Building a Historical Research Project Website

Patrick and I have really begun to outline, concretely through our project site, what our final project on the Finns of New Hampshire is going to look like. We have begun to develop some specific pages and have decided that we want to make sure the navigation of the website makes sense so as to direct viewers through our story in a logical manner but also to separate different categories of the project so it is easy for a viewer to focus on a specific aspect of our project if they so choose. We plan to outline the background of Newport, New Hampshire before the Finns migration to the area to explain why it is they established their population there. We will also have page(s) dedicated to the Finnish experience in Newport upon and just after their arrival in the late 19th century. We will do our best to explore the lasting impact that they have had on Newport and possibly the entire state of New Hampshire and if necessary create a page for that evaluation. We also plan to compare and contrast Finnish migration to other towns and cities in New Hampshire (and Fitchburg, MA) to establish what it was, if there was anything, that was specifically unique to the relationship between Finns and Newport, New Hampshire. Some parts of our project that we are particularly excited about are the photo page and the lesson plans. The photo page will digitally post the photos we have obtained regarding the Finns in Newport that are and are not directly used throughout the site/project. The reason that we want to include this page other than for the enjoyment of looking at historical photos is to hopefully identify some of the unknown Finnish individuals in Newport, New Hampshire whom we have pictures of and want to make visible. Secondly, we are going to create and make lesson plans available on our site. They will be fully developed Social Studies lesson plans focused on Finnish Migration to New Hampshire. These lesson plans will be free for educators to access if they want to teach about their local migration history. They will be great for students to make connections with history and to work with primary sources. Not only does this create the potential for greater awareness of the cultural crossroads throughout New Hampshire history, but they also provide an interactive component to our research.

The Historian Experience

As an individual who chooses to study history I find the discipline the least thing but boring, however, for the many who cringe at the thought of reading what seems like ancient information and repeatedly attempting to memorize dates and names I want to share a bit about the experience Patrick and I had Friday, September 29th and our experiences since. It has highlighted how interactive the study of history can be and how intersectional and interdisciplinary it is. Interdisciplinary here means that studying history also involves the study of other subjects such as sociology and law among others. When I say intersectional here, I refer to Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge’s definition from their 2016 book Intersectionality:

Intersectionality is a way of understanding and analyzing the complexity in   the world, in people, and in human experiences. The events and conditions of social and political life and the self can seldom be understood as shaped by   one factor. They are generally shaped by many factors in diverse and mutually influencing ways. When it comes to social inequality, people’s lives and the organization of power in a given society are better understood as being shaped by not a single axis of social divisions, be it race or gender or class, but by many axes that work together and influence each other.       Intersectionality as an analytical took gives people better access to      complexity of the world and themselves [1].

The day of our first visit to Newport we discovered magazines, photographs, and newspapers at the Richards Free Memorial Library. Furthur, we talked with several different employees and visitors of the library to learn about Finnish personality and contribution in the town. In one piece I found that the old Sunapee Temperance Hall turned into Sunapee Bedding. That record was from 2003 or 2004.

Our next stop in Newport was Sunapee St. as it had come about in so many of our sources so far as a popular spot for the Finns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As we traveled further on up the road Patrick found the address for what was Sunapee Bedding, 239 Sunapee St. We ventured to that spot and found a place called Zuzu’s Sandwich and Gifts. Both Patrick and I thought it would be worth it to go into the shop and ask about the building’s history. What we found was an older woman employee, apparently a fill in, for a fill in, for a fill in, who was able to confirm that the building used to be the Finnish Temperance Hall. It felt like we had uncovered an amazing mystery. She allowed us to explore the building, check out the wooden designs that represented Finnish culture and the stage where the Finns would put on shows for those at the hall. This woman also told us that in the recent past she was a realtor in the local area. From her time as a realtor she had become familiar with Finnish housing, and she even told us about the architecture and peculiar traditions in Finnish houses. Even better, she remembered just where one of these houses had been, and she directed us to it.

Patrick and I were pleased to be able to easily find the Finnish house. We knocked on the door, hoping to be able to take a peek inside and find the cabinets that the Woman from Zuzu’s told us about. In these glass cabinets that existed in almost all Finnish houses in between the dining room and living areas, according to this woman, the Finns would hold their most valuable possessions or interesting trinkets. Unfortunately nobody was home but we did take pictures of the exterior of the home and may research if it was true to Finnish culture, which it looked like it very well might have been.

Needless to say, Patrick and I were excited about what we found that day in Newport, New Hampshire. On our way home we discussed how we could use the cemetery records from the library to locate Finns from photographs or from books in the local cemeteries. We talked about our future plans to revisit the area to dive into the sources we found, retrieve copies, and talk with the library historian who we were informed had ample knowledge of Finnish history in Newport. From our field experience Patrick and I also could discuss many different subjects, such as historical and current politics and social issues.

I am so grateful for my partner now because he willingly took another trip to Newport the next Friday, October 6th, and there he discovered even more about the Finns. He successfully connected with the historian Marylou McGuire. She was able to provide Patrick with names of relevant professors and historians for us to contact. Now, digitally speaking, Patrick and I have to begin to organize the research we have compiled and from there develop a website design that makes sense for our project aim. I have been brainstorming lately about creating a website that incorporates different lesson plans or curriculum for local schools to use as local history lessons on the Finns. It would be a great way to incite more awareness of Finnish migrant history.

[1] Hill Collins, Patricia, and Sirma Bilge. 2016. Intersectionality. pages 2-3.

Secondary Source Struggles

Chandler, Joan. “Newport’s Finnish People.” Accessed September 6, 2017.

As it turns out, Patrick and I have to make some more trips to the historical society as well as the archives in the near future to get hold of most of our secondary sources. However, thanks to the world of online shopping, we both have copies of The Finns in Newport, New Hampshire by Olli Turpeinen, our chief secondary source, on their way to us in the mail. That means we have yet to obtain them ourselves, and this was the source I had hoped to investigate, but in the meantime I decided to read “Newport’s Finnish People” by Joan Chandler, who uses Turpeinen in much of the article which discusses the Finnish people and their migration and lifestyle in Newport, New Hampshire who largely arrived in the 1880’s[1].

Chandler’s thesis was unclear and because I know that the author relied heavily on Turpeinen’s work, I would prefer to review The Finn’s in Newport, New Hampshire before using this source to report heavily on the Finns in this area. Nonetheless, I did find a few interesting bits of information that are worth sharing. One of these is something my COPLAC class has talked about, specifically as our colleague Amy Schmidgall has some background knowledge on the subject. The subject is that of Finnish names, “Because their names were difficult for others to pronounce, the Finns often took on more “American-sounding” names. “Bill Johnson” might once have been “Yrjo Liimatainen!”[2] Amy had informed our class that the Finnish tend to have eccentric and unusual names to Americans and she was not lying. It is thought provoking that the Finnish so often changed their names to more easily assimilate into American culture. It is important to note that the Finnish were one of the European migrating groups that were understood to be more assimilable, and thus, desirable to Americans, and still, they had to sacrifice parts of their culture to appropriately join the self-proclaimed, American “Melting Pot”.

Chandler also wrote about the political position of many Finns in New Hampshire. Again, I am going to refer to Turpeinen’s book before I discuss Chandler’s work in more detail. One thing Chandler wrote that intrigued me, though, about the Finns, “It was becoming uncomfortable to be (or admit to being) a Communist. One local Communist laborer was said to have applied for US citizenship. The FBI, investigating his background, interviewed the man’s employer, George Dorr. Mr. Dorr said he didn’t wish to fire the man because he was an excellent worker.” Again, it is interesting to me that it is possible that a Finnish man was investigated due to his ties to a political party, specifically because the Finnish may have influences from Russia. These are patterns that we still see today in American society. The acceptance of migrants is dependent on how assimilable they are.

[1] Joan Chandler, “Newport’s Finnish People,” accessed September 6, 2017,

[2] Ibid., Chandler.

Migration Moment from Keene, NH.

Immigration and Impact: The Finns of New Hampshire

Kerrin McTernan and Patrick Driscoll

Research Question: How has the migrant history of the Finns to New Hampshire affected the culture of Southern New Hampshire?

Goal: The broad goal of this project is to promote awareness of intricate migrant histories in America and their impacts on local cultures in a time where the word “immigrant” is a controversial term that often has a negative connotation within American society.

There was not one particular moment that led Patrick and I to decide to investigate the Finnish migrant history in New Hampshire. Rather it was a series of hints through bits of information found that led to this decision. I first discovered the existence of a Finnish migrant past in our local area when I began my research and landed upon the website for the Historical Society of Cheshire County. My next encounter with this cultures’ migrant history in America was when our COPLAC Professor Alvis Dunn shared this documentary with me on Twitter about Finnish-American Lives. Next, Patrick and I found several good-sized books about the Finns in New Hampshire at our local archives in the Keene State Mason Library. While initially we were interested in both the Lebanese community and the Finnish community in New Hampshire it is the Finns story in America, in New Hampshire, and even more interestingly, in the Manchester area that we are going to attempt to tell.

Now I suspect that more enlightening moments will come for me in the coming days when I return to the Keene State College archives and finally get my chance to visit the Historical Society of Cheshire County. It is there where I hope to find primary sources and supplementary secondary sources that will help support my decision to base my research on the Finnish community in the Granite State.

(draft) Objectives:

Conduct open-facing research through the use of various online platforms such as Twitter and WordPress and thorough and public citations of resources.

Diving into Archives at KSC

Patrick Driscoll, my partner in this COPLAC course, and I visited the Keene State College Archives to begin our research on migration history in New Hampshire. It was not the first time we had been here together and our previous experience conducting archival work certainly contributed to the ease of use we had in the facility this time around. We were able to quickly find, not without the help of our lovely archivists, several records of migration populations in New Hampshire. What we discovered were books. Most of these books come from a collection written by Thaddeus M. Piotrowski who spent what seems to be many years compiling information about various immigrant populations existing in New Hampshire, and specifically in the Manchester area, throughout history. Piotrowski produced individual books about each migrant group, went into detail about their histories, cultures, successes and setbacks living in the region, and much more. The groups were: Hispanics in New Hampshire, mostly lured here by an industrialized Granite State’s mills and textiles; Scots and their descendants in Londonderry New Hampshire; German-American groups and their heritage in New Hampshire; Vietnamese refugees of New Hampshire; the Finnish in Newport, New Hampshire, and the Lebanese population in New Hampshire.

The archivist on duty even informed Patrick and I that in her experience growing up near Keene the French-Canadians were the largest group of immigrants who traveled here to work in the many mills in the state. When she would use her telephone as a girl she would even hear French language being spoken through the party lines.

Patrick and I took notes about all of these groups and will gladly revisit them to improve our research, but there is one group in particular that sparked our interest in terms of where to focus our project. This was the Lebanese immigrant population in New Hampshire. We are compelled to reveal more information about the Lebanese migration history in the area because of one bit of information that set them apart from most immigrant populations who traveled into the Northeast. The majority of immigrant populations traveled here to work in mills and factories, but the Lebanese, according to our research, came to America and established small businesses. Not only was this unique but it was also surprising because we assumed that even if a group did not initially travel here to work in the mills, it would likely be difficult to state a small business because of a strained social status. Thus Patrick and I are fascinated by this community who we had little knowledge even impacted New Hampshire and we would love to bring more awareness to this culture for the betterment of ourselves as well as our community.