Orthodox Genealogy


Orthodox Genealogy

The study of Orthodox families doesn't in principle differ from the study of Lutheran families. The differences are in the language of the church records and in there generally being bigger gaps in them. The church records of Orthodox parishes until about 1920 were written in Russian. Parish borders don't necessarily follow the borders of equivalent Lutheran parishes so searching for a particular village might require you to search in several different parishes.

Orthodox Demographic Groups

Orthodox genealogy usually concerns the peasant demographics of Border Karelia (Impilahti, Korpiselkä, Salmi, Suistamo and Suojärvi) and North Karelia (Ilomantsi and Taipale) as well as the Russian soldiers, merchants and crafts persons of various cities (e.g. Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Vaasa, Kuopio, Hamina and Lappeenranta) and the Karelian isthmus (Kyyrölä and Raivola). In addition to these, orthodox demographic groups include the traveling salesmen from Viena and Aunus, refugees, people marrying from across the border, the Skolt Sami and some Ingrian Finns.

Parish Registers

The special characteristics of different regions determine what kind of sources compiled by the secular authorities exist, but the church sources, on the other hand, have the same structure in all parishes that have been recorded in Finland. Orthodox history books, i.e. ones that catalog births, marriages and deaths are called Metrical Books. Traditionally, there were no separate lists of births or burials, but marriages were collected in separate marriage registers. Sometimes the marriage certificate may have been preserved even if the Metrical Book has not survived. The communion book kept an annual record of who did and didn't attend communion. Each year both the history books and the communion books were recompiled so it is necessary to browse through books from consecutive years when doing research.

Censuses and tax audits

On the Russian side of the border, population registers such as communion books or tax revision lists have not survived to a great degree from the time period between 1860 and 1920 so research in this period typically relies on information found in Metrical Books. Metrical Books are available on FamilyFinder where you will also find a small amount of communion books from the Aunus and Viena parishes from about the year 1793 to 1865 and tax revision lists from 1782 to 1858. The latter are equivalent to censuses on the Finnish side of the border but they were compiled every five to twenty years and they mark changes made to the previous tax revision list. Women were recorded with varying degrees of accuracy so research into female lines is considerably more difficult.

Ceded Territories

The church records of Orthodox parishes from the territories ceded to Russia in 1940 have largely been digitized and are available for use in the National Archive's Astia -service. Church records less than 100 years old can be examined at the premises of the National Archives with a license. Other parish books have been digitized in most cases up to the 1910s. Later books are stored in the central registry of the Finnish Orthodox Church from where one can order a genealogical study for a fee. The member pages of Finland's Family History Association's (FFHA) digital archives contain digitized Metrical Books and communion books from various Orthodox parishes.

Border Karelia

Information contained within the church records of Orthodox parishes in Border Karelia can be searched on Katiha, the Karelia-database. When using the database one must be careful with the forms of the names used since there is variation in how names have been entered into it. Information about some Orthodox congregations has also been entered into the HisKi database. Different parish societies also have ready translations or transcriptions of Metrical Books and communion books. The Sampo -database of the Karjalan Sivistysseura (Karelian Cultural Society) contains relevant materials. The Society's website has information and guides on research on families in Border Karelia, Aunus and Viena especially.


  • Tuula Kiiski: Ortodoksisten sukujen tutkiminen. Teoksessa Sukututkimus askel askeleelta, s. 58-71. Helsinki: Suomen Sukututkimusseura 2002. 
  • Väinö Sointula: Sanasto sukututkijoille. Helsinki: Sukuseurojen Keskusliitto 2015. Sisältää venäjänkielisen sukututkimussanaston, jonka on laatinut Jelena Usatš.

Orthodox Genealogy