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Tompkins County's Nordic-region immigrants largely began arriving in the mid-nineteenth century. With the highest numbers first arriving from Sweden, with families from Finland and Norway beginning to arrive in the early twentieth century. Most of these families purchased farms in the rural areas of Tompkins County, with the largest community growing in the Newfield/Spencer/Van Etten area. The immigration and cultural impact of first and second generation Finnish community in Tompkins County has been most closely studied and documented through the work of the Finger Lakes Finns a community group established in 1968. 

'Send These to Me' published in 2022, includes a section on
"The Finlanders" sharing that "The 1920 census claims 111 Finns living throughout the county, and in 1930 there were 147" (pg 30). The first generation of Finns owned and worked farms in Newfield, Spencer, and Van Etten. Later rounds of second and third generations of the Finnish community spread to other areas of the region including Trumansburg and Interlaken. "In 1928, Finnish farmers in Spencer and Van Etten started the Spencer Co-Operative Society where they sold eggs, poultry feed, hardware, and coal" (Send These to Me, page 31). The Finnish run co-op was well known to the point that a short documentary was produced about it in 1947 for Finnish State TV (Translation of documentary). Later generations of the earliest Finn's in the area have kept their culture alive through celebrations, annual scholarships, and music groups that play Finnish-American folk songs. 

The Tompkins HistoryForge has records of first-generation Tompkins County residents from Denmark, Iceland, Findland, Sweden, and Norway living in the City of Ithaca and rural Tompkins County between 1880-1940. These census records can be explore at 

The History Center is actively seeking more local histories of Nordic and Scandinavian-Americans from Tompkins County. Please connect with us to preserve these histories.

Midsummer/Midsommar/Juhannus/St. Johns Night occurs annually on June 21st, and is a recognized cultural gathering time for Nordic peoples. A Juhannus celebration coordinated by the Finger Lakes Finns has been celebrated annually in Newfield or Danby since at least the 1990s. A "Finnish Heritage Day' in Tompkins County was first celebrated on August 8th 1998 with a presentation by the New York Folklore Society, a musical performance, and "Finnish Show and Tell" (See Ithaca Journal, July 28, 1998). The Ithaca Journal also notes a Finnish Festival held at the Women's Community Building in 1981. 

Notes on Nordic and Scandinavian identity and terminology:

  • The Nordic countries are a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic above the Baltic Sea. 
  • The region includes the countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden; and the autonomous territories of Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Åland.
  • "Scandinavia" is a term generally used to the monarchies of Norway, Sweden, and part of Northern Finland.
  • **Please Note** This geographic region also includes Indigenous cultures that may or may not identify as Nordic, including the: Sámi, Inughuit, Tunumiit, Kalaallit, and the føroyingar (Faroese). These identities are harder to track in historic records and immigration from these cultures to Tompkins County would require further research to confirm.

Learn about the lives of Nordic, and Scandinavian-American's in Tompkins County from the resources on our website, by visiting our Exhibit Hall, and through exploring our Archival CollectionsConnect with our archivist to contribute to the archival collections documenting these histories in Tompkins County.



  • Danby School Register Collection 1896-1930 - V-63-9-9
  • Town of Danby Collection - V-2-5-1
  • Town of Newfield Collection - V-2-2-1


    Page 67 of textbook 'New York: Our Communities' by Linda Biemer, published in 1983 by Peregrine Smith Books

    Send These to Me: Immigration & Ethnicity in Tompkins County

    For related sections:

    • The Finlanders - pgs 29-31
    • Ethnicity & Identity pg 61

      The Sauna in Central New York - by Melissa Ladenheim

      Saunas are popular in the Finger Lakes region due to FInnish immigrants who began settling and filming in the hill country of Tompkins, Chemung, and Tioga counties in the early 1900's.

      Finnish Dance Music of the Finger Lakes of New York State

      The music was played, sun, and danced to in the Finnish American Community in the southern Finger Lakes region of New York State. The first 8 pages and throughout the book are reflections and memories of Finnish families and communities from the 20th and 21st century in Ovid, Interlaken, Trumansburg, Ithaca, and Newfield.


      HistoryForge is an innovative digital history project combining maps, archival records, and census data that allows any community to explore its local history through the individuals who lived there and the buildings and neighborhoods they lived in.  

      Tompkins County HistoryForge includes over 100,000 digitized census records of county residents from the 1800s-1950, and is in the process of adding tens of thousands of building records to the database. 

      By searching the database using the "Race," "Place of Birth," or "Foreign Born" filters on different census years you can learn about residents who immigrated from Nordic and Scandinavian countries and settled in Tompkins County.

      Each red dot indicates an a household with someone born in Finland living in the Town of Newfield during the 1950 census. Explore these records at We expect the records of Finnish residents in this region of Tompkins County to expand as we complete more census records for the Town of Danby!

      Learn more about these residents of Tompkins County at


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      Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Territory


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