Advanced Swedish and Finnish Research
Syllabus for class taught by Ruth Ellen Maness, Research Consultant at FamilySearch's Family History Library, presented at NGS Conference 2010.
Advanced research sometimes equates to taking a better look or using a different approach, or emphasizing a different aspect of normal research. We’ll review common Swedish/Finnish research tools and procedures first.
- 1 Church Records (Kyrkoböcker—Swedish; Kirkonkirjat—Finnish)
- 2 Other Church Records
- 3 Can’t Find the Information?
- 4 Probate Records—Bouppteckningar (S), Peru(n)kirjat (F)
- 5 OTHER SOURCES FOR ADVANCED SWEDISH/FINNISH RESEARCH
- 5.1 Biographical Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Histories
- 5.2 Periodicals
- 5.3 Sursillin Suku
- 5.4 Digitized Records
- 5.5 Tax Lists—Finland (Henkikirjat)
- 5.6 Tax Lists—Sweden (Mantalslängder)
- 5.7 General Tax List Headings—Finland/Sweden
- 5.8 Census Records (Tax Lists)–Henkikirjat (F)
Church Records (Kyrkoböcker—Swedish; Kirkonkirjat—Finnish)
The Lutheran Church was the official vital-record keeper of all Scandinavian countries from 1571 until civil or governmental registration of these life events began for those countries. Finnish records were kept in the Swedish language until the mid-1800s. Events recorded in the church books are in chronological (date) order. Types of events recorded:
- Births (Födda/e (S), Syntyneet (F))
- Christenings (Döpta/e (S),Kastetut,Kaste (F))
- Confirmations (Konfirmerade (S), Rippilapset (F))
- Banns/Engagement (Lysningar (S), Kuulutetut (F))
- Deaths (Döda/e, avlidna (S)), Kuolleet, Kuoli (F))
- Burials (Begravda/e (S), Haudatut, Hauta (F))
- Moving in/out (In-och utflyttning (S), Muuttaneet (F)
- Find all family members, and prove their births, marriages, and deaths in the church records.
- List all witnesses to christenings, even if surnames/first names don’t indicate a family relationship.
- List the names of all residences given for the witnesses, and record anything else given.
- Record film/fiche/book numbers, page numbers, entry numbers, and any other identifying information.
- Use maps and gazetteers. Identify all places listed for christening witnesses—they might be in another parish.
NOTE: If a child was born and died immediately, he or she may only be listed in the death/burial records. Early death/burial records may not list the name of the deceased, but rather the principal male figure in their life.
Other Church Records
There are other clergy-created records that are crucial to use to find your Swedish and Finnish ancestors, including:
- Household Examination Rolls (aka Church censuses)—Husförhörslängder (S), Rippikirjat (F)
- Communion Books–Kommunionböker (S), Rippikirjat (F)
- Catechism Books—Katekismilängder (S), meeting records—Kinkeriasiakirjat (F)
- Pre-communion Books—Barnböcker (S), Laastenkirjat (F)
The purpose of the household examination rolls or communion books was to record the results of a person’s yearly catechism examination. Each book may include 1, 5, 10, or more years.
- Parishioners are listed under the name of the village in which they resided at the time—in a family grouping or as part of the household where they were living.
- Information may be copied from book to book, year to year, so errors can and do creep in.
- Use as a guideline to build the family or to trace movements, but always check the original vital records.
(Laastenkirjat) books in Finland list only children who had not yet taken their first communion, generally younger than ages 14–16. They are found listed with their parents in their village of residence. In Finland, large village areas are further broken down by smaller farms or cottage areas, each with their own name. Your ancestor will be listed under the name of the smallest residence area.
This record includes information on how many parts of Luther's catechism a person knew. People are listed in the household where they resided in that year, whether parental or not.
Can’t Find the Information?
If you are working in a time period in which the household examination or communion book only lists an age for the person instead of a birth date, remember that is their age when that book began.
The purpose of the household examination and communion books was to record the “test results” of people who had been confirmed. Confirmation could take place anywhere between age 9 and 20, with the average being age 12–16. That means all members of a family may not appear in the earlier books. If a child died before being confirmed, he or she would never appear in the books listing only those who had been and were being tested.
Even if you are in a time period where the minister is listing all family members, if a child were born and died between the yearly ministerial visits, they may not appear in this record. In order to be sure you have all family members, it is imperative to search the original birth and death records year by year for children.
- Follow your family in every extant household examination, pre-communion, and communion book.
- Find ancestors in every extant catechism book; list all info. Don't skip any time frames or records!
Note: Catechism books are generally a separate record from the household examination/communion books, and they will be listed separately in the FHLC. They do not exist for all time periods or parishes but are helpful.
Probate Records—Bouppteckningar (S), Peru(n)kirjat (F)
Probate is the process of inventorying and distributing a deceased person's goods. All living heirs should be listed. Guardians appointed for minors (children under age 25 and all unmarried females) may be relatives. By law, after the debts were paid, the surviving spouse received half of the assets; the other half was divided among the surviving heirs. A probate did not have to take place if all living heirs were over age 25, the mother had been granted permission to live in an un-probated estate, or the surviving spouse did not remarry. However, always check for a probate! An unmarried sibling’s estate would be divided between surviving siblings and parents. The probate record would list their names, possible ages, spouses, and so on.
Probate records are found at the härad level. Use the FHL Catalog to see what is available. Look for the word “register” or “bouppteckningsregister,” Which mean “index.” Unfortunately, many of the actual Swedish probate records were filmed before being paginated–some probate indexes were created years later, and filmed years later. If you find an index with a page number, you still may literally have to count the probates down until you come to that page or probate number. Probates were generally filed at the next quarterly court session after the death, but they could go into the next year. Swedish and Finnish probates begin on the right-hand page, so the eye can easily catch them.
OTHER SOURCES FOR ADVANCED SWEDISH/FINNISH RESEARCH
Biographical Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Histories
A few samples of titles are listed below. Look under Sweden/Finland—Biographies; Dictionaries; or History in the FHLC–Place Search, or search in any catalog. Check those headings also at the county and parish level.
- Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon by Bertil Boethius. FHL 948.5 D36s
- The Scandinavian Biographical Archives by K. G. Saur
- Suurimaatilakirja. A listing of all major farms in Finland with present-day owners and pictures, sometimes giving genealogies two to three generations back. FHL 948.97 E4sm Vol 1-8
- Herrgårdar i Finland. Lists major estates in Finland with genealogies and pictures. FHL 948.97 H2h Vol 1
- Herdaminnen (S)/Suomen kirkon paimenmuistio (F). A collection of personal histories of the ministers within a diocese. Look in the FHLC—Place Search under (Country)—Biography or (Country, County)—Biography.
- Lineage Histories. If you have a non-patronymic surname, look for a history. The name may have come down through several generations; someone may have gathered information about people with that surname. Look in the FHLC under (Country)—Surname; (Country, County)—Surname; (Country, County, Parish)—Surname. Also check Place Search in the FHLC or a Union catalog under each of those jurisdictions.
- Local Histories. Many Swedish and Finnish parishes have commissioned written histories of their communities. Some of these are excellent genealogical sources. Information taken from the church records, household examination rolls, tax lists, land records, court records, and so forth may have been used to compile the history. The genealogies given may extend beyond the beginning of the parish registers. Information about where the family comes from if they are not native to the area may be given. Look in the FHLC Place Search under (Country, County)—Genealogy or History; (Country, County, Parish)—Genealogy or History.
- Occupational Histories. A “non-farmer” may appear in this type of record. Search under (Country)—Occupation; (Country, County)—Occupation; (Country, County, Parish)—Occupation.
Many local areas have genealogical societies that publish monthly, quarterly, or yearly. These local publications may include genealogies and other helpful information. Look in the FHLC–Place Search under (Country)–Periodicals; (Country, County)–Periodicals; (Country, County, Parish)–Periodicals. Use Internet search engines for your research, too.
This is an extensive genealogy of Eric Ångerman Sursill and his descendants. Eric was a wealthy Swedish farmer who lived in the mid-1500s and who provided pickled herring to the Swedish Army. One-seventh (1/7th) of the Finnish population is related to this man through the grace of five of his many children who moved to Österbotten Province, Finland, married well, and had very large families.
