a couple of years. Gunnar Backlund from Närpes, who was married to his mother’s sister, worked as a trade union agent and Karl joined the trade union organization. Job security increased which also meant that his compensation increased.

Married to a German

Karl began a family in 1964 when he married Grace, whose ancestor emigrated to America from northern Germany and Poland. Both came to America in 1912. About 5.9 million Germans emigrated to the US during 1821-1929. Nearly 40 million people emigrated from Europe through 1923. Therefore German birth was not unusual.

Karl’s father’s father Emil Byström also went to America and Karl’s father Uno was born there. Uno was born in West Superior in 1897, among several others. The Finland-Swedish emigrant historian Anders Myhrman from Purmo, who emigrated in 1910, estimated the number of Finlands Swedes to be approximately a fifth of the total number of emigrants from Finland. Therefore, about 73,000 of Finlands Swedes have emigrated to America during the period 1870-1929.

Finlands Swedes live on the east coast in the area between Boston and Philadelphia, also in the Great Lakes area in Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, and in the mountainous states between Arizona and British Columbia in Canada, as well as in California.

Usually people from the large areas of emigration in Finland sought the same type of area in the US. The Finlands Swedish Österbottningar often lived in Worcester, Karleby residents in Coos Bay, Oregon, Terjärv and Närpes residents lived in New York. The emigrant lists in Terjärv show the concentration in certain areas, wrote Ole Granholm in Österbottningen.

Karl and his wife Grace, who is a retired teacher, live in Hightstown, a little city in New Jersey. Daughter Maja is a university teacher and lives in Philadelphia, while son Karl-Erik Byström is employed by Bill Gates’ Microsoft in Seattle.

Karl said he has visited Terjärv about 10 times. He said: “I have tried to visit every 5 years, but more often in later years. Next year I’ll come again if all goes well.” He and his wife will also visit Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia as well as Finland. His wife returned to take care of the orchard but Karl will stay several more weeks to help his sisters Anita and Lisa at their house at Nabba. Karl also wandered around Nabba and admired Heimsjön which is nearby.

Norden Newspaper, 6 September 2001

Translated by June Pelo

Note: Anders Myhrman’s widow Mildred died in Tucson, AZ 18 June 2001.She had been living there since moving from their home in Lewiston, Maine after her husband Anders died. Their son Mats also lives in Tucson.

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