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Finnish Genealogy

Pertti Vuorinen

Genealogy has long traditions in Finland. Accounts of noblemen's and clergymen's families have been written for centuries, and numerous accounts have been published.

The most extensive account, which has been called the cornerstone of Finnish genealogy, is the account of the descendants in Finland of Erik Ångerman (Sursill), a Swedish land-owning peasant. This account was begun in the 17th century by Bishop Johannes Terserus and completed by Elias Robert Alcenius. Genealogia Sursilliana contains information about Ostrobothnian families, and many people will find their ancestors in it, above all those belonging to Ostrobothnian gentry and peasant families. The book was published for the first time in 1850, and a new, much enlarged edition came out in 1971.

The national awakening increased people's interest in their own roots, and so enthusiasts founded the Genealogical Society of Finland in 1917. This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of that event. The Society has ca.2,400 members today.

The Genealogical Society has carried out publishing activities ever since its foundation. Up till now the Society has published 42 yearbooks, 62 annual volumes of the periodical Genos, 44 separate publications, plus indexes.

The Family Index, which has just been published, helps the researcher to find genealogical accounts. It contains information about more than 25,000 families collected from over 3,000 books. In addition to this, during the last couple of years a genealogical information system has been built up, containing in the early phases a genealogical index, a list of genealogists and the membership register of the Genealogical Society of Finland. The system will be ready before the end of 1992, after which it will be available to all enthusiasts.

If no genealogical account is available, basic research has to be initiated. The most important sources are: records of communicants and parish registers (i .e . of births, marriages and deaths), which contain a uniquely large quantity of information about individuals, private families, and extended families. Such complete catalogues of the population hardly exist anywhere else in the world except in Sweden.

Parish archives later than the year 1850 are usually still kept in the parish offices, which give birth certificates for genealogical research purposes on request against a fee. The addresses of all parish offices can be found in Kirkon Kalenteri ("The Church Diary"), which is published annually. You can also inquire for addresses at the office of the Genealogical Society.

After World War II, all extant church archives in Finland were photographed, so that now e.g. records of confirmations are available on microfilm from the oldest ones until ca. 1850. These films can be read at the National Archives of Finland, which contain all the Finnish films, and in regional archives, which mainly contain films of parish archives in their own area. Many libraries have also purchased these films.

During 1925-1950 at the initiative of the Genealogical Society of Finland the parish registers from the beginning to about 1850 were copied in modern handwriting, and they are now available for researchers in microfiche form. The fiches can be read at the National Archives of Finland, regional archives, and in many libraries.

With the help of parish archives one can trace one's family in the best case to the early 18th century. Earlier information can be found in e.g. census lists and judgement books, the use of which presupposes some previous experience in genealogical research.

All the above sources are in Swedish, and all except the copied documents are written in an old-fashioned type of handwriting, so that reading them requires some experience.

Published by Sukutieto, 1992, Special issue for Family Fair in Turku, Finland

© Pertti Vuorinen

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