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Rochester Scandinavians


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Dick Erickson

Located about 25 miles south of Olympia, Washington, Rochester is one of the many locations throughout North America populated by Swedish Finns and other Scandinavians during the peak emigration period of 1870 to 1930.

In the case of Rochester, also included were the smaller communities of Bordeaux, Gate City, Grand Mound, Helsing Junction, and Independence. Records indicate that the first Swedish Finns settled in the Rochester area around 1893- 94, however, many of them had worked or lived elsewhere in the United States before moving to Rochester.

A research project was initiated in 2002 to begin identifying the names, ethnic background, and village of origin for the Scandinavian individuals and families that settled in Rochester during the 1870-1930 timeframe. Approximately 530 Scandinavian immigrants have been identified through church, census, cemetery, and family records. Included in this research was the creation of individual family data sheets (which will be updated as new information becomes available), a history of Rochester and the surrounding communities with pictures, as well as a list of key reference materials for the area.

The ethnic background of the 530 identified Rochester Scandinavians is:

Swedish Finns    56%
Finnish          31%
Swedish          10%
Norwegian         2%
Danish            1%

Several of the original families still live in the area, although many moved on to other locations after living in Rochester for only a short period.

It has been possible to identify the Finnish places of origin of 60% of the Swedish Finn immigrants. To date, the list includes these villages followed by the number of immigrants known to have come from each location (see table).

Finnish Villages of Origin for Swedish Finns Who Settled in Rochester, Washington

Terjärvi           52
Övermark           22
Esse/Ytteresse     12
Larsmo             12
Jakobstad          10
Munsala            10
Solf                6
Gamlakarleby        5
Kronoby             4
Närpes              4
Purmo               4
Evijärvi            3
Nykarleby           3
Petalax             3
Pörtom              2
Vasa                2
Jeppo               2
Kaustby             2

The database will continually be updated and as we acquire more information, the records will more accurately reflect the population of Rochester's early years. Relative to the entire population of 530 Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the Rochester area, the level of information currently available is categorized as:

Limited           19%
Some              59%
Moderate           6%
Extensive         16%

The Rochester database has been saved in a user-friendly format on CD and is available through the SFHS office archives.

If you have any additional information or pictures that you would like to contribute to the Rochester Scandinavian database, please contact Dick Erickson by E-mail at or by phone at xxxxxxxxx

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