SOURCES FOR GENEALOGISTS
Archives and Libraries
This fact sheet compiles information on Finnish archives, libraries and museums that keep useful materials for genealogists. In addition to the National Archives of Finland and the National Library of Finland which are widely known to genealogists, materials are also preserved by municipal archives and other memory institutions.
National Archives of Finland
The purpose of the National Archives of Finland is to ensure the preservation and availability of documents belonging to the national cultural heritage as well as to promote their use in research. The National Archives of Finland stores the archives of local and regional government officials as well as private archives regionally in nine different places. The majority of primary genealogical sources, like the oldest church records, censuses and legal records, are kept in the National Archives of Finland.
More information about the National Archives of Finland and its materials:
- Records of the National Archive of Finland
- Databases and Registers
- The process of digitization
- First time in an archive?
National Archives of Finland
National Library of Finland
The National Library of Finland is the country's largest and oldest scientific library. It is responsible for accumulating, describing, storing and making available the national publication heritage and unique material collections. In addition to literature the National Library of Finland stores a manuscript collection that contains personal archives of famous individuals as well as medieval parchment fragments. The freely available digitized materials of the National Library include newspapers and magazines published in Finland until 1939.
More information on the National Library and its collections:
The Finnish Heritage Agency
The Finnish Heritage Agency is a specialist agency under the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture that researches, stores and manages Finnish material cultural heritage and environment, built cultural heritage, antiquities and culturally significant artifacts together with other authorities. The archives of the Finnish Heritage Agency stores materials related to its field. It's library is a specialist scientific library of works on cultural heritage and is open for all.
More information the Finnish Heritage Agency and its materials:
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland's Archive
The archive of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is the central archive of its administrative branch whose main task is to serve the ministry and other officials. The archive contains material beginning from the foundation of the ministry in 1918 and these materials form the main primary sources for the study of the history of Finland's foreign affairs and international relationships. The most important part of the ministry's archive is the correspondence section which is organized by topic, aka signums. All documents on a certain topic are collected into the same document folder.
More information the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archive and its materials can be found at www.um.fi/arkisto-ja-asiakirjapyynnot. The Ministry's signum list, i.e. the ordering of the archive is available online.
The archives of cities and municipalities contain documents meant to be stored permanently. Often municipal archives will also store archives of local individuals and societies. Genealogists might be interested in e.g. the minutes of city or municipal councils and boards as well as the minutes of various directorates and municipal boards and school's archives store in the municipal archives. The city archives often also store the archives of the local register office and the lower court, the latter of which contains, in addition to minutes, estate inventories, property deeds and property titles as well as crafts person's documents.
Generally speaking, only a very small part of municipal archives are available digitally. It is easiest to find out about the archival materials and their lists by being in touch with the person in charge of the city's or municipality's archives and documents.
The Digitized Materials of Cities' and Municipalities' Archives:
Universities, museums and private archives
Universities often store significant archival materials and make them available for researchers. These materials are traditionally called manuscript collections even though they often contain actual archives. Helsinki University Library has one of Finland's largest private archives: its manuscript collection consists of over 2000 meters (1,24 miles) of shelves and the collections consist mostly of the personal archives of university researchers and teachers as well as representatives from the sphere of culture and the church. Community archives stored by the University include documents from associations, student unions, foundations, estates, newspapers and institutes close to the university.
In addition to universities, also museums store archival materials. The term "archive" can sometimes be misleading when it comes to museums: archives can be divided into subgroups, such as those that contain photographs, and the creator of the archive is not the central point of view in the materials but rather the topic itself is. The Finnish Heritage Agency does also have actual archives in its material collections. It is easiest to find out each museum's material collections from the museums themselves.
Index information for museums, universities and other instances that store archival materials is included in the National Private Archives Register. You can also search the register for other archives from individuals or communities by the archive's founder's name or municipality. When searching for personal archives you should search using the person surname.
Read more about the material collections of private archives, universities and museums:
- National Private Archives Register
- Helsinki University's Arkki1640 archive and registration service
- Finnish Heritage Agency's Digital Collections
The Finnish Literature Society (SKS)
The Finnish Literature Society (SKS) was founded in 1831 and is a scientific society, national memory institution, international research institute and national cultural organization. The society's folk poetry archive stores manuscripts, photographs, recordings and videos acquired through collecting and other methods. The society's literary archive on the other hand contains archives of authors, folk writers and literary societies and include manuscripts, diaries, letters and interviews. The society's library is a specialist scientific library that is open for all. Its central fields are cultural and literary studies.
More information on The Finnish Literature Society as well as its archives and library collections can be found at www.finlit.fi.
Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland
The Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland (SLS) or Swedish Literary Society in Finland was founded in 1885 and its mission is to collect and store materials related to Swedish-Finnish culture as well as to promote research on it and on Swedish-Finnish literature. The society has several archives. The majority contain materials from the 19th and 20th centuries, but they do also contain some manuscripts starting from the mid 16th century onward.
More information about SLS and its materials can be found in www.sls.fi.
Central Archives for Finnish Business Records (ELKA)
ELKA is an archive specialized in preserving the documented history of businesses and industry. It stores dossiers from the activities of businesses, individuals, unions and societies. The archive, located in Mikkeli, receives such archives from all over Finland. In addition to archival materials, ELKA also has significant collections of paintings, photographs, maps, recordings and videos.
More information on ELKA and its materials can be found at www.elka.fi.
Archives of the Organizations of the National Coalition Party
The Archives of the Organizations of the National Coalition Party (PTA) contains the oldest archival material for the National Coalition Party, its parliamentary group as well as its member and independent unions. It functions as the party's central archive. The archive also stores several personal archives and also has a large collection of photographs. The archive contains materials starting from 1906.
More information on PTA and its materials can be found at www.arkisto.kokoomus.net.
The People's Archives
The People's Archives are the central archive for Finland's left-wing labor movement and non-governmental organizations that stores in its collections the documentary history of organizations and individuals. In addition to documents the People's Archive collects oral history, pamphlets as well as photographs and posters belonging to its subject area. The collections of photos and posters are of considerable size. The archive contains material from the end of the 1780s to the present.
More information on the People's Archives and its materials can be found at www.kansanarkisto.fi.
The Labor Archives
The Labor Archives is the central archive for the social-democratic labor movement and the trade union movement. It stores private documents relating to the labor movement that are of national cultural heritage and promotes their use.
More information on the Labor Archives can be found at www.tyark.fi.
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