Genealogy is the research into family lineages and personal histories. For thousands of Finns, genealogy is an interesting and rewarding hobby that often completely absorbs one's interest. Through genealogy, history becomes interesting and familiar in a completely new way. Genealogy is often said to be one very specific type of viewpoint into history. In addition to being a hobby, genealogy is also a part of historical research. This page has compiled information on starting genealogical research, its primary sources as well as on genetic genealogy.

What is genealogy?

Primary sources have an important role in genealogy. Even a beginner in genealogy should be able to differentiate primary archival material from other sources like literature, genealogy databases and oral histories. Archival material provides the basis for genealogical research and this can be enriched by using other sources of information. The genealogist should always however remember that not even primary sources are without flaws so the genealogist must always keep source criticism in mind.

Genealogical research can be done in two ways: ancestry research and descendant research. Ancestry research investigates one person's ancestors from the present to the past and the number of ancestors theoretically grows exponentially every generation. In practice this does't always happen and instead some ancestors remain unknown or the same persons appear numerous times. Descendant research on the other hand is actual research into a family. There one starts with a founding couple whose descendants are investigated towards the present day. Ancestry research is usually presented as a genealogy chart or a family tree and descendant research is a genealogy book or register where the family is arranged into family pedigrees or family branches.

An example of a page on births and baptisms from 1772

The beginner genealogist

The beginner genealogist should choose their own research direction or family branch right from the start and then start purposefully collecting material. In the first phase it is good to talk to relatives and find out if any research has already been done on the family. It is also useful to find out if the persons being researched belonged to a Lutheran, Orthodox or other church or whether they were in a civil registry. This information has an impact on starting and doing genealogical research.

Before starting actual genealogical research, it is a good idea to familiarize oneself with the codes of conduct for genealogy. The Society's privacy policy page has comprehensive instructions advising on the ethical and good standard practices of collection, storage and publication of personal data.

Everyone has their story

In 2017 The Genealogical Society of Finland celebrated its 100th anniversary at the same time as independent Finland. The theme of the anniversary year was "Everyone has their story." Through its activities, the Society wants to encourage genealogists and those interested in it to tell their family histories and to write, record and share them. Everyone's story is worth telling. The lives of past generations deserve to be told and shared. Through genealogy everyone of us has the opportunity to do this.