Finnish Research: Searching Records
Learn about the types of records used for Finnish research. Several factors can affect your choice of which records to search. Factors such as: record contents, availability, ease of use, time period covered, and reliability of the records, as well as the likelihood that your ancestor will be listed in them must be considered.
To do effective research you should:
- Begin by obtaining some background information.
- Look for any research that may have been previously done on the individual or family of interest.
- Search original records.
Remember to search from the known to the unknown, building evidence as you go. Let’s look at each of these steps more closely.
1- Obtaining Background Information
You may need some geographical and historical information. This can save you time and effort by helping you focus your research in the correct place and time period.
- Locate the town or place of residence.
Examine maps, gazetteers, postal guides, and other place-finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestors lived. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, other geographical features, and government or ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Place-finding aids are described in the "Gazetteers," "History," and "Maps," sections through the Finland Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki.
- Review local history.
It will help to understand Finland's history. If possible, study a history of the areas where your ancestors lived. Look for clues about the people, places, and events that may have affected their lives and the records about them. Records with information about migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, governmental jurisdictions, and local historical events may be described in periodicals from the area.
- Learn about Finnish jurisdictions.
You will need to know how Finland was divided into counties (historically) and how each county is divided into parishes and other jurisdictions.
- Use language helps.
The records and histories of Finnish places will usually be written in Finnish or Swedish. You do not need to know the entire Finnish or Swedish language to search the records, but you will need to learn some key words and phrases. Some helpful sources are described in the Family Search Wiki. For help with the Finnish language click here. For a Finnish word list click here. Helps with the Swedish Language in the wiki may be found by clicking here. Click here for a Swedish word list.
- Understand naming patterns.
The naming patterns of Finland were influenced by factors such as: where you ancestor lived (in the city or a rural area), the time period, the social standing and the occupation. Be very careful in making conclusions of relationship. Understanding the naming customs can help you locate missing ancestors, and prevent the mistake of choosing an incorrect ancestor or family.
- Understand local customs.
Local customs may have affected the way individuals were recorded in the records.
2- Look for any research that someone else may have done
Most genealogists evaluate the research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to look in:
- Printed family histories and genealogies.
- Local histories.
- The International Genealogical Index.
- Ancestral File.
- The Family Group Records Collections.
Remember that the information in these sources might be wrong, depending on who did the research. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.
3- Search Original Records
After surveying previous records you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original records (often copied on microfilm, or available online), which are usually handwritten in the native language. The documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search each place where your ancestor lived, during the time period he or she lived there. You need to search all the jurisdictions that kept records which might mention your ancestor (town, parish, province, and nation). You will be most successful with Finnish research if you can examine the original records online or in microform. In some cases, transcripts of the original records are available. Although these may be easier to read, they may be less accurate than the original record.
As you search original records for your Finnish ancestors, most of your time will be spend searching Finnish Church Records. A knowledge of what records were kept and their availability will help greatly.