Emigration from Finland to USA and Canada was on one hand due to attraction to wealth and possibilities USA and Canada had to offer, and on the other hand it was due to poverty in Finland at the time. Most of the emigrants were country-dwellers, and belonged to the poorer classes of the agricultural population, and the majority of them were young men.
Some Finns have emigrated to America as early as 17th century with emigrating Swedes and in the beginning of the 19th century with Russians, but by far the biggest wave of emigaration was at the end of 19th century and in the beginning of 20th century. The travel routes have mainly been through England or Central Europe.
The main wave of emigration happened during and after the American Civil War (1861-1865). The main driver for the emigration was the need for labour in Michigan's copper mines, Minnesota's iron mines and especially the need for timber and timber transport in Great Lakes. Also in Canada the building of Canadian Pacific Railway and mining industry needed labour.
In Finland the first regions affected by the emigration were at the western coast of Finland. More than 10 000 Finns working in the mines of Norther Sweden and Ostro-Botnia left between 1864 and 1873. After the first wave also regions regions of Turku-Pori and Vaasa, also in the west coast, were affected. In 1893 the number of Finns in America was estimated at 100 000. This is considerable amount as the total population was approximately 2,4 million at the time.
At the turn of 19th and 20th centuries the Russification policy affected also the emigration. This policy affected until the General Strike in 1905. At 1902 over 23 000 emigrants left the country. After the Russian oppression lessened the amount of homecoming emigrant also increased. According to official statistics during 1893-1913 270 000 Finns emigrated from Finland.
After Finland became independent in 1917 emigration continued in steady pace, average being 4-5000 per year, but when USA began to restrict immigration the wave turned to Canada. In total at the end of the 1930's it was estimated that approximately 450 000 lived in USA and 50 000 in Canada.