• Ancