William meets Aino sometime in late 1910's or early 1920's in Central Finland.
Aino is the daughter of a prominent farmer. Her parents are strongly against her courtship with William. But Aino is stubborn: William and Aino are married on March 11, 1923.
William is 25 years old when he emigrates to Canada alone in 1926. His young wife Aino stays behind with their first born baby boy and takes care of a large farm house with fields and domestic animals. Quite a job for a young woman. William's plan is to bring Aino and their small son to Canada after he has settled down.
It has always been known in the family that William has spent some time on the other side of the Atlantic but no one today has had any knowlegde of when, how long or where - until I start Project William. The mystery has been on William's daughters minds for decades.
When I was a little girl I wished every night that I would meet my grandfather in my sleep.
He had died before I was born. The unknown, mysterious, generous, kind and almost unreal William of whom the relatives reminisced about so often keeping his memory alive has fascinated my imagination since childhood.
August William Honkonen is born on October 30, 1900 in Saarijärvi Central Finland (d. 1959). His mother Hulda Maria is Finnish-Swedish (maiden name Engberg from Kirkkonummi 1871-1939) from Southern Finland. She only learns Finnish as an adult and always retaines an accent. More about relatives.
Aino Pauliina (maiden name Poikonen) is born on June 2, 1902 in Saarijärvi Kalmari village (d. 1994). Her mother is Tilda Maria Poikonen (maiden name Piispanen born 1882 in Saarijärvi) and her father is Herman Poikonen (born 1882 in Karstula).
William's father Otto Viljam Honkonen/Riekko (1875-1933) travels to United States twice and lives there a few years each time.
First in 1909, when William is 8 years old and again in 1912 when William is 11.
Also Otto's brother and William's uncle Jani (John) and his wife Sonja Riekko live in the U.S.
Listening to his father's and uncle's American stories and experiences probably inspires William
already as boy. No wonder then that he himself decides also to emigrate to Northern America.
Almost by accident I find a name that could be William's on Library and Archives Canada website: a receipt of immigration to Canada on May first 1926. I dig deeper and eventually find the travelling records of Transatlantic Steamer Frederik VIII sailing from Copenhagen to Halifax and in the 630 page immigration records a page with a familiar name. I have found my grandfather William.
Later on there is more information to be found but still today my grandfather's life in Canada remains a mystery.
William lives in Sudbury Ontario working in nickel mines (some if not all of those years).
The two major mining companies shaping the history of Sudbury are Inco established in 1902 (now Vale) and Falconbridge established in 1928 (now Glencore). They become two of the city’s major employers and two of the world's leading producers of nickel.
What is life like in a new country as an immigrant?
How does William adjust to immigrant
life and working in the mines?
How easy is it to learn English?
Does William frequent The Finnish Workers' Hall built in 1929 on Alder Street in Sudbury by Copper Cliff
Finnish Social Society?
Does he buy his milk and butter from
the Finnish Dairy Co-Op at the corner
of Alder and Spruce Street?
Who are his new friends and acquaintances in Sudbury?
On the left in the photograph are Mr & Mrs Otto Marttinen, Copper Cliff, with their chickens - or so it says on the
back of the image.
Who are Mr and Mrs Otto Marttinen?
On the Vernon Directory 1927-1928 (a reproduction of the original at the Sudbury main library) I finally find a bit more information: Mr Otto Marttinen and his wife Alexandra live in Copper Cliff on Succo Street, house number 27. From the Canada Voters Lists: Mrs. Marttinen votes in 1935 elections (meaning she is a Canadian citizen, by then anyway).
William sends letters, postcards and phototographs to his wife Aino in Finland. Aino must have written to William also.
Five, six years or more is a long time to be apart and probably seems even longer for both William and Aino.
Do they ever talk about their future together in Canada? Does William believe Aino and his son can join him in Ontario shortly?
Do they tell each other about their daily lives on both sides of the Atlantic. Or do they miss each other so much that letters are rare and postcards easier.
No letters or cards exist anymore - neither Aino's nor William's.
Only a few photographs remain. It is believed that Aino destroyed everything before she died.
William returns to Finland sometime in early 1930's only to bring Aino and his son with him back to Ontario.
Those days uniting a family was easy and simple for a Finnish immigrant in Canada - compared to today's family reunification policy and requirements for immigrants and refugees who are in Finland.
Aino however does not want to emigrate to Canada. William makes the only possible decision and stays in Finland. There is no more talk about North America.
But nobody knows how often in the years and decades that follow William travels back to Ontario in his imagination, dreams and memories envisioning a family life, a different future in Sudbury.
Project William is dedicated to William's daughter, my mother Laina Metsähuone 1939 - 2015
All photographs and other materials are copyrighted. © KirsiMarja Metsähuone