Emigration Stories 3

Lancashire to Finland

In April 2022 I published the family tree of a new family, the Bury and Finland family, alongside a new DNA result from Finland that matched the Lancashire Group of Warburtons. The tree included a Thomas Warburton who emigrated to Finland in 1859 to manage a cotton spinning mill. Recently Susan Leggett sent a document written by her great uncle Thomas, the great grandson of the original Thomas. This article is based on that document. Susan is the granddaughter of Thomas’s sister Kate who emigrated from Finland, to Canada.

Thomas Henry Warburton
Author of the Memoir on the Family

In 1859 Thomas Warburton was hired as Spinning Master at Forssa Aktiebolag (former Forssa Cotton Mill) by the company’s founder, A.W.Wahren, who every year visited Manchester to buy cotton. The factory was ten years old at the time. 

Thomas was born in 1817 in Heywood, Lancashire, and is the 1851 census he is the manager of a cotton mill living in Tonge, Lancashire.

In 1859 Finland was the Grand Duchy of Finland, an autonomous region within the Russian Empire, having been annexed from Sweden in 1809. Therefore the regular travel route from England to Finland was train to Dover, ship to Calais, train to Cologne, Berlin, Kaliningrad, Chernyshevskoye, mail carriage to Ostrov, and then train to St. Petersburg where an agent for Wahren arranged horse and carriage transport to Forssa. Finland achieved independence in 1917 following the collapse of the Russian Empire.

Thomas moved to Forssa in May 1859 along with his wife, Sarah, and children Thomas and Sarah Ellen. Five other children had died in infancy. Their oldest son, James, remained in England where he married but had no issue. 

Thomas ran the spinning works for 25 years, until his death in 1884, and was known in the beginning as a strict disciplinarian in the factory. At times, he flogged boy labourers who did not work hard enough, but he was ordered to stop by the manager. The methods of Lancashire were not suited to Finland.

A pocketbook with practical tables for technical measures, “Roberts’ Mechanic’s Assistant”, Leeds 1833, was passed down to great grandson Thomas. The cover page reads, “Thomas Warburton, Midghall 1837”. There was a technical school in Midghall, Lancashire. Later Thomas usually wrote his name Thom, and this is also on his gravestone. 

After technical studies in England, 1864-67, son Thomas became the spin master assistant to his father in 1867 and succeeded him as a manager in 1885 until his death in 1896. His wife Selma was of Swedish descent so their home language became Swedish. 

The residence of the manager was quite unassuming, in a row of two-family houses. It had a living room, bedroom and kitchen, and possibly also a room in the attic. The area was about 80 m2. Several of the houses still remain, restored and inhabited, at Forssaparken’s main street, Wahreninkatu. 

Thomas gladly took part in the social life of the area. There was an uncertain rumour about a probable mild alcoholism in his older days. Portraits show a convivial man, corpulent and steady. In his youth, he was handsome. In the 1870s, the factory had an amateur orchestra, where he played contrabass. 

Daughter Sarah Ellen was a problem child. She was almost 11 when the family arrived in Finland. Early on she was a ‘wild girl, rebelling against the ‘military order’ of the home. She had a son, Robert as a 17 year old, the circumstances of which are unknown. Robert  died aged 12.

As a 20 or 21 year old, Ellen was sent to Manchester, to learn English, and came home from there with daughter Ann Julia. No one knows if she was pregnant when she went or became so in England.  Julia eventually had her own family and lived until 1931. 

In Forssa, Ellen had another daughter, Ellen Matilda, who died as a small child, before she married in 1878, to Konstantin Victor Rautell  who was probably the father of Matilda. Then on December 29, 1878, in Helsingfors, Ellen and Konstantin had a son Karl (Kalle). 

Karl (Kalle) changed his name to Rauta, perhaps in connection with a drive to change Swedish surnames to Finnish in 1906. He worked for the Forssa Cotton Factory as a caretaker of horses and a coachman. He participated in the Finnish Civil War of 1918 as a platoon commander, was captured in the final stages and died in the detention camps in Lahti of kidney poisoning, according to family information.  However according to a church parish register,  he was executed by a firing squad. In 1899, he had married Justiina Rajamäki (1877-1945), a weaver in Forssa. Justiina Rauta worked at the weaving plant for 30 years. They had 4 children, including 1 daughter who lived to continue the family line.

Ellen had contact with both Julia’s and Karl’s families, one in Tampere, the other In Forssa, but kept them strictly apart, so that their children did not know about each other’s existence at all.  However she did not get along with her daughter Julia, who had been separated from her so early on. 

Ellen spoke Swedish, and of course English, but poor Finnish. She lived in Forssa, making a living as a seamstress, until she died in 1931, the same year as her daughter Julia. She is buried in the family grave in Forssa, behind the gravestone of her strict father, but has no stone or identification of her own. 

Thomas died in 1896, just before his 40th birthday. He had three sons and two daughters, though one son died in infancy. Both daughters married and had families, and in 1903, Sally, the eldest daughter, emigrated to Chicago with her family. Youngest son Charles married but was childless. 

Charles Warburton

Thomas’s eldest son, Thomas Harald is thought to have attended the Reallyceum (secondary/high school) in Åbo for 5 years, and then studied cotton technology in England. He was a trainee in Forssa in 1895 and then assistant spin master. In 1899 he moved to the Björneborg Cotton Co. in Pori, a Swedish speaking town, as manager. In 1906 he moved to Vaasa Cotton also as manager. 

Thomas Harald Warburton 1875-1927

He worked in London, in 1919-23, as a representative for the Finnish Match Association. He then returned to Finland, working in Tammerfors from 1923-24, at Finlayson (a textile manufacturer) as manager, and from 1925 until his death in 1927 as a managing director for Suomen Vanutehdas, a cotton and cellulose batting factory in Kaukas, Jokela. 

When he was working at Bjorneborg Cotton Co. he married local girl Elli Nordling, and had 2 daughters, Sarah, who died aged 9, and Kate. Then eventually in 1918, they had a son Thomas, whose memoir this account is based on. 

However, before he moved to Pori, Thomas Harald fathered a son Torsten William, born in 1898, with Olga Nurmi, who worked in the Forssa factory.

Torsten William Nurmi and his Wife

Olga never divulged the name of Torsten’s father, and it was only when his granddaughter Reija Nurmi-Niskala, started investigating, using DNA testing, that Thomas Harald was revealed as the father. Firstly Reija took an  autosomal test at Ancestry which revealed Susan Leggett as her second cousin, and Susan’s Warburton ancestry. Thomas Harald’s daughter Kate is Susan’s grandmother. Then Reija’s brother Heikki took a Y-chromosome test with my Warburton DNA Project which showed he matched several Warburtons who are part of a group of matched results from Lancashire. As Thomas Harald’s father was already dead, and his younger brother Charles was only 15 in 1898, he is the only viable candidate to be Torsten’s father.

Torsten’s Elder Son; Reija’s father

Olga married a man from Forssa and they had a family of their own. When she was still young they moved to Vassa. Although it was a Swedish speaking town and initially she only spoke Finnish, she spent the rest of her life there, and was over 90 years old when she died.

When Thomas Harald worked in England in 1919-23 the family lived in Kingston-on-Thames, where daughter Kate attended the Tiffin Girls’ School, as well as in Surbiton in single-family homes. Thomas usually took a train from these suburbs to the city in the mornings. The family was well off and, among other things, was able to purchase some antique furniture, some of which still remains in Canada and Finland. 

His son Thomas remembers him from their time in Kaukas, as a rather tall and corpulent gentleman with a short-cut green-gray moustache. People in Kaukas remembered him as a benevolent, phlegmatic, strict and punctual person. He was committed to social improvements at the factory, perhaps patterned after the patriarchal well ordered Forssa. 

He liked reading detective stories, Jack London and Wodehouse, liked whisky (a rarity during the prohibition period) and disliked so-called indecent stories. He liked to play ‘screw’, a form of bridge, and solitaire. He was quite musical and played a bit of piano. He was not religious. His home language was Swedish and he spoke and wrote fluent English and Finnish.

Thomas Harald Warburton

His health was not very good. During their time in Tammerfors, he had a touch of the occupational disease, tuberculosis, and spent several months at Romanäs sanitarium in Sweden. Later he had chronic bronchitis. He smoked cigarettes of the brand Klubb 7 with a paper cigarette holder which he stuffed with cotton. He died of angina pectoris. 

Thomas Harald’s daughter Kate first went to school in Vaasa, then, from 1919, in Kingston-on-Thames. She stayed there six months after her family’s move to Tammerfors, to finish school (Matriculation). Around 1925, she was hired in Viborg by Fedja and Olga Hosainoff, a sawmill owner from Eastern Karelian with a Russian wife, to teach them English. They treated her with friendliness and generosity, and she stayed in Viborg for a couple of years. When her family moved to Helsingfors in 1928, after her father’s death, she acquired business training and worked as a correspondent and secretary from circa 1930 in Mänttä, as executive secretary at G.A. Serlachius Inc., and circa 1937 with Shell in Helsingfors. 

She married in 1938 to Karl Ragnar Bruunand, and daughter Harriet, Susan Legget’s mother, was born in 1939. The family then moved to Jakobstad, where son Karl Kristian was born in 1942. They emigrated to Canada in 1948. There she was secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for many years. 

She survived cancer of her left foot, which led to amputation of the lower leg in 1965. From Newcastle, New Brunswick, she moved to a senior’s residence in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1987, and later in 1995 to Saint Andrews, to another senior’s residence, where she died at the age of 91. Both she and Ragnar had earlier bequeathed their bodies to medical research and teaching purposes, and Kate was buried in Halifax in 1998. Her’s and Ragnar’s names are engraved on a Bruun family gravestone in Nannestad, Norway. 

Thomas, who wrote the memoir this article is based on, began his schooling in Kaukas (Mäntsälä), where the local teacher taught him the Finnish elementary school course at home. Before that, he could not speak Finnish, which his father saw as a disadvantage. He then went to the Helsingfors Swedish Lyceum and graduated in 1936. 

Thomas Henry Warburton

He studied towards a degree in Forestry for several years, interrupted at times because of the war. Until 1939, he was stateless and had to choose between British and Finnish citizenship when he became 21. He chose British, and when World War II and Finland’s Winter War broke out six months later, he could not be called into military service. 

During the Winter War, fought between Finland and Russia in 1939-40, Thomas lived in Borgå with Kerstin Ingeborg Schulman, (born in Mariehamn in 1918) in her home with her mother, Astrid, as well as on a farm in the countryside near Borgå. They had met at the ice-skating rink in Borgå in 1934 and got married in 1940 in Helsingfors where she worked as a saleslady in a hat shop. 

During the Continuation War, they lived in Helsingfors. The Continuation War was fought from 1941 to 1944 against Soviet Russia, with help from Germany. At the end of 1941, after England’s declaration of war, Thomas became of hostile nationality, but escaped internment, thanks to Göte Lilieros (his cousin’s husband) who had connections to the chief of the State Police. Mail and travel were restricted, however. In the summer of 1944, the USA’s Charge d’Affaires in Finland resettled about 30 British resident citizens to Stockholm, where Thomas and his family lived for 14 months and their daughter, Corinna was born.

Thomas had already, in 1943, dropped out of his unsuccessful studies and had begun to translate literature, and found work as an editor at Schildt’s Publishing House. He returned to that position in the autumn of 1945 and remained there until his retirement in 1981, mostly with half-day work. The other half of the day, Thomas spent translating and writing, with over 100 translations (prose, poetry, drama from English and Finnish to Swedish) and a total of 10 books. He received a state artist pension in 1981 and was awarded an honorary doctor’s degree from the University of Helsingfors in 1982. He became a Finnish citizen in l972, and Kerstin regained her Finnish citizenship at the same time. 

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3 thoughts on “Emigration Stories 3”

  1. Hi Ray, what’s the possibility that this Thomas Warburton may be connected to my line, as my forebear who came to NSW was also Thomas Warburton?
    It would be interesting to find out early connections.

  2. Hi Annette, There are lots of Thomases in all Warburton families. However both your NSW clan and the Bury and Finland clan are part of the Lancashire group so have common ancestors in the distant past, originating in the Tottington area north of Bury. At some point your ancestors migrated west to the Leigh area so I would guess the common ancestor was a bit earlier than some in the Lancashire group. I will be updating theLancashire Group Haplotree in the near future. I am currently awaiting a new BigY result from the Radcliffe clan.

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