Finland Church Records
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Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called vital records because critical events in a person’s life are recorded in them. Church records are vital records made by parish ministers. They are often referred to as parish registers or churchbooks. They include records of christenings and births, marriages, burials and deaths, and communions. Church records may also include account books, confirmations, and records of people moving in and out of a parish.
In general the Lutheran church began keeping records after a 1686 royal decree. Each parish gradually complied with this decree. Before the decree some prominent churchmen, including bishop Johannes Rudbeckius in Sweden and bishops Isak Rothovius and Johannes Gezelius in Finland, promoted record keeping. Hence, some parishes began keeping records earlier. For example, Teisko birth records begin in 1648.
Since Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom in 1686, church records were kept in Swedish. Records were not kept in Finnish until after 1863, when Finnish was made an official language in Finland. The transition from Swedish into Finnish was gradual, and about 30 Finnish parishes still use Swedish as their primary language. This article gives the names of records and institutions in both languages.
Church records (kirkonkirjat/kyrkoböcker) are the primary sources for accurate information on names; dates; and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Since the state entrusted the church to keep vital records, virtually every person who lived in Finland was recorded in the church records from the time the records began.
In Finland, birth, marriage, and death records are called history books (historiakirjat/historieböcker), and the communion books are called main books (pääkirjat/huvudböcker).
- 1 Information Recorded in Church Registers
- 2 Births (Syntyneet/Födda) and Baptisms (Kastetut/Döpta)
- 3 Marriages (Vihityt/Vigda)
- 4 Deaths (Kuolleet/Döda) and Burials (Haudatut/Begravna)
- 5 Church Records Extracts (Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker)
- 6 Communion Books (Rippikirjat/Kommunionböcker)
- 7 Preconfirmation Records (Lastenkirjat/Barnböcker)
- 8 Confirmations (Rippilapset/Konfirmationer)
- 9 Moving Records (Muuttaneet/Muuttokirjat; Flyttningslängder/Flyttningsbetyg)
- 10 Non-Lutheran Church Registers of Births, Marriages, Deaths (Historiakirjat/Historieböcker)
- 11 Examples of what kind of information that can be found in Church Records and a list of words used in the records.
- 12 Finding Church Records
- 13 Records at the Family History Library
- 14 Records Not at the Family History Library
- 15 Search Strategies
Information Recorded in Church Registers
Information recorded in church books varied over time. Later records generally give more complete information than earlier ones.
No uniform format for church records was used, but the information listed in the various formats was generally the same.
Births (Syntyneet/Födda) and Baptisms (Kastetut/Döpta)
Children were generally baptized or christened within a few days of birth. Stillbirths were generally registered in both the baptism and burial records.
- Christening registers usually contain:
- Names of the infant and parents.
- The baptism date (later registers also contain the birth date).
- The child’s legitimacy status.
- Names of godparents and witnesses.
- Father’s occupation.
- The family’s place of residence.
- The records may also contain:
- Death information if the child died very young.
- The street name or family’s address if they lived in a larger city.
Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes including only the names of the child and father and the date of the christening. Until the end of the 1700s many pastors either did not include the mother’s name in the birth records or included only her given name.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
Couples were generally married in the bride’s home parish. Typically, people were well into their 20s before they married.
Marriage registers generally include:
- Names of the bride and groom.
- Marriage date.
- The residences of the bride and groom before the marriage.
- The occupations of the bride and groom.
- Marital status (single or widowed).
- The names and residences of witnesses and possibly the parents.
- The three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced in addition to the marriage date.
The three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced are often referred to as banns [kuulutetut/förelysta]. They ensured that the persons to be married fulfilled all legal conditions for marriage, such as being of age, having parental consent, not being closely related, and widowers and widows having probated their former spouses’ estate. Banns may also be in a separate register.
A wiki article describing an online article is found at: Finland Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
Deaths (Kuolleet/Döda) and Burials (Haudatut/Begravna)
Burials were recorded in the parish where the person died and was buried. Burials usually took place within a few days of death.
Burial registers often give the following information:
- Name of the deceased
- Burial date and death date
- Age of the deceased
- Place of residence
- Cause of death
For the death of a woman or child, earlier burial records often list only the husband’s or father’s name and the word for wife or child. They may not give the name of the deceased.
Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before the earliest birth and marriage records and can at times extend your research another generation. Stillbirths were generally recorded in both the christening and burial registers; however, many stillbirths were recorded only in the burial records.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
Church Records Extracts (Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker)
To preserve the original records, the Finnish Genealogical Society has transcribed Finnish church records. These transcriptions are called church record extracts (Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker).
The extracts cover births, marriages, deaths, and sometimes church accounts and moving records from the earliest records, some beginning in the 1600s, to at least 1850.
The extracts are written in modern handwriting and are therefore easier to read than the original records. The information in these records has been put into columns and contains the basic information as in the original records. However, christening extracts do not list the names of the witnesses, and other random information is also left out.
The FamilySearch Catalog lists the original church records as kirkonkirjat and the extracts separately as kirkonkirjojen kopiot under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS
The extracts of birth records and some marriage records have also been extracted and included in the International Genealogical Index. You can find alphabetical printouts for many parishes in the catalog under the heading:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES
Communion Books (Rippikirjat/Kommunionböcker)
A person’s confirmation, or first communion, gds list the inhabitants of a parish by village, farm, and household. The head of the household appears first and other household members next. The records generally list the following information:
- Each person’s name and occupation or his or her relationship to the head of the household
- Each person’s birth date and birthplace and possibly marriage date and death date
- The place to or from which a person moved and the moving dates
- Circumstances such as poverty, illness, illegitimacy, and committed offenses
Typically earlier communion records have less information than later ones. Search all available communion books for the place where and time when the person lived. Verify all birth, marriage, and death dates in the respective original records.
Research use: These records greatly simplify the research process by grouping individuals into family units. These records make it possible to follow the lives of ancestors from birth to the grave by providing, in one place, references to birth, marriage, and death dates, as well as moving information and other personal items. Sometimes this is the only place these dates are recorded. Some non-Lutherans are recorded here whereas they may not be recorded elsewhere. Communion books can also verify surname changes for individuals.
Record type: Communion books are pastors’ surveys of the population of each Lutheran parish, essentially a detailed census of the parish, updated regularly. Each parish pastors was to examine all the adult inhabitants of their parish determine their knowledge and understanding of their faith. The findings were recorded in the communion books which often contain yearly entries for each household for periods of five to ten years. These records are one of several types of Finnish church books. Communion books are also called Pääkirjat/ Huvudböcker. Under the direction of Bishop Gezelius, each parish was required starting in 1665 to keep a record of persons in the parish who received Holy Communion along with various personal data, including reading and comprehension skills. A royal decree in 1686 made it mandatory for the pastor of each parish in Finland to conduct examinations of the parish populations which standardized the practice. In many ways these records are similar to a census. Orthodox parishes kept such records as well; these are called Confession books [Pääkirjat/Knigi ispovedei.]. Other religious denominations may have produced similar records as well.
Time period: 1665 to 1962. In actuality, only a few parishes kept communion books before 1700. Orthodox parishes kept communion books from about 1800.
Contents: Names of parishioners listed by residence grouped into families by place of residence, also names of lodgers and domestic servants; relationships, ages, birth dates, birthplaces, and occupations; also dates of death or dates of moving in or out of the parish. Many communion records, especially in eastern Finland, do not include children not yet confirmed (under about age 14). Sometimes they include, marriage data, legitimacy of children, marital status, rating of religious knowledge. The records often include notation of blindness, disabilities, or other personal data. Also included are criminal offenses, often with reference to court dates. Names of individuals moving into and out of the parish with notations as to destination or previous residence.
Location: In local parishes and in various provincial archives.
Percentage in Family History Library: Overall, the library has 80% of the needed records. For 1860 and earlier the Family History Library has about 98% of the communion books. About 30% of the records from 1861 to 1900 have been acquired. No post-1860 records have been acquired from Helsinki and no records after 1900 have been acquired for any areas of Finland.
Population coverage: About 90% (non-Lutherans are often, but not always, listed).
Preconfirmation Records (Lastenkirjat/Barnböcker)
Pre-confirmation records were kept primarily in the parishes of eastern Finland. Many parishes in western Finland also kept them, at least briefly. These records list each residence, the parents, and the children who had not yet been confirmed (usually all children younger than about age 14). After their confirmation, the children were transferred into the communion book.
Research use: These records group children into family groups and establish individual identity. They are valuable supplement to the church vital registers and greatly simplify the research process because they include persons who may have been left out of the church registers of births.
Record type: Lists of children not yet confirmed (usually all children younger than about age 14). Similar to communion records, these records are one of several types of Finnish church books. Most parishes recorded children in their communion books from birth on. But, in eastern Finland and, at times, in western Finland, children were not included until they were confirmed (about age 14 to 16). In those cases, the preconfirmations are the best and sometimes only source of information.
Time period: 1750 to 1962.
Contents: These records list each residence, the parents, and the children at the residence who had not yet been confirmed with their birth dates and, ultimately, their confirmation dates. Vaccinations are also noted. If a child died before confirmation, the death date is given. The records often include notation of blindness, disabilities, or other personal data.
Location: Provincial archives and local parish custody.
Percentage in Family History Library: Overall, about 90%. 98% from earliest to 1860; none from 1860 to 1900.
Population coverage: About 25%. Only about 30% to 35% of Finnish parishes had such records.
Reliability: Good, but not as accurate or complete as the church registers of births and deaths.
Accessibility: Pre-1860 records are accessible on microfilm through the Family History Library but researchers who need access to later records often have difficulty getting the information they need. The post-1860 records are often accessible through correspondence, a private researcher or on-site examination but success varies. Correspondence is sometimes not answered.
Research use: Confirmation records establish individual identity, paternity, age, and residence. They have little unique value because they largely duplicate information in other records. Nevertheless, confirmation records have been of significant value to researchers because they are available, in many cases, beyond the 1860 date that affects so many other Finnish records accessible through the Family History Library.
Record type: Distinct registers of the Lutheran confirmation of young adults generally between the ages of 14 and 16. These records are one of several types of Finnish church books. From the 1600s it was royal law that every person be taught to read and write before being confirmed. Confirmation information was included from the 1680s in the Communion Books. By the early 1800s all Finnish parishes maintained separate registers for confirmations; some parishes began earlier. Generally the records were divided into sections for males and females by village.
Time period: about 1800 to present.
Contents: Full names of persons confirmed, birth dates or ages (generally at the age of fourteen), village, residence, date of confirmation and first communion, name of father.
Location: Provincial archives and local parish custody. Percentage in Family History Library: About 98% of the records up to the 1860s.
Population coverage: 85% to 90%. To guarantee compliance, church law required that persons be confirmed before they were allowed to marry. This law continued until the early 1900s.
Accessibility: Most records, 1860 and earlier, are accessible on microfilm through the Family History Library. Records are also accessible through correspondence, a private researcher, or on-site examination but success varies. Correspondence is sometimes not answered.
Moving Records (Muuttaneet/Muuttokirjat; Flyttningslängder/Flyttningsbetyg)
Moving records can help you trace a family as they moved around Finland. You can find moving records in several sources.
Communion Books.Ministers used the communion books to note individuals and families who moved into or out of the parish.
Moving Certificates.By the late 1700s some parishes began to issue moving certificates [muuttokirjat/flyttningsbetyg] to persons leaving the parish. These certificates identified the persons to their new minister and were chronologically archived in the new parish.
The certificates usually included the following information about a person:
- Birth date and birthplace
- Marital status
- Reading ability
- Knowledge of religion
- Worthiness to partake of the communion
- Character reference
- Vaccination information
- Place where the person was registered for taxation
If a whole family moved, the certificate generally contained at least the name of each family member.
Arrival and Removal Records. In the 1800s parishes began using special arrival and removal records [sisään- ja ulosmuuttaneet; seurakuntaan ja seurakunnasta muuttaneet/in- och utflyttningslängder]. These records, which are frequently essential to family history research, chronologically list the people who moved into or out of the parish.
The records give the following information about a person:
- Parish moved to or from
- Previous or subsequent residence in the parish. In more recent records, the residence is indicated by the page number in the communion book.
- The records sometimes list:
- Age or date of birth
- Religious knowledge
- Character reference
Wives and children may not be mentioned by name, only as numbers in a separate column.
Percentage in Family History Library: Overall, 90%. 99% from earliest to 1860.
Non-Lutheran Church Registers of Births, Marriages, Deaths (Historiakirjat/Historieböcker)
Research use: These records are the primary source of birth, marriage, and death information in Finland for non-Lutherans and for the time periods they cover. They identify names of parents and prove other relationships. They also provide place of residence.
Record type: These are records of vital events: births and christenings, marriage banns, marriages, deaths and burials recorded by churches other than the Lutheran church which was the official state church since the time of Swedish rule. The Orthodox Church began keeping records in the late 1700s and had official status when Finland came under Russian rule. The official “state church” status of the Orthodox church was reaffirmed in 1918 by the new independent Finnish Republic. Members of other minority faiths (dissenters) were supposed to be recorded in Lutheran church registers until 1923 when non state churches were permitted to keep official vital records. However, this process was often neglected or the dissenters did not comply and thus many were not recorded at all. Some dissenter churches began their own unofficial registers in the 1890s. After 1923 non-Lutherans could also be recorded by civil authorities. (See 4.6. Civil Registration).
Time period: Orthodox - 1790s to present; in actuality, only a few parishes kept registers before 1800. Other minority faiths - 1890s to present.
Contents: Births and Christenings [Syntyneet ja Kastetut/Födda och Döpta] – names of persons born and christened, dates of birth and christening, legitimacy, names of parents, father's occupation and residence; sometimes age of mother; names of witnesses at christening and their residences. Banns [Kuulutetut/Förelysta] – names of candidates, residences, dates of marriage proclamations. Marriages [Vihityt/Vigda] – names of groom and bride; their ages, occupations, and places of residence; date of marriage; sometimes names of parents and witnesses and information regarding previous marriages. Deaths and Burials [Kuolleet ja Haudatut/Döda och Begravna] – names of the deceased, their dates of death and burial, age, place of residence at time of death, occupation, cause of death; sometimes biographical information.
Location: Provincial archives in Mikkeli and at local parishes.
Percentage in Family History Library: Overall, the Library has 40% of the needed registers. For 1860 and earlier the Family History Library has essentially 100% of the Orthodox church registers. Almost no non-Lutheran records have been acquired beyond 1860.
Examples of what kind of information that can be found in Church Records and a list of words used in the records.
Birth and Christening entry for Elias born in Korpilahti parish, Häme County, Finland
[no] 23. [Född] 17 [och döpt] 19 Februarii 1802. Elias F. B. [fader, bonde] Matts Mattss. [och] m. [moder] Maria Thomasd. [af] BaivaKineda Makila [faddrarne] Philip Mattsson, Elias Simonsson, Eva Philipsdr. Maria Johansdr.
Entry number 23. Born 17 February 1802, Christened 19 February 1801 Elias
[Parents] F. B. [Father Farmer Matts Mattsson and M [mother] Maria Thomasdr. [of] PaivaKineda Makila.
[Male witnesses]: Philip Mattsson, Elias Simonsson. [Female witnesses]: Eva Philipsdr. and Maria Johansdr.
Marriage Record Joh Gabrielsson Lidquist and Maria Lovisa Andersdr. Married in Thusby (Tuusula) parish, Uusimaa County, Finland
Vigde uti Thusby församling år 1840
No. 1. 5 Januarii månad år 1840 Joh. Gabrielsson Lindquist Torpare Enkling Klemetskog Koiköla. Maria Lovisa Andersdr, Piga, Paijalu Lassila. Vigde af Ihlström
Entry number 1. [married] 5 January 1840 – Joh Gabrielsson Lindquist, a farmer and widower [from]Klemetskog Koikola [and] Maria Lovisa Andersdr, unmarried maiden, from Paijalu Lassila
Married by Ihlström
Death record for Johan Petter Mustonen
December 1 1879 Johan Petter Mustonen, Snickarges. (snickaregesäll), gift, Sjukdom Tyfus, Födelse år 1842, dag 12/5, Ålder 37 år, månad 6, dag 19. Pag. I Kyrkoboken 4-199.
1st entry: Died 1 December 1879 Johan Petter Mustonon, Carpenter Journeynan, died from Tyfus. born 1842 May 12th. Age at death 37 years, 6 months and 19 days. Page in the church book 4-199.
