Sugar Island Finns: Introducing Historical Network Analysis to Study an American Immigrant Community


  • Rani-Henrik Andersson University of Helsinki
  • Francis Flavin US Department of the Interior
  • Saara Kekki University of Helsinki


Finnish Americans, immigration studies, historical network analysis


This article will provide a preliminary overview of Finnish migration to
Sugar Island, Michigan, which occurred primarily between 1915 and 1940, based on
narrative sources and census documents. It will introduce and apply social network
analysis (SNA) methods and network visualizations to this community and sets the
stage for a future, in-depth study of the Finns of Sugar Island. This article is part of a
larger project HUMANA-Human Migration and Network Analysis: Developing New
Research Methods for the Study of Human Migration and Social Change (https://, funded by the Finnish Kone Foundation. This
project will develop new methodologies for studying the human past by using network
analysis to better understand social, political, administrative, economic, and geospatial
networks. For the purposes of this article, our main sources are the US Census
returns from 1920 to 1940, and they will be supported by other archival and secondary
sources. The scope of analysis will focus primarily on a few prominent individuals
but will also provide information on the social structures of the Finnish community.
Ultimately, this case study develops an experimental computer model of the Sugar
Island Finnish community and will provide a glimpse into the authors’ forthcoming
project that aims at building a robust dynamic model of the entire Sugar Island community
over the period of 1850-1940

Author Biographies

Rani-Henrik Andersson, University of Helsinki

Rani-Henrik Andersson is a CORE Fellow at the University of Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and Senior University Lecturer of North American Studies. He is the author or editor of nine books including the Lakota
Ghost Dance of 1890 (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). His most recent book A Whirlwind Passed Through Our Country: Lakota Voices of the Ghost Dance (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018) focuses on Lakota
accounts of the Ghost Dance and the Wounded Knee Massacre. One of his current projects is entitled “Traditional Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Re-Indigenization and Protected Spaces of Nature.” He can be reached at

Francis Flavin, US Department of the Interior

Francis Flavin, Ph.D., is a historian for the United States Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, and a research associate at the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition, he has a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has significant experience in building dynamic network models. Before coming to Washington, DC, he was a visiting assistant professor in historical studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. His contributions here reflect his own personal work and do not represent his employer in any way. He can be reached at

Saara Kekki, University of Helsinki

Saara Kekki is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki Department of Cultures. Her dissertation (2019, passed with distinction), explored the networks of Japanese Americans incarcerated at Heart Mountain,
Wyoming, during World War II. She is interested in networks and the history of immigration. She can be reached at




How to Cite

Andersson, R.-H., Flavin, F., & Kekki, S. (2020). Sugar Island Finns: Introducing Historical Network Analysis to Study an American Immigrant Community. American Studies in Scandinavia, 52(1), 3–32. Retrieved from