Maps are an important source in locating the places your ancestors lived. They help you see the neighboring towns and geographic features of the area your ancestor came from. Maps locate places, parishes, geographical features, transportation routes, and proximity to other towns. Historical maps are especially useful for understanding boundary changes.
Different types of maps can help you in different ways. Historical atlases describe the growth and development of countries. They show boundaries, migration routes, settlement patterns, military campaigns, and other historical information. Road atlases are useful because of the detail they provide. Other types of maps include parish maps, county atlases, and topographical maps. City street-maps are extremely helpful when researching in large cities such as Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku.
Use maps carefully for the following reasons:
Several places often have the same name. For example, two parishes are called Pyhäjärvi in present-day Finland and a third one used to be in the former Viipuri County.
Many place-names have both Finnish and Swedish names. For example, the same city is called Turku in Finnish and Åbo in Swedish. The names and spellings of some places may have changed since your ancestors lived there. For example, the city currently known as Loviisa was previously known as Degerby.
Place-names are often misspelled in American sources. Difficult names may have been shortened and important diacritical marks omitted.
Political boundaries are not clearly indicated on all maps.
Finding the Specific Place on the Map
To do successful research in Finland, you must identify the place your ancestor lived. Because many places have the same name, you may need some additional information before you can locate the correct place on a map. You will be more successful if you have some information about the place. Before using a map, search gazetteers, histories, family records, and other sources to learn all you can about:
The county [lääni/län] your ancestor came from.
The parish [seurakunta/socken, församling] where your ancestor was baptized or married.
Towns where related ancestors lived.
The size of the town.
The occupation of your ancestor or his or her relatives. (This may indicate the size or industries of the town.)
Nearby localities, such as large cities.
Nearby features, such as rivers and mountains.
Industries in the area.
Other names the town was called.
Parish boundary maps can also be helpful when determining which parish church records to search. They can help you identify neighboring parishes if you need to search through the various parishes in a given region.
Finding Maps and Atlases
Collections of maps and atlases are available at many historical societies and public and university libraries. Additionally, maps are available from the Family History Library, commercial and government sources, and online.
The Family History Library
The Family History Library has several excellent Finnish maps and atlases. These are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- FINLAND- MAPS
- FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH/CITY] - MAPS
The following map is useful for genealogists because it shows many of the smaller localities:
- Suomi yleiskartta: Finland Generalkarta (Finland General Map). Helsinki: Maanmittaushallitus, 1950. (FHL book 948.97 E7su.)
This map has been published in several editions. The prewar editions included the areas ceded to the Soviet Union. The various editions of this map show the location of many farms. The text is quite small, and no locality indexes are available. Some of these editions are available at the Family History Library and may be available at public libraries.
Other helpful atlases and maps at the Family History Library are:
- Choquette, Margarita, Lee Choquette, and Matthew Russell. Parish and County Listing with Maps of Finland. Salt Lake City: Corp. of the President, 1991. (FHL book 948.97 E2ch; fiche 6068252)
- Fennia: Suuri Suomi-Kartasto: Kartverk över Finland: Finland in Maps: Finnischer Atlas. Helsinki: W+G, 1979. (FHL book 948.97 E7f)
An excellent national historical atlas is:
- Jutikkala, Eino. Suomen historian kartasto: Atlas of Finnish History. Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö (WSOY), 1949. (FHL book 948.97 E3j; film 157159)
One atlas that has reference information in separate volumes in Finnish, Swedish, and English and includes several maps is:
- Suomen kartasto, 1925: Atlas of Finland, 1925: Atlas över Finland, 1925. Helsinki: Otava, 1925–29. (FHL book 948.97 E7s)
You can purchase maps of Finland from Karttakeskus (Map Center). Their website is available in Finnish or English and is a good resource for identifying available modern and historic maps.
The National Land Survey of Finland (NLS) is responsible for Finland’s cadastral system and other mapping assignments. The first systematic survey of Finland was conducted in 1633. The NLS has 21 district offices and seven national operations and has detailed information and map surveys showing property boundaries. You can find some of their maps and their address on the Internet at:
- A good website for locating maps is http://kansalaisen.karttapaikka.fi/?lang=en-GB
- Toimittanut I. Uschakoff, A Reference Map of Finland (Weilin & Göös, 1898); reproduced online by Pauli Kruhse, History of Finland (http://www.histdoc.net/uscha/ : accessed 24 October 2008). In Finnish (for the time being) with an English help page. "The indexes and accurate maps include, in addition to standard contents, sites for industrial enterprises, prominent farms etc."