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Finland Probate Records
Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person’s estate after his or her death. Information includes the name of the deceased person, death date, names of heirs and guardians, relationships, residences, an inventory and appraisal of the estate, a list of the deceased’s debts, and names of assessors.
These records are very helpful for research as they establish relationships that may be hard to prove in other ways because of patronymic names.
Because laws determined which heirs got what percentage of an estate, it was often not necessary to write wills; consequently, usually only the upper classes wrote them.
The Probate Process
After a person died, two appraisers usually visited the house and made an inventory and appraisal of the property. In addition, creditors listed their claims against the estate. A probate official then deducted the debts and court fees from the assets. If money was left over, it was divided up among the heirs. The widow usually received half of the estate. The remainder was divided equally among the children. Boys were allotted double the girls’ portion.
Because this process was so well defined, records were not always kept. Probate cases that were recorded usually involved minor children or children from more than one marriage. To ensure that these heirs would be justly treated, guardians were appointed to represent the underage children and any unmarried female heirs. The law was changed in the mid-1860s to allow women to represent themselves.
Many people, when they became too old to continue working, often took care of their property and estate before they died so they would have care during their older years.
Availability of Probate Records
The keeping of wills and estate papers usually date from the mid-eighteenth century. Probate proceedings were held from 1734 on.
District probate courts [kihlakunnanoikeus/ häradsrätt] oversaw the process and kept the records. You may find probate records in these court records. You may also find probate records among the church records of many parishes. These records, listed as perunkirjat, are duplicates of the district court records. To find out which district court a particular parish belonged to, use the map on page 34 of the following book:
- Jutikkala, Eino. Suomen historian kartasto: Atlas of Finnish History. Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö (WSOY), 1949. (FHL book 948.97 E3j or FHL film 157159)
The Family History Library has a substantial collection of Finnish probate records. They are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY] - PROBATE RECORDS
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH]- PROBATE RECORDS
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS