HisKi or the historical books database is one of the online services provided by the Genealogical Society of Finland. For many genealogists it is an irreplaceable tool for researching parishes' history books, i.e. lists of baptisms, marriages and burials. HisKi is an aid to research and it cannot replace using original historical documents in doing genealogical research. This page collects information on HisKi, tips on how to use it and how to search on it as well as information on adding to the database.
The history of the HisKi database goes back to the 1990s and it is Finland's oldest continuously operating network service. At first information was entered to the database from hand written copies of parish history books - so called "black books" - commissioned by the Genealogical Society of Finland in the 1920s-1940s. But today the database is updated straight from digitized original church records through a separate platform.
HisKi's entries are often the result of a three part copying process and the database may contain errors that go back to incorrect entries made by clergy at the time, the copying process of the "black books" as well as those made while entering this data into the database. For this reason one must be critical of information found in HisKi and you should use the database only as an aid to research and you should always check the information from primary sources. At its best, HisKi is an aid to genealogical research through which you can make a quick overview of the family under investigation and search where in the country certain family or house names appear or search the sources for a lost parish in neighboring parishes.
List of Parishes
The homepage of HisKi opens up a list of parishes and on its right side is a map of Finland divided by region. You can choose to search a single parish, all the parishes entered into the database or several parishes by clicking your mouse onto their names while pressing the CTRL-button. You can also choose parishes geographically by clicking the map or select a region from the drop-down menu below the map.
After selecting a parish, click on the Selected button to move to the book menu where you can choose the precise book that you want to research. If you have only one parish chosen, the screen will only show those books that have information available. After the books, the cut-off years are displayed from which information has been entered into the database. In addition to information on baptisms, marriages and burials, HisKi also has lists of people who have moved as well as statistics that are shown in the book menu.
The text layout of old church records is often variable. This means that both personal and geographical names often have varying spellings which must be taken into account when using HisKi. First names in HisKi are largely standardized, for example the names Heikki and Henrik in their undeclined, nominal forms can theoretically be found as Henr., Henric, Henricus, Hindrich and so on. Searches should still be done using various forms of the name since the standardization of surnames and geographical names in particular is still incomplete. So, for example, searching the surname Rönkä might leave out all the cases where the name is spelled Röngän.
To get the best possible search result you can use the following special characters. An asterisk (*) cuts the search result and replaces any strings in the search. So for example the search Hänni* will find both the names Hänninen and Hännikäinen. The question mark (?) on the other hand replaces any single character in the search. So for example the search H?nni* or H*nni* will find the names Henni-, Hänni-, Hanni- and Hynni-. As a default, HisKi automatically assumes an asterisk or cut sign and the end of each search term.
You shouldn't limit the search criteria any more than is necessary, because the narrower the search criteria, the more comprehensive the search result will be and the amount of relevant information left outside the search will be minimized. For example the use of the precise patronym with parents may mean it doesn't show some of the children in the search results just because, for example, the mother has only her first name recorded in the original baptismal record. It is therefore useful to search several different parameters. More tips on using HisKi can be found of educational videos published on the Society's YouTube channel.
The user of HisKi should keep in mind that the database is not complete. At the time, during its first phase, the aim was to enter information for the entire country to 1850. Later the database has been supplemented and, for some of the parishes, information has been entered up to the first half of the 20th century, but for many parishes, information has been entered sparsely. This naturally affects the number and interpretation of search results.
Everyone has the opportunity to participate as a volunteer in editing and entering new information to HisKi and doing so requires nothing else but motivation and the skills to read original church documents. Entering data takes place independently through a separate platform. When it comes to entering data it is especially important that everyone follows instructions and agreed-upon principles. It is also suggested that every volunteer would join the discussion group on Facebook for HisKi editors where tips are shared and one can ask for help on interpreting, for example, difficult-to-read church records.
Maintenance and feedback
Jouni Malinen is responsible for the maintenance of the HisKi database, to whom observations, comments and feedback related to the database are addressed. Voluntary HisKi editing is coordinated by Kati Ahopelto, who answers all questions and problem situations related to the recording. You can find the contact information Society staff here.