Sulo’s Family and Ancestry

Before we begin I must explain about some of the Finn names within this site. Earlier entries used the Finn keyboard to enter names. This keyboard allowed us to enter the the accent marks above certain letters. As an example many of the words place a mark above the o and a (most common), these marks change the way you pronounce the Finnish word. However, when we updated the WordPress program the accented characters created all sorts of problems. Some are still being corrected. So, as a result, we stopped using the Finnish Keyboard. This will, probably only be a concern to those who speak Finn. However we apologize since we wanted to make this site as useful as possible to all. My son, Eran, has added a new feature to the website. It is possible now to read the website in English and Finnish, just by clicking the appropriate flag icon. This may be the answer to the accent mark problem. We will see, Now to continue . . .

. . .Through the official archives personnel of Vaasan Province (Vaasan Maakunta-Arkisto) Finland, vital records dating back to the seventeen hundreds were retrieved for ancestors from both sides of my father, Sulo’s, family.  Both Sulo’s parents were born in Finland. It was determined that the families were not acquainted with one another in Finland.  Both families lived within the same general area in the Province of Vaasa, which is situated in western Finland beside the Gulf of Bothnia. The Gulf of Bothnia is the body of water that separates Finland and Sweden. The Kivisto’s, Grandmother Hakanen’s family, lived in and around Seinijoki, a city near the center of the province. The Hakanens lived in and near Jalasjarrvi; a village located about 30 miles south of Seinijoki. That general area of Vaasa is known as Southern Ostrobothinia.

There is a well accepted theory that those born in Jalasjarvi are almost certainly descendents of one man, Heikki Olavinpoika of Koskue. Heikki and his family who were the pioneer settlers of that area of Finland in the 1620’s. He was assigned to the area by the King of Sweden.. With help from an email friend from Sweden, I was able to find the Hakanen link to Heikki. It was through grandfather (John) Hakanen’s grandmother, Maija Kannosto. She was the link, ten generations removed from Heikki. So as far as the Hakanen family is concerned, the theory is true and my generation is fourteen generations removed.  The following map gives a visual example of the locations from which the Hakanens and Kivistos came:

This is a map showing the location of South Ostrobothnia the area where both my Grandparents grew-up. Seinijoki and Jalasjarvi are located in this Provence.

Dad’s Mother and Father. . .

. . Sulo’s Father, Juho (John) Jaakko Hakanen, was born July 30, 1882. He was the fifth of eleven children born to Mikko and Anna (Kurkiso) Hakanen in Jalasjarvi Finland. He had seven brothers and three sisters. Two of the boys, Elis and Eino, died in infancy, Elis in 1893 and Eino in 1894. One of Grandfather’s sisters, Lempi Susanna, died in 1896. She was two years-of-age; Grandfather was fourteen at the time. Grandfather John and the rest of his siblings (four brothers and two sisters) all emigrated to America.

My grandfather’s older sister, Edla Maria, was the first to emigrate in 1895 at the age of twenty and sister Hilma was the second in 1897, she was seventeen. Edla later married John Lahti in America, we have little information about Hilma or Edla and their husbands. The only information I ever had about the two sisters came from Aunt Edith, my father’s sister. . I do remember Aunt Hilma when she came to live with the Hakanen’s. She was fighting cancer and had a hard time breathing. I remember she bought ‘medicinal cigarettes’. They had a cardboard tube tip with a chunk of something in the tube. She would puff the cigarette, hold her nose and mouth and swallow the smoke. She would then proceed to cough and chock like crazy. She wasn’t a smoker. I remember we boys sneaking a few of the cigarettes and ‘trying’ them. They were like a menthol brand cigarette with a little more ‘medicinal’ taste. I was there when Grandma found Hilma dead in bed. I was 14. Uncle Elmer held a mirror under her nose to determine if she was breathing. I was most impressed. Twenty-nine years later I remembered to do that when Mom discovered my step-dad,Bud, dead in a chair. She called me and I went to their house and used a mirror to determine that he was indeed dead.

Aunt Edith related that Hilma married a man from Connecticut later in life. They lived on a farm but he was a wife beater and spent all her savings.  The documents I found, regarding the two sisters, were 1920 and 1930 census reports.  The 1920 report shows Helma living in New york city, district 6, ward 10.  She was one of two servants living with an Oppenheimer family. The 1930 report shows the two sisters living together. They were in Manhattan Borough, district 12. Edla (Hakanen) Lahti is the head of the household. I interpret this to mean that,  she was widowed, divorced or separated by 1930. The other person living there was a boarder, Alexander Rose. This is about all I can find about the sisters. One other item, several of the ship manifests show that several of the brother’s boat fare was paid by their sister. Elmer, specifies Hilma helped him, but the others, we can not be sure which sister they referred to. An early manifest (1899), which I believe is Mike Hakanen’s first trip to America, shows Mikki Hakanen’s destination as New York and indicates that his sister paid for his fare.

According to the records, Isaac, the third sibling of my Grandfather to come to America, was twenty-three when he departed Finland May 5, 1900. According to information from Finland’s Institute of Migration, Isaac was a former farmhand and was unfit for military service ( the Russians were attempting to draft Finns into the Russian army at this time). He sailed from Finland on the ship Urania, destination being New York City. There were no records of the port or ship encountered in England as part of his trip. He lived only a short time in Pennsylvania before moving on to Minnesota. I did find a 1900 census document from Missabe Mountain, Saint Louis, Minnesota. It shows Isaac as one of ten boarders living with a Johnson family. According to that record Isaac was 20 and the document indicates his year of immigration was 1895.  I have not been able to resolve the differences between the two records.  Aunt Edith said uncle Arvid joined Issac in Minnesota and worked for a time as a lumberjack. Isaac died December 26,1908. We have not been able to find much about Isaac. Uncle Ernie also related the story of Arvid going to Minnesota. He might have gone with or visited his brother Isaac. Ernie said, he worked on a crew fighting a forest fire. He got stranded from the others and was trapped in the flames. He laid face-down in a potato field all night long and was able to escape to safety the next day. We don’t know how long he was in Minnesota but he owned a revolver and we heard Minnesota was somewhat the frontier when he was there. We kids would occasionally sneak into his bedroom at my Grandfather’s house and check-out the revolver. It was just like the ones real cowboys owned.

Grandpa John’s Ship from Finland to England . . .

One of the most long-lived passenger steamers at the Hang’-Copenhagen-Hull route was this ship, the ARCTURUS, typical of all ships used to bring Finnish emigrants on the first leg of their trip to America. She was in service for 57 years. She arrived from Antwerp on her last voyage on 22nd October 1956.

. . .Available records show that Grandpa departed Hanko September 13, 1902 on the ship Arcturus, pictured above. The Arcturus belonged to the Cunard Line. The name of the ship, port, and departure date from England was left blank in the document. his destination was listed as Clearfield, PA, USA.

Additional Information regarding his passport, acquired in 1900, indicates he may have made an earlier trip to America and then returned. The 1902 trip, then, would have been his second trip.

His passport application stated his religion as Lutheran and his occupation as a Cottager’s Son’, which means his father leased or owned their house in town which his father acquired not long before my grandfather was born. Thus his name, ‘Hakanen’, was adopted. Hakanen means ‘little house with a pasture’. It’s surmised Clearfield Pennsylvania was my grandfather’s destination because he was joining his brother Isaac there (or possibly brother Mike, too?). Records indicate Clearfield County was one of the places where Mike lived. his daughter Helen and son Arvo were born in Ansonville, Clearfield County. Helen was born March 28, 1904 and Arvo, July 16, 1905.

Brother Mike . . .

. . . It is not certain when Grandpa John’s older brother Mike came to America. He might have arrived shortly after Isaac or close to the time his brother John came. He possibly came with John. Either way, that might have been his second trip. I found a ship manifest for the S.S. New York dated July 1899. It shows Mikki Hakanen arriving in New York and New York as his destination. It also states that his fare was paid by his sister. It is believed Mike worked and sent money to bring his wife-to-be, Laimi Maria Lahteenmaki, to America. They were married in America July 7, 1903. Mike and Laimi returned to Finland with their three children in 1908 and came back to America shortly after. Records show Mike departed from Hanko November 25, 1908 on the ship Titania. He then sailed from England on the Lusitania, departing December fifth. He probably arrived in America around the thirteenth of December. Records also show Laimi and her three children, Eeli (Helen), Arvo and Urho (Roy), also sailed from Finland on the Titania from Finland February 3, 1909. They departed from Southampton England February 10 on the ship Teutonic. They arrived in America February seventeenth. Laimi was six months pregnant with her fourth child, Esther Marie (cousin ‘Billy’s mom).

Mike and John Hakanen were the only siblings to have children (that is an assumption when it comes to Edla) and the annual Hakanen reunion, held at the Nanty-Glo community park, consists of Mike and John’s descendants. Billy McMullen, Mike’s grandson and I share memories of our grandfathers and others in their families.

The 2012 Reunion . . . The 2012 Reunion was a very special one.  We had nine, newly discovered, cousins from Finland attend the event!  Five were cousins through Mike’s wife Laimi and four were related through grandma Hakanen.  Her maiden name was Kivisto and we discovered many cousins through  her older brother Juho and her younger sister  Lempi.  there is a picture and explanation about  how this came about in the ,”New Cousins Discovered” album.  To read Wes and others recollections and other personal thoughts click here.

The other Hakanen Siblings. . .

. . Elmer, age seventeen, was the seventh of the family to emigrate, ten years after Hilma had emigrated. The records show that Elmer departed from Hanko July 17, 1907 on the ship Polaris. He apparently sailed to Leith England and then went by rail to Glasgow Scotland. He then sailed from Glasgow on the ship Caledonia July 27, arriving in New York August 4, 1907. Information from the ship’s passenger list indicates Elmer’s Sister, Hilma, purchased his ticket. The price of the ticket was 39 United States dollars. Elmer stayed in New York several years, evidently in close touch with his sisters Edla and Hilma. Aunt Edith told us that Elmer worked in New York for seven years before coming to Nanty-Glo sometime after she was born, April 10, 1915. I have a picture postcard Elmer sent to his brother Sam, who was then in Warren Ohio. The postcard which is in the Photo section of this site, was sent from Nanty-Glo and was dated August 4, 1916. Although we have not been able to translate the message on the postcard, the name Solomon Lahti seems to appear in the message and the picture on the postcard is of Elmer and another unidentified man. We believe the man is Solomon Lahti, perhaps a brother to John Lahti, the man Edla married. The conjecture is that the picture postcard was taken when Elmer came to Nanty-Glo. On a trip to Nanty-Glo from New York,, he was accompanied by Solomon Lahti. They both may have been looking for work opportunities. There is no further information about Solomon, but Elmer spent the rest of his life living in Grandfather Hakanen’s home in Nanty-Glo. Sulos brother Ernie said that all Grandpa’s brothers and sisters, at one time, lived in his household.  Brother Sam was the last of the Hakanen children to come to America. He came in 1911, at the age of twenty-three. Like Elmer, his destination was to sister Hilma’s in New York City, he paid his own fare, however. He left Hanko on January 18, on the ship Titania. He then sailed from Southampton on the ship St. Paul, January 25 and arrived in America on February 3. The 1916 postcard to Sam mentioned above was addressed to him at 507 Union Street, Warren Ohio. He was probably working in Warren at that time. I was only seven when Sam died in 1939, so I have only vague recollections of Sam. He was living with John and Mary Hakanen at that time. He was ailing with a respiratory illness. Sulos sister Edith said in order to qualify for health benefits he had to live someplace other than her parents’ house. So they built a small room attached to the garage for him to stay. I remember the room. Edith said that Grandfather felt terrible about Sam staying in the shanty-like room but it was necessary for him to get proper health care benefits. An Ancestors Report which shows the ancestry of John Hakanen was developed. The information would be the same for his siblings.

Many Kivisto’s came too. . .

Sulo’s mother was Maria (Mary) Sofia Kivistö born July 20, 1889 in Seinäjoki, Finland. She was the fraternal twin of brother Frans Iisakki. She had five other brothers and six sisters. Her twin and two other siblings, a brother and a sister, died as infants. Grandmother Mary was one of five Kivistö children who came to America. Her brother, Matti Evald, was first to emigrate in 1902 at age eighteen. Matti stayed only a short time in Pennsylvania and moved on to Minnesota where he married Elviira Loya.  Matti and Elvira raised a family of seven children, six boys and one girl.  Matti died in 1955.  Our recent discovery of Grandma’s cousins in Sanajoki has provided us with more information on Matti and other siblings who did not stay in Nanty-Glo.  The next sibling to leave was grandma’s twenty-seven year old brother Solomon Jaakko (Jakob) in 1903. He joined Matti in Ansonville, Clearfield County Pennsylvania. Mary’s sister Anna Justiina came to America at age twenty-two in 1905. I originally thought that she came to Hibbing Minnesota to join her fiancé,  Willie Elo whom she married soon after arriving in America. Mister Elo emigrated from Finland in 1902. I discovered from Leena, a cousin who lives in Finland that Mr Elo’s wife died giving birth on the trip to America.  Evidently he arrived in America as a single father.  My new assumption is that Anna met Willie in America and married him shortly after her arrival in America.   Anna departed Finland July 29, 1905 on the ship Astraea. She departed England August 5, on the ship Etruria. It is not certain which English port she sailed from. Grandma came to America in 1906 with Jakob’s wife Sofia and Sofia’s two children, 5-year-old Kaarlo and 3-year-old Everetti who became ill on the trip and died only a month and a half after their arrival. Everetti died in Vintondale.  The death certificate indicated the cause of death as, “Morasumes, Caused by trip from Old Country”.   Morasumes is malnutrition

Mary was seventeen; her sister-in-law was in her early thirties when they made the journey. They sailed from Finland on the ship Astraea in August, 1906. They then departed Liverpool, England on the ship Lucania on August 25. They arrived in New York about a week later. They joined Jakob in Vintondale, PA, where grandma found work as a maid in a hotel. She met her future husband, John, in Vintondale. Grandma’s brother Karl came to America in 1910. He left Finland June 22, on the ship Titania and departed England from Port Southampton June 29. Four sisters and one brother remained in Finland. An older sister, Sanna Liisa, was twenty-eight when Mary left Finland. A brother, Juho was twenty-five. Three younger sisters Edla Matilda, 15; Lempi Amalia, 12; and Eliina Johanna, 7; also stayed in Finland.  Information about grandma Mary’s ancestors can be seen by pressing here.

We have recently (2011) made contact with family members of my grandmother’s brother Juho and her sister Lempi Amalia.

At one time I wondered if the families (Kivisto and Hakanen) were acquainted in some way prior to leaving Finland or if my grandparents met via the mail prior to my grandmother coming to America. my reasoning was that they married only five months after she arrived in America. I have since made contact with relatives in Finland and find that they did not meet prior to coming to America.  I believe all the immigrants were anxious to start a new life in America and made commitments and decisions much more quickly than we do today.    Sulo’s parents were married January 23, 1907. Grandfather had been in this country about four years. However, I have recently found that he came to  America  two years (1900) prior to returning permanently in 1902. Other than his passport information, I have not been able to find other information. The investigation goes on. For some of my personal thoughts regarding my grandparents and others, you can presshere.

. . Grandmother Hakanen’s brother Jakob’s destination when he first came to America in 1903 was Ansonville. He was joining his brother Matti. This information causes us to wonder whether the Hakanen and Kivisto men were acquainted in Finland or if they met in Clearfield.

It is not certain whether jobs in lumber or mining brought them there. Both were booming industries in that area around the turn of the century. It was mining that brought them later to Vintondale and Nanty-Glo.

The town of, Gazzam, Clearfield County was Arvids destination when he left Finland December 3, 1902. Gazzam is a Clearfield County town near Ansonville. He sailed to England on the ship Polaris and from England on the ship Iternland, on December 10. The English port was not indicated in the Institute of Migration records. As indicated elsewhere on this site, Gazzam is where Mike and Laimi (Lateenmaki) Hakanen were married.  From a self-published book on the history of Vintondale, I was able to determine that my grandfather and grandmother, with baby Veicho, left Vintondale around 1908 and Jacob Kivisto and his family left in 1909.  I believe they both moved to the locations I remember as the homesteads of both.  My grandparents in Finntown, Nanty-Glo and the Kivistos on the farm in Jackson Twp.


I found a self-published book by Denise Dusza Weber entitled, “Delano’s Domain A History of Warren Delano’s Mining Towns of Vintondale, Wehrum and Claghorn Volume I 1789-1930.”  The book is essentially a history of Vintondale.  This is where my grandparents and many of the Finns worked when they first came to America.  I always wondered when and why they left there and ended up in Nanty-Glo.  The book does a great job answering my questions. I’ve copied a couple paragraphs here:

The earliest ethnic  minority to arrive in Vintondale in any appreciable numbers were the emigres of the Grand Duchy of Finland, part of Russia’s tsarist Empire. Some of the Finns who emigrated were from the west coast of Finland where they spoke Swedish.  In all, about 250,000 Finns migrated to the United States between 1860 and 1930.  About 2,500 Finns settled in Pennsylvania.  An estimate of those living in Vintondale is unknown, but the majority lived on Sixth Street, which until 1917 only had houses on the east side of the street.

Lutheranism was the state church of Finland, and the Vintondale Finns had a meeting house behind the Village Inn.  It is not known if this building served a a bona-fied Lutheran church.  According to the clerk’s 1907 minute book, the Baptist Church gave the Finns permission to use their church for services.

Since drinking was a major problem among miners, many Finns joined temperance societies.  Their societies and meeting halls were center of Finnish culture.  Dances, concerts and plays were held there.  Vintondale had its own chapter of the temperance society, Urhojen Lutlo (League of the Brave).

Many Finns became involved in the Socialist movement which was growing at the turn of the century.  The socialists stressed government ownership of the major industries.  Many supported socialism as a means of bettering the conditions in the mines.  Pennsylvania eventually had ten chapters of the Finnish Socialist Federation.  Nearby Nanty-Glo was a hotbed of socialist activity well into the late 1920’s.

Based on evidence from the birth certificates for 1906 to 1921, the majority of the Finns appear to have moved from Vintondale in 1909.  There were only two birth certificates registered in Vintondale after 1909 that list the parents’ birthplace as Finland.  The most probable reason for the departure was labor problems. Many Finns were pro-union, and there was a long strike in 1909.  Families in company houses were evicted. Many of these ex-Vintondale employees settled in the unionized mines of Nanty-Glo.  A section of western Nanty-Glo is called Finntown, and a Finlanders’ cemetery is still maintained there today.

This is the part of Nanty-Glo I grew up in.  Near my grandparents and the other Finns who migrated to Nanty-Glo around this time.  Jackson twp. is adjacent to Finntown and many Finns lived there in homes and on farms.  I found another book that said the Finns were “cool” to the unions.  But the way I remember it wasn’t the idea of pro, or con-union,  The Finns were interested in fairness!

Dad’s family. . .

. . John and Mary subsequently had seven children: The oldest was Veikko (Waco) born January 11, 1908 in Vintondale PA; my father, Sulo was the second son born November 17, 1909. He was born in Nanty-Glo just down the street from the house where the Hakanens finally settled and where they lived the rest of their lives. Their third son, Arvid died at the age of 9 months in 1912, the exact date is uncertain. John and Mary’s first daughter, Edith was born April 10, 1915 in Nanty-Glo. Their next child was a premature stillborn male child we think they named William, there is no record of the exact date of his birth. Williams birth may not have been registered. Some say that grandfather Hakanen carried him to the Finn cemetery and buried him in the same grave as their infant son Arvid. The cemetery is just a short distance from the Hakanen’s house. Ernest, their youngest son, was born September 26, 1920 in Nanty-Glo; and Helen, their youngest child, was born February 23, 1925 in Nanty-Glo.

The trip from Finland. . .

. . Research regarding the emigration experience revealed the following information:

Most all the Finns sailed from the port city of Hanko (Hango to the Finns), which is located on the southern tip of Finland. Hanko is about 200 miles from the Seinijoki and Jalasjarvi area of Vaasa. Traveling by train, it would take twenty or more hours to reach Hanko. The trains did not travel at night, so they probably spent the first evening of the trip at an emigrant hotel in Hyvink, near the halfway point of the train trip. Emigrant hotels were located at key points along popular routes to Hanko. There were hotels located at most of the popular ports, in Finland and other countries.  Those who emigrated before 1903 usually sailed on a Saturday. After 1903 the departure day was Wednesday, because the Finns exported butter to England and a Wednesday departure assured the butter would be in England Monday morning. During the peak years of emigration (1906 and 1907) they added other days of departure.  The following photograph shows one of the emigrant hostiles.  The large crowd of emigrants outside the building give a visual of why the hotels were constructed:

Emigrant Hotel at Hanko. Emigrant hotels were distributed at key points on popular routes and at the ports on the immigration routes, in Finland and other Countries.

The most popular route was from Hanko to Hull England, with a stop over in Copenhagen, Denmark. From Hull they went by rail to Liverpool, from there they sailed to any number of ports in America. Although the ship line tickets included land transportation to a large city nearest to the destination, ships and ports were sometimes changed, depending on space and number of travelers. For the trip from Hanko to England they often crowded 700 passengers on ships with cabin space for less than 200. Alternate routes from Copenhagen were: to one of three ports in Germany and then to New York; or to Leith England, then by rail to Glasgow Scotland and on to a port in America. The closer the port was to the final destination, the greater was the profit to the ship line. The journey from Hanko to New York would, under good circumstances, take about three weeks.

The travelers usually arrived in Hanko the day before their scheduled departure to take care of necessary paper work. As part of the process they had to deposit $50 in the bank as landing credit’. The landing credit amount would be returned to them once they reached their destination. This was to assure they had sufficient money to take care of themselves if they could not find immediate employment. We have not yet been able to trace all the family members routes to America but keep working at it from time to time.

