Four women on steps of Finnish immigrant home.
Credit: Victor Kangas, PA-127086

Genealogy and family history

It is very difficult to determine the exact date of arrival of the first Finnish settler to Canada. However, Finns began settling in large numbers in the 1880s. During this period, many Finns who had arrived in the United States in the 1860s crossed the border into Canada. By 1890, many communities of Finnish Canadians had formed. The largest of those communities were Nanaimo, British Columbia; New Finland, Saskatchewan; Port Arthur, Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario. Many of these early settlers were pious individuals and thus churches of varying denominations served as important institutions of social and cultural gathering.

The first large wave of Finnish immigration to Canada occurred in the early twentieth century leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. Approximately one-third of all Finnish immigrants to Canada arrived between 1900 and 1914. As a result of this immigration, the first secular Finnish cultural society was created in 1902 under the name of Finnish Society of Toronto.

A civil war broke out in Finland during the First World War and one of the warring factions used support from the Germans to defeat the other. As a result of this, the Government of Canada declared Finland as an enemy country and all Finnish Canadians as "enemy aliens". All Finnish organizations and newspapers were suspended for the remainder of the War. It was not until after the end of the War that Finnish immigration to Canada increased. As a result of quotas placed on Finnish immigration to the United States during this period, many more Finns opted to settle in Canada. This period of immigration also increased the number of Swedish-speaking Finns. These Swedish-speaking migrants settled predominantly on the West Coast.

The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a lot of Finnish emigration from Canada. Many recent immigrants chose to leave for the United States or Finland rather than living in poverty in Canada. Furthermore, over 2000 Finnish Canadians moved to the Soviet Karelia between 1930 and 1935. Many young Finnish Canadians fought and died in the Spanish Civil War.

During the Second World War, Finland was once again declared an enemy country because of its participation with Germany in the attack on the Soviet Union. This, however, was lifted after the end of the War. The last large wave of Finnish immigration to Canada occurred during the period after the Second World War from 1948 to 1961. Since then, immigration to Canada from Finland has declined significantly.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) Collection (MG 30 E406)

The Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) collection consists of documents created by the Imperial Russian Consular offices in Canada during the period from 1898 to 1922. The Passport/Identity Papers series consists of about 11,400 files on Russian immigrants from the Imperial Russian Empire who settled in Canada, including Jews, Ukrainians and Finns. The index and digitized images of the files of the Passport/Identity Papers series are available online.

Immigrants from the Russian Empire: 1898-1922

St. Michael's Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Montreal, Quebec, 1901-1975 (MG 8 G62)

St. Michael's was founded in 1927. Records include minutes, church registration records, membership records, estate records, and archival holdings.

St. John the Evangelist Church and St. Ansgarius Church, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 1872-1926, (MG 9 D7 37)

These records consist of parish registers for both churches and censuses of St. John Parish (1877 and 1903) and St. Ansgarius' congregation (ca. 1907). Microfilms M-2820 and M-2821.

Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Activities of Finnish Agitators in Northern Ontario, 1926-1946, RG 76 IA1, volume 219, file 95027, microfilm C-7369.
  • Scandinavian and Finnish Domestics Brought Forward by Railways, 1928-1929, RG 76 IA1, volume 435, file 654504, microfilm C-10315.
  • Admission to Canada of the corvette WALNUT with 261 refugees from Sweden, 1948-1949, RG 76 IA1, volume 688, microfilm C-10602.

Other series of records

Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Finnish Canadians. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.


Union List of Finnish Newspapers Published by Finns in the United States and Canada 1876-1985 compiled by William A. Hoglund, 1986.

Research at other institutions and online

Research in published sources

  • An Outline re Scandinavian Research, by Ken Dormier. (AMICUS 10536428)
  • Finding Your Scandinavian Ancestors, by Penelope Christensen. (AMICUS 29519034)
  • Migration from the Russian Empire: lists of passengers arriving at the port of New York, by Ira A. Glazier. (AMICUS 14707668)
  • The Finns in Canada, by Varpu Lindstrom-Best. (AMICUS 6121756)

Search for books on Finland and the Finnish in Library Search using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Finns
  • Finnish Canadians
  • Scandinavians
  • Scandinavian Canadians
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