Finnish Research: Tips for Beginners
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Step Backward before Stepping Forward
Once you have a goal, look at the associated information to the problem. For example: If your goal is to find the parents of an individual (who is one of the end of lines on your Pedigree Chart), take the time to look at all the associated clues to the known individual. It’s a process of understanding the known before moving to the unknown. If you gather everything you know about that individual, and your information is still very sketchy (meaning you really don’t know much) you should probably move your goal forward in time to where you know enough to build on.
Understand Where You Have Checked
Evaluate what you have already checked. This is a lot easier if you have documented your sources during your research activities. Keep a good research log. List your search objectives i.e. "Find the marriage license application of Isak Bävfer to try to find place of birth in Finland." List the type of records searched, the time period the record covers AND the time periods searched in that record, which may be very different from the time span it covers as a whole . Note any anomalies in the record such as, "pages 10-13 unreadable - ink spilled," or "edges of index pages burned off," "male indexed only," and so forth.
Record the film number, fiche number, book number, CD number or Web address of the site where informaiton was obtained, along with book, page, and entry number where applicable. The person following your tracks to get to that same information should need just a few minutes to do that, if you've done a good job of documenting.
You may have from family or other sources the name(s) of the place(s) in Finland where your ancestor lived or came from. However, when you try to find that in a place list such as the parish listing for Finland, or, a gazetteer, it doesn't show up. What then? Remember that an "American language" ear heard what your Finnish ancestor was trying to say in his/her "Americanized Finnish or Swedish,"
A study of the Finnish language or Swedish language will help you with pronounciation and by saying the name of a place or person over and over as it was written in America, may lead you to the place or name as it was in Finland.
Watch Those Dates!
Europeans write dates in the order of day/month/year. For example, a date listed as 5/10 1820, would be the 5th of October, 1820, NOT the 10th of May, 1820. It's tricky and easy to make mistakes that will take you down the wrong path.
Get in the habit in all your Finnish research of writing dates with the number of the day, then the 3-4 letter abbreviation for the month, then the full year. If you do not do this, and are abstracting or extracting information from the records, you will at some point in time transpose the dates. You WILL send yourself off on an incorrect research path as a result. The names are so common in Finland you could possibly find someone with your transposed date even in the same parish, and take off researching a whole new line of ancestry - just not yours!