Swedish and Finnish church, census, probate, tax, and other records are being digitized and are on the Internet.
Open an Internet search engine, and type SSHY in the search field. Choose Suomen Sukuhistoriallinen Yhdistry. Click on the British flag, and then click Church Records or Census. Note, however, that only the names of those parishes with some record or part of a record that has been digitized will show up. This is a volunteer effort, so it may take some time for all records to appear on the site.
Tax Lists—Finland (Henkikirjat)
- Extant from 1540 through 1809 for western and southern Finland and a portion of Lapland. Older records may only list the name of the person responsible for the tax; later records may give names of wives or other data.
- Suomen Asutuksen yleisluettelot contains general register extracts and indexes of some of the information found in the “Old (1540–1635) Accounts” and “New (1635–1809) Accounts,” which were updated yearly from 1540 to 1809, for tax and other purposes. Additional information may be given in the actual accounts, written in different colors.
Look in the FHLC—Place Search under Finland, County—Census for the “New Accounts,” or Finland, County—Public Records for the “Old Accounts.” Both of these can also be accessed by searching under Finland—Public Records. The tax accounts for 1810-1860 are listed only under Finland, County—Taxation.
Tax Lists—Sweden (Mantalslängder)
Swedish tax lists are generally available from 1620 to 1860 in the FHL system. Some areas began earlier; some go later. From 1652 to 1841, eligible taxables were generally aged 15 to 63. The name of the person responsible for the tax is given—other taxables in the household are only marked in the appropriate column. All taxables are listed under the name of the farm or residence where they were living at the time the roll was taken, though wives’, children's, and worker’s names were generally not given until the 1800s. Starting in the 1800s, birthdates or ages (or both) were then sometimes included in the record.
- From 1841 to 1887, eligible taxables were generally aged 18–63 and listed or marked at place of residence.
- Soldiers were exempt at all times; only their wives and children were listed.
- Nobility and their servants were exempt until 1810 and may or may not be listed. Supplemental tax lists could act as a household examination roll or census in some time periods.
Use the FHLC Place Search for Sweden—Taxation or for Sweden, County—Taxation.
General Tax List Headings—Finland/Sweden
The items below represent the major columns used in the tax lists from 1620 to 1860. Columns for sons-in-law, parents, sisters, remarks, and miscellaneous other items may also have been added to the tax lists in some areas of the country for some time periods. Some areas and time periods may also break the columns down further into smaller age-groups or may include other columns for governmental purposes.
- Name of person responsible for the tax
- Wife (listed as “widow” if husband deceased)
- Son(s) who had reached taxable age
- Daughter(s) who had reached taxable age
- Farm laborers (male—dräng) of taxable age
- Farm laborers (female—piga) of taxable age
- Renters/lodgers/charitable cases
- Sum total of taxables
(Remember, Swedish was the official language used in all Finnish records until the mid- to late 1800s.)
Search tax lists if you have a “tough” problem or to extend the pedigree.
- Check each column heading for each year’s list you search to know exactly what information is being given you. Once you begin a tax list or equivalent search, be sure to read every available year from when a person is born until they die. A remark or significant notation may be made in one year’s list that won’t appear again.
- The person you are seeking will be found under the name of the residence where he or she lived at that time period. Tax list evidence is circumstantial—that is, the person was living there at that time period, but gathering many years’ results and putting all the clues together can give great results. If you’re working with first names or patronymics, the research conclusions would be a little more solid.
- Write down all pieces of information from each year. It is crucial to record the year, film number, page numbers, Web address if they are online, and the condition of the record (for example, burned edges, missing pages, and so on).
Census Records (Tax Lists)–Henkikirjat (F)
Same as listed for the Swedish records.
Census records were taken in Finland when it was part of the Russian Empire, beginning in 1810. However, only every 5th year has been microfilmed. These records don't generally list birthplaces, but they can “replace” missing records.
Lastly, we invite you to share your knowledge and experience in researching Finnish and Swedish records by becoming a registered user of the FamilySearch wiki. Your perspective on a problem may help others!