Enlish - Finnish
January - tammikuu
February - helmikuu
March - maaliskuu
April - huhtikuu
May - toukokuu
June - kesäkuu
July - heinäkuu
August - elokuu
September - syyskuu
October - lokakuu
November - marraskuu
December - joulukuu
Words used in Finnish church records.
Rippikirjat - Communion book
Lastenkirjat - Children’s book (pre-confirmation)
Syntyneet - Birth records
Vihityt - Marriage
Kuulutetut - Banns
Kuolleet - Death
Muuttaneet - Moving record
Rippilapset - Confirmation
Muuttokirjat ja esteettömyystod - Moving (good standing)
Tarkastusptk. - Visitation (Bishop)
Tilikirjat - Church accounts
Kalustoluettelot - Inventory
Muut asiakirjat - Church doc., communion
Parish - Serurakunta
Finding Church Records
Church records were kept at the local parish church. The term parish [seurakunta/socken; församling] refers to the jurisdiction of a church minister.
Before you can find church records, you must know the name of the parish that kept the records about your ancestor.
The boundaries of a parish may cover many villages and farms, which generally have their own place-names. If you know a place of origin, use a gazetteer to determine whether the name refers to a farm, village, parish, or county. See Finland Gazetteers for more information.
For large cities that have several parishes, the FamilySearch Catalog lists the parishes under the name of the city.
Over time, some parishes have been divided and borders have been changed. The earlier records of a particular parish may be found in its "mother" (previous) parish. A guide to the divisions of the parishes in Finland is in:
- Leinberg, K. G. Finlands territoriala församlingars ålder, utbildning och utgrening intill 1885 års utgång (Finland’s Territorial Parishes’ Ages, Development, and Branching through the End of 1885). Helsingfors: Svenska Literatursällskapet, 1886. (FHL book 948.97 B4 No. 3; film 157159)
- Digitized images of Finnish Church Records can be found at Finland's Family History Association.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has Finnish Lutheran church records from the time they begin, in the late 1600s or early 1700s, to 1860 and sometimes to 1900.
The Family History Library also has church records from Orthodox parishes in Finland beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until about 1900 and most of the church records (both Lutheran and Orthodox) from areas that were ceded to the Soviet Union in 1944.
To find Finnish church records, look in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS
Records Not at the Family History Library
The Family History Library does not have recent church records. You can obtain this information by writing to the local parishes in Finland. If you do not speak Finnish, you may write your letter in English. In your letter, include a statement that you are willing to pay for the services you request. You will be billed when the research has been completed. A Finnish Letter-Writing Guide (36215) is available through Family History Library publications.
For a list of the Lutheran and Orthodox parishes in Finland and their addresses, see:
Kunta- ja rekisterinpitäjäluettelo: Förteckning över kommuner och registerförare (Register of the Parishes and Record Keepers). Helsinki: Väestörekisterikeskus, 1981. (FHL book 948.97 E4k.)
You can also find addresses for the Evangelical-Lutheran Churches in Finland on the Internet:
You may also find more information in a large database, the HisKi Project, that is being developed for the Internet. The database includes indexes and extracts to many Finnish parish records. Records from additional parishes are added to the database as they become available.
The database includes christenings, marriages, burials, and moves. The indexes include records for some parishes during the period 1860 to 1900, for which the Family History Library does not currently have all the records.
You can search the indexes for a single parish, several parishes, or by a county or region. To find the HisKi Project in English, go to the following Internet address:
When you begin using church records, it is usually best to first verify the information you already have before you try to find new information.
The following steps may be helpful as you use Finnish church records:
- Find a person’s birth record. Write down the name of the parents and the place where the family was living.
- Search the communion records and pre-confirmation rolls, if applicable, of that parish for the date and place where the family was then living (several households may have been living in the same place). Note all information about the family, including names, birth dates, birthplaces, marriage and death dates, and moving information.
- Search the original church records to verify the information you found in the communion and pre-confirmation books.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the person’s parents, siblings, or other persons of interest.
If you do not find earlier generations, search neighboring parishes and the International Genealogical Index (IGI).
Wiki articles describing these collection are found at:
- Finland Baptisms (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Finland Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Finland Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)