Cousins Discovered

As explained in the photo album section, two cousins born in Finland. and now living in England and Finland contacted us recently and made a connection with our past in Finland. Their names are Arja and  Pirkko and their grandmother was a sister of Laimi, Mikes wife. Pirkko now lives in England and visits Finland annually. She and her husband are considering buying a summer home there.

Cousin, Arja lives in Turko, Finland. She and her husband have a summer cottage in Jalasjarvi, near the old homestead. She lived as a young girl in Germany. Because of the circumstances before and during WWII, her parents sent her to Jalasjarvi and she was raised by her Grandparents. Pirkko and Arja have provide a ‘window’ into the Finnish world that has been invaluable. Their pictures are in a sub-album of the Hakanen album in the Photo section of this site. Until this contact all we had about the family was a letter to cousin Janet’s Mother from a ‘Sulo’ in Finland.  We had no idea who Sulo was (my Dad’s name was Sulo).  The contact has clarified that.  Pirkko explained it this way: ” Sulo Niemisto’s who wrote to Mike and Laimi’s youngest daughter, Anne. Was Hedvig Sofia’s son. Hedvig Sofia was Laimi’s younger sister (by 15 years), and there was another even younger sister Lilja Susanna who was born in 1899. Totally there were 9 children. Aini-Liisa was the eldest and Laimi was the second eldest. Uncle John (Aimo Juho) and Uncle William (Viljo Mikael) were Laimi’s brothers. Pirrko’s dad Aarne never met his cousins, as he was born in 1918.

Questions regarding Grandpa Hakanen. . .

Our newly discovered cousins are helping us clarify many unclear areas regarding our ancestors. Especially those concerning Grandpa Hakanen. It was generally believed that grandfather John and his brother Arvid came at separate times in 1902. John was twenty and Arvid seventeen. Records of their trips from Hanko to England were found on the Institute of Migration Internet site. However I have recently received a document from the Hakanen Parish in Finland that confused things. The document states:

Juho Jacob born 31.01.1882. Jalasjarvi, requested birth certificate for America 02.10.1900, returned from America year, requested new birth certificate 22.08.1902 for America. Registered having died. Date of death 01.07.1974

Information in this document seems to imply that Grandpa Hakanen came to America in 1900 and returned shortly after. Our cousins are helping us answer some of these questions through their access to documents in Finland and their knowledge of Finnish history.

At the 2010 reunion, we shared what we knew about the various immigrant ventures. No one seemed aware of the possible repeat trips of Grandpa John and Uncle Mike.

My parents. . .

. . My father Sulo was the second son born to John and Mary (Kivisto’) Hakanen. His birth date was November 17, 1909. He was born in the section of Nanty-Glo known as Finntown. He was born near the house that became the Hakanen homestead, now the home of My aunt Helen.

My mother’s maiden name was Fleming Rodella Whitsell, born July 14, 1913 in Twin Rocks, Pennsylvania. She was fourth of six daughters born to Joseph Pearl and Sarah Sophia (Snedden) Whitsell.

Fleming and Sulo were married October 3, 1931, in Cumberland, Maryland. Fleming was 18 and Sulo was 22.

Two sons are born. . .

. . I was born at home, as was the custom at that time, on Friday June 17, 1932. The house was on Roberts Street next to the Finnish Graveyard, just two houses from where the family later moved and lived until leaving Nanty-Glo in 1945.

The interesting circumstance during that week was that six mothers in different parts of the town were expecting their babies about the same time and there was only one doctor to deliver the babies. It turned out that one woman had her baby boy on Wednesday, June 15. Another had a girl on the 16th. My mother and two others gave birth just hours apart on Friday the 17th and the remaining woman had a boy on Sunday the 19th. One of the babies born on the 17th was a cousin, Genevieve Whitsell. Her father was grandpa Whitsell’s younger brother James. Genevieve was born at My Mom’s older sister, Mildred’s home in Nanty-Glo. Genevieve’s parents lived in the country on what was known as Rager Mountain and temporarily came to Aunt Mildred’s to be closer to the doctor. The other boy born on the 17th was Wilber Bo’ Swanhart who became a cousin many years later when his father and my aunt, Blanch married. Bo, Mimi and I became friends in college during the 1950’s. Small town happenings in a small world!

My brother Dennis Keith, was born September 12, 1942. There were many advances over the ten years between our births, so Dennie was born in the hospital in Spangler PA.

Tragic change. . .

. . Mom and Dad were married 13 years when my father was killed in a mine accident, March 27, 1944. Dennie was only 18 months old.

The accident, as it was told to me, was somewhat of a freak occurrence. It seems my dad and two or three others were standing together checking the roof at the corner of one of the columns left for support. My dad was the boss of the crew or a safety boss called to check noises heard around the spot they were examining. As they talked the roof collapsed, crushing my father and not touching any of the others. Uncle Ernie told me that Mike Hakanen was part of that crew and was one of the men standing there. Mike said my dad spoke just a couple words before he died. If he was directing his words to Mike they would have been in Finn. I’ll have to investigate it, see if anyone knows.

Other than worshiping the ground he stood on, I can’t remember a lot about my dad. We never did get to bond when I became ‘of age’. I remember he was preparing me for that day. He took me hunting and fishing a few times, I was not yet of the age to ‘really’ hunt. I just tagged along. I suppose he was ‘prepping’ me for when he and I could share what he did with his youngest brother a few years before.

At the 2010 reunion I got a chance to talk to Uncle Ernie and he related some things to me ( I hope to have more discussions with him soon). He has found memories of my Dad. My Dad was only eleven when Uncle Ernie was born. So they grew-up together. Ernie was in the service in New Guinea when my dad was killed. Ernie said my dad wrote to him regularly when he was in the service. Dad would take him hunting and they would walk miles and miles in the woods. Ernie remembers one time they ended up at Domens Dam, probably 20 miles from home.

During our 2010 reunion discussions, Ernie said when he came out of the Army he asked my dad how he could get a job in the mines. My Dad, a boss at that time, went and talked to someone and came home and told Ernie, ” You’ve got a job”.

My Dad’s death had a traumatic effect on the family and dramatically changed the course of our lives. I was eleven at the time and tried hard not to accept the fact that my father’s death really occurred. Mom, faced with raising two young children alone, rushed into a second marriage barely 13 months after the tragic accident. On April 5, 1945 she married John (Bud) Bentley, ten years her senior and moved our family to Turtle Creek, PA. Bud had a problem with alcohol and most of the marriage was an unhappy union. One good thing that occurred from the marriage was the birth of our sister, Sandra Lee Bentley. Sandra was born June 3, 1950, Dennie was in 3rd grade and I was a junior in high school.

A different world. .

. . The move from Nanty-Glo to Turtle Creek was one of the most horrifying things I have ever experienced. Nanty-Glo is a small mining town in Cambria County PA. At that time coal was the major heating fuel and most all the men in town were actively employed. There were three large mines in and around the town plus several small ‘house coal’ mines. My family had just recently got rid of our outhouse, many families still used them.

We lived in a small close-knit part of town called ‘Finntown’. We kids roamed the hills and valleys unrestricted all day long. We had our own baseball team; Went swimming in water ponds created by abandon strip mines; picked berries of all sorts; occasionally helped with farm chores; Cheered our Dads and Uncles as they played ‘Industrial League’ baseball. Our part of town had its own team, called the Voimas. Voima is a Finish word meaning strength. It was like growing up in paradise for a young kid. Some of my thoughts and views about growing up in Nanty-Glo can be found in my Retrospective Page by clicking here.

Then we moved to Turtle Creek! As I mentioned, my mother faced with raising two children with no income hurried into marriage very soon after my father’s fatal mine accident. I reluctantly made the move to this strange town with a man I did not know and who couldn’t possibly replace my dad, who I adored!

We moved into and apartment over a music store on Braddock Avenue, a few blocks north of where East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek meet. It was a new experience for me since I had not been aware of apartment buildings and don’t know if there were any in Nanty-Glo. Turtle Creek is one of many industrial towns that run up and down the Turtle Creek valley. They begin at Pittsburgh and run north and east to Greens burg. First there is Homestead (Steel), Braddock (Steel), East Pittsburgh (Westinghouse), Turtle Creek (Westinghouse), Wilmerding (Westinghouse), Pitcairn ( Pennsylvania RR Yards), Tr afford (Westinghouse) and on through Jeanette (Glass), and Greens burg (Glass). The towns’ buildings ran up one side of the street and all the industrial plants and facilities ran up the other side. It was hard to tell when you left one town and entered another.

Across from our apartment, the three story Westinghouse factory sprawled about ten feet back of a rod iron fence built right up to the sidewalk. The Hugh stamping machines inside ran constantly three shifts a day. In the summer the open windows made the noise even louder. The Avenues that separated the town buildings from the plants were narrow cobblestone streets just wide enough for two street-cars to pass one another. One going north-east and the other going west-south. To park on the street, cars had to mount the curb and park partially on the sidewalk. A clanging streetcar passed by every ten minutes. The music store below our apartment had a loudspeaker over the door playing music during the hours they were open. Railroad train track, carrying freight up and down the valley, ran behind our apartment. The collection of noises seemed to be constant.

It is hard to explain how frightening the experience was. A ‘country’ boy from a small quiet town surrounded by farms with a ten o’clock curfew for kids. Over night, was living in a noisy, 24 hour a day hustle-bustle city suburb. Frightening is the best description I can come up with.

Leaving Turtle Creek behind. . .

. . Bud died January 5, 1975, he was seventy-two. After Bud’s death mom got a job with J.C. Penny working in their warehouse in near by Versailles twp. She learned to drive again, something she hadn’t done since her teen-age years. She bought a little Honda automobile to get to work and back. She lived in our house in Turtle Creek until she retired around 1975. She then sold the house and moved back to Nanty-Glo. She died September 9, 1989 , she was seventy-six. More about our family, our life int Turtle Creek and our Ancestry can be found in my Reflection page and other parts of this site.

The following list has some of our favorite genealogy sites on the World Wide Web. On-line research continues to become more productive, thanks to thousands of volunteers contributing their time and sharing genealogical information on the Web. We hope our information is helpful to someone researching their ancestors. Connecting with distant relatives would be another great experience resulting from this Web site.

  • Finnish Genealogy This site, administered by the Genealogical Society of Finland, is a must for third and fourth generation Finns. Many of its pages have an English option and there are continuous additions and updates being made by Finns on both sides of the ocean. Finland’s Institute of Migration can be accessed through this site for individual passport and ocean vessel passenger information.
  • Us GenWeb Project This project consists of groups of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. Organization is by county, and provides links to all the state websites. The project also sponsors important Special Projects at the national level and its home page provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.
  • PA GenWeb Project A part of the USGenWeb Project, the PAGenWeb Project has been online since early 1996. The goal of the Project is to have every county in Pennsylvania represented by an online website and hosted by researchers who either live in their county or who are familiar with their county’s resources. Since that time, the project has remained faithful to the goals and continues today to provide free resource and reference information to researchers of the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Ellis Island Site This is the site for the American Family Immigration History Center (AFIHC), located in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The AFIHC allows visitors to explore the extraordinary collection of immigrant arrival records stored in the Ellis Island Archives.
  • Latter-day Saints Site This is the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Genealogical Library System which consists of Family History Centers located where ever one of their churches are located. For a reasonable fee, research information will be sent to the nearest Family History Center for use by the requesting Genealogist. They have a wealth of information available.
  • Cyndislist This site is an excellent genealogical research entrance into the Internet. It is a ctagorized and cross-referenced index to practically all genealogical related resources on the Internet. As the site developers explain it: (Cindi’s list is). . .”A card catalog to the genealogical collection in the immense library that is the Internet”.
  • Rootsweb This is the oldest and largest free genealogy site available. It is financially supported by Ancestory.com and is a clearinghouse for all kinds of genealogical information. Rootsweb also publishes three (free) newsletters that provide a wealth of information and guidance for beginning and experienced researchers alike.

Finnish American Newspapers

  • New World Finn (A Quarterly Journal Exploring Finnish Culture) Published since 1999, New World Finn is a 28-page non-academic newsprint tabloid about Finns and Finnish emigrants.
  • Raivaaja (The Pioneer), a weekly, was founded in 1905. Articles are in both Finnish and English.
  • Finnish-American Reporter a monthly, is published by Finlandia University. Established in 1986, it features English-language articles and news reports of interest to Finns across North America, in Finland and around the world.
  • Amerikan Uutiset (American News) began publication in New York Mills, Minnesota as the Minnesotan Uutiset (Minnesota News) in 1935. The newspaper absorbed New Yorkin Uutiset when the latter went out of business in 1996. It moved to Lantana, Florida in 1980. Articles are mostly in Finnish.

When I Initiated this project, files were organized for each of our Parent’s families. I then began reading about the process of genealogical research. In addition, various places that might provide needed information were visited. Through the on-line computer service Prodigy, communication with a Finland interest group was established. In addition, information from various agencies and organizations that maintain demographic records were contacted. The year 1992 was early in the developmental stages of the Internet and my son, Evan, introduced Prodigy on-line services to him. Evan’s wife Teresa worked for Prodigy and enrolled Wes as a part of their family (free). Over the years the Hakanen’s left Prodigy and accessed other services as they became available, trying to stay current with the times. The World Wide Web and the Internet have become invaluable tools to this research. Advancements in technology and the over-whelming interest in genealogy have provided a continuous stream of available information on-line.

Through the Prodigy connection it was learned that the Lutheran Church, the official church of Finland, is responsible for maintaining Finland’s vital records. The various Finnish Parishes provided valuable research assistance over the first few years of the project.

Other places visited during those early years were: the libraries at the Church of Latter Day Saints; the various historical societies, and numerous County Libraries. The State Library in Harrisburg, the Hillman Library in Pittsburgh, graveyards and courthouses in several counties and many other places where information could possibly be found were also visited. Once the genealogy bug bites you, research possibilities surface wherever you go. As previously mentioned, the Internet has grown to be an invaluable research tool and interest in genealogy has exploded over the years. E-mail contacts continue to expand and new information continues to be discovered and added. We have organized the information within the following pages.

It all starts. . .

. . . Mimi and I met while attending Indiana State College in Indiana Pennsylvania. We were Art Education Majors. Mimi, whose proper maiden name was, Marian Cathryn Roberts is a graduate of Leechburg (PA) High School class of 1955. My proper name is Wesley Edwin Hakanen and I graduated from Turtle Creek (PA) High School in 1951. I served three years in the U.S. Army before entering college.  We both entered Indiana State College in the Fall of 1955. We married in 1959, at the start of our senior year. After graduation we acquired teaching positions in the Punxsutawney Public Schools.

Beginning a family. . .

. . We spent the next three years in Punxsutawney (PA) where our first son, Chriss, was born in 1961. I then took a teaching job with the Gateway Public School System in Monroeville (PA), in the Fall of 1962. We then moved to Penn Hills (PA), a suburb of Pittsburgh, adjacent to the Borough of Monroeville. In 1965 I took an administrative position with Penn State University’s Continuing Education Services. That job took us to Uniontown (PA).

The family grows. . .

. . Our second son, Evan, was born in 1966, shortly after we moved to Uniontown. Our third son, Eran, was also born in Uniontown, in 1969. Shortly after Eran was born, a transfer moved us back to Penn Hills.

Settling in. . .

. . We purchased a house in Level Green (PA) in 1972 and spent the next fifteen years there. Our three son’s graduated from Penn-Trafford High School. Chriss and Evan went on to Penn State University from which they both graduated. I then took a job with Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and moved to Edinboro (PA). Our youngest son Eran attended and graduated from Edinboro University.

Expanding the family . . .

. . In 1988 our middle son Evan married his high school sweetheart, Teresa Maleski. The marriage lasted only five years. They were divorced in 1993. Then in 1995 our oldest son married Dolly Hsu, a divorcee with a beautiful seven year-old daughter, Freda. They blessed us with three grandsons, Chriss Wesley II, born in 1996, Billy, born in 1997 and Denny, born in 2001. Then in June 2001 our youngest son, Eran, married Peiyu Lan and the couple has blessed us with another a grandson, Wesley Tai, in 2003 and a granddaughter, Marcella Rae in 2005. Dolly and Peiyu were born and raised in Taiwan, a fact that adds another challenging dimension to our research.

The story continues . . .

. . As mentioned, this is a “work-in-progress” and things change. In 2003 we learned that Chriss and Dolly were going through difficult times in their relationship. They separated and then divorced in 2008. Time marches on! We continue to enjoy our role as grandparents and help Dolly as much as we can. We still hold onto the hope that all our kids and grandkids will someday value the information we have gathered. You can see what we have gathered so far by going to our ‘Genealogy’ and ‘Photo’ pages. In addition to reading some of Wes’s thoughts about his past and present memories and impressions regarding just about everything you can click here.

To our Web Site. . .

Through the process of making new friends, family and acquaintances from researching genealogy over many years, my Father learned of the Finnish word Sisu. If you don’t know this word, it is very familiar to the Finns and is often used to describe Finland as a whole. Sisu can loosely be translated as going beyond one’s mental or physical capacity, to have guts, grit, stoic determination. My Father continually displayed his Sisu regardless of the challenge, whether it was getting his PhD to prove “anyone could do it” or not giving in to the statistics of cancer. He approached all aspects of life with action and not just words, not resting on his laurels and never boasting of his accomplishments. My Father had Sisu, he was a true Finn.
Dad
1932-2015

. . My name is Wes Hakanen and my wife Mimi and I have developed this site with the guidance and patience of our son Eran and his wife Peiyu. The purpose of the site is to share information about our families with an emphasis on their genealogical roots.

The site you are reading is a change from the original. The first effort was done using website developer software. This new format is following a Blog style. Our son Eran recommended we make the switch to simplify the entry process and to make it more ‘user friendly’. We agree with him and hope you like the new format.

An early start. . .

. . Genealogical research is one of several interests I started to pursue after retiring in December of 1991. As I began gathering information, it became apparent that very little documentation takes place as people go about their daily lives. While this adds interest to the research process, it is a sad fact that much endearing information about our ancestry is lost forever and consequently future generations lack precious information about their heritage.

It was this realization that motivated us to develop this site. It consists of things remembered, researched information and recollections of others. The site will continue to be a work in progress since information will be added as new things are learned, discovered and clarified. We think and hope that the information will be of interest to our descendants and others someday.

Rather than focus on only one family or branch, the research follows the paternal and maternal linage of both our parents. More information has been gathered about my parents, since I started seriously gathering data in 1992.

Sporadic effort. . .

. . Although there are periods of time I leave this effort (when the maze of names and relationships become mind boggling), I plan to continue the research as long as I can.

Our plan is to continue adding information regarding Mimi’s family as we expand our research. Hopefully Mimi will become increasingly interested and contribute to this project accordingly. You can see the results of our efforts, to date, by going to the other pages of this site.

The Site has six divisions . . .

. . . After this page, there is the ‘About’ page which gives you information about Wes and Mimi and their family. The next two pages, ‘Genealogy’ and ‘Photo’ , provide information resulting from our research. The ‘Contact’ page is for anyone who wants to contact us by email to explore possible connections with our research or to provide advice or comment about the site. We made typing the address a little cumbersome to eliminate “hackers” who click and make outlandish comments.  For those not familiar with genealogy, there is a page featuring some of our favorite genealogy linkages called ‘Favorites’.

In Addition. . . There are pages that can only be accessed through the text. They are mostly genealogy information about individuals or families and of interest to a limited number of people. One page, however, I call “Wes’s Retrospectives” and it consists of thoughts on anything and everything. I add to this page as things are remembered by me or others. These pages are reached by clicking on a bold italic “here” placed in key places throughout the pages of text. For example, in this case, for Wes’s Retrospective page click here

The maze of names and relationships . . .

. . . Here are some of the Surnames that have connections with our families. This partial list gives you an idea of why there is need for a break occasionally.

From Wes’s father’s side: ALA-KORTESNIEMI; ALA-KORTESOJA; AHLROT; HAKANEN; HAVILA; HOISKA; KANGASNIEMI; KANNOSTO; KIVISTÖ; KOSKUE; KURKIISO; LAHTI; LÃ…GSTRÖM; MYLLÄRI; OLAVINPOIKAÖ; OPAS; PANULA; PETÄJÄLOUMA; VALKAMA and VANHATALO .

From his mother’s side: BALD; BUSH; BOUCH; FLEN; JAMESON; LOTHTAN; McKISSON; NICELY; SALTSGIVER; SNADDON; SNEDDEN; STROHMYER; WHITSELL; and WHITESELL.

From both Mimi’s parents’ sides: ALLEN; BAKER; CONRAD; COUP; FISCHER; GRIFFITH; GROSS; HENRICI; HARMON; HERMAN; HOFFMAN; HOFIUS; HOVIS; KLINGENSMITH; LORCH; NEU; ROBERTS; SCHUNCK; SCHWARTZ; SHERRAD; SHUNK; STOOPS; VANDERLIN; and VAN DYKE;

The Finnish names are the toughest.  However I am now communicating with a cousins in Finland.  Arja who is related through my uncle Mike’s wife.  Her grandmother was a sister of Laimi, Mike’s wife.  She has been extremely helpful in helping me sort out the names and contacting others in Finland.  One person she “found” for me was a cousin Leena from my grandmother Hakanen’s family.  Cousin Leena’s grandfather was my grandmother’s brother.  Both Leena and Arja have provided a lot of information about Finland  and qualified many things that had me confused.  In the past, in Finland, they named their houses, their villages and their farms.  In fact they changed their surnames to match where they lived.  Arja and Leena have helped me sort all that out.

Hope you enjoy the Site!