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Deborah Ruth Nikkari papers

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: IHRC1687


  • Creation: 1981


Language of Materials



Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


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The following questions and responses come from the autobiographies obtained through the Finnish American Family History Project. Each immigrant was asked to provide answers to the listed questions. Most biographies are in English; some are in the immigrant's native language.

1. Country of origin? Paternal-Nikkari's great-grandparents, Joonis and Fredriika Kivela were born in Toholampi, Finland. Nikkari's great-grandfather, Sakri Nakkari was born in Lohtaja, Vassan Laani, Finland. His wife Elisabetti was also born in Finland. Maternal-Nikkari's great-great-grandparents Johan and Caisa Raatikka lived in Oulu, Finland. Great-great grandparents Adam and Anna Komppa lived in Mikkeli, Finland.

2. Occupation in native country? The Nikkaris were farmers. Joonis Kivela was an overseer of laborers.

3. Reason for immigration? There were various reasons for leaving. They hoped for a better life. Other family members had settled in America

4. Date of immigration? Paternal-Her great grandparents, Sakri and Elisabetti Nikkari, and grandfather Matti immigrated in 1888. In 1874, Joonis Kivela sailed to America. He returned to Finland, then in 1888 immigrated to America with his wife Fredriika and children (the youngest child was Nikkari's grandmother Elizabeth). Maternal-Nikkari's great-grandfather, Matti Raatikka, joined his brothers in America in 1889. He travelled with his sister. His wife immigrated in 1886 with her parents, Adam and Anna Komppa. The family returned to Finland, but came back to America in 1891. Gustaf Paurus and his family, including his son Walter (Nikkari's grandfather) came to America in 1890.

5. Did the author repatriate or remain in the U.S.? The families remained in the U.S. Nikkari visited Finland.

6. State(s) and city(s) of settlement in the U.S.? Paternal-The Nikkari family settled in Blowers Township, Minnesota. The Kivela family settled in Palmer, Michigan, then went to Frederick, South Dakota. Nikkari's grandmother was sent to Paddock Township, Minnesota. Matti Nikkari married Elizabeth Kivela and settled in Blowers Township. Maternal-Matti Raatikka, Nikkari' great-grandfather, settled first in Champion, Michigan, then in Tower, Minnesota. He finally settled in Paddock. The Paurus family lived near the Raatikka family. In Paddock, Lydia Raatikka and Walter Paurus were married.

7. Occupation(s) in the U.S.? Paternal-Nikkari's great-grandfathers were a farmer and a miner. Her Kivela grandmother was a housekeeper for a neighbor. Maternal-Nikkari's great-grandfather, Matti Raatikka, ran a boarding house with his sister and also worked in the mines. Mining affected his health, so he became a logger. He then moved to Paddock where his brothers had farms. His daughter, as the oldest child of the family, worked in the fields until the brothers were old enough to help their father. She had wanted to become a teacher, but had to leave school to work. She later became a housekeeper. Gustaf Paurus was a lay preacher. His son, Nikkari's grandfather, loved education, but was forced to quit school. He and his brother became loggers.

8. Political affiliations in the U.S.? (also ethnic affiliations?)Nikkari's grandfather Matti lectured against socialism and about the dangers of communism.

9. Labor or occupational affiliations in the U.S.? No information.

10. Information on family life?-nuclear and/or extended family? When Nikkari's grandmother Elizabeth married, she lived with her husband, in-laws, sister-in-law, and later, her father and ten children. A common characteristic of immigrant children, the rebellion against authority and attempt to become Americanized, was delayed in Nikkari's family. Parents were respected. Nikkari's great-grandparents believed their children should be literate in Finnish, but children should help with the work, an interruption to education. Her grandparents followed the same tradition. Nikkari's parents spoke Finnish but also learned English. They were the first generation to finish high school. They were conscious of being "backwoods Finnish farmers." Nikkari’s father was embarrassed by his parents' poor English. Her mother felt she would never marry a Finn and was upset about the lack of money in the household. As a teacher she punished children for speaking Finnish. Both parents in some ways rejected their heritage, but ties remained in other ways. They went to the same church as their parents and bought a farm midway between their parents' homes. Nikkari learned some Finnish words but knew little more. She was somewhat disdainful of Finnish farmers, but later came to admire them.

11. Information on courtship or gender roles? When Nikkari's grandmother, Elizabeth Nikkari, married she was snubbed by the in-laws because of her unstable family background and lack of a dowry. A good wife's duties were to work hard, be cheerful, do not waste time, and be respectful to the in-laws. Women ate after everyone else had finished. Discipline was maintained by the father. Nikkari's maternal great-grandfather, Matti Raatikka, lived with his in-laws, the Komppas, an uncommon practice at the time. Men usually did the grocery shopping and business in town while the women stayed home. On a rare occasion a wife would accompany her husband to town. He would forget his wife was in town and would return to the farm without her.

12. Information on the wider ethnic community? The community of Nikkari's grandparents was Finnish. The Finnish language was used in political and business meetings.

13. Experiences with discrimination or political persecution? In school there was friction between the Finnish children and the German and Swedish children. Growing up, Nikkari was faced with two extreme views, the Finlander jokes and her father's view that Finns are the most gifted people.

14. Any other outstanding features worthy of notice? Nikkari gave a brief history of Finnish immigration. Finns were accused of being clannish, but they did it as self-protection. American public school tried to suppress foreign languages. Life in a farming village is described. A midwife was an important person in the community, since doctors were scarce. Various people would visit the village and stay with the family, farm laborers, a barber, and teachers. Gypsies were unwelcome guests. In the Paddock and Blowers area there was a strong ethnic unity. Farming was difficult and survival depended on family helping family, and neighbor helping neighbor. Travel was difficult and they were far from a metropolitan area. There was little money and time for leisure activity. Most leisure activity was centered in the home and the community. Education was a major factor for the Raatikka grandparents. They were both forced to discontinue their education, so they especially wanted an education for their children.

15. Any account of the immigration process, voyage, Ellis Island inspection?0635 Deborah Ruth Nikkari. [Autobiography in English.] 65pp. Nikkari's great-grandmother (Edla Komppa) travelled with her parents to Hanka, a major Finnish port for emigrants. By ship they went to Gothenburg, Sweden. They then travelled to Hull, England. They took the train to Liverpool. By way of the Cunard Steamship lines, they sailed to New York City, then travelled to Paddock Township. They returned to Finland, but came back to America. The family travelled from Turku, Finland, to Lubeck, Germany, then by rail to Bremen. They travelled over the Atlantic on the Kaiser Wilhelm II. In the 1880's the price of a ticket was higher than in later years.


1 linear inch


Collection acquired as part of the Minnesota Finnish American Family History Project in 1981 from the Minnesota Finnish American History Society.

Inventory of the Deborah Ruth Nikkari papers.
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