Human Migration and Network Analysis: Developing New Research Methods for the Study of Human Migration and Social Change

Understanding human migration is of utmost importance today. It is impossible to understand the world of yesterday and the world of today without understanding human migration. In the 21st century, in our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, it is even more important. When moving from one place to another, people take along ideas, beliefs, and values that influence their new communities. At the same time, outward movement unavoidably leaves a void in the community of origin. Human migration and relocation have been studied using traditional historical, sociological, anthropological, and statistical methods for decades. These studies have produced valuable insights that have enriched not only those disciplines, but other disciplines like economics and political science. Our research group, HUMANA, believes that network science can provide new methods and insights into how researchers study, analyze, and understand human migrations.  

Our project studies Finnish immigration into the early 20th century United States, more specifically the development of the Sugar Island community in Upper Peninsula Michigan. Our data consists of historical census reports and church records both in Finland and the United States, which allows us to build a network model of places and political, educational, religious, and family relations of several generations. At the same time, we are developing the method by setting best practices and tools to make network analysis more easily available to researchers without programming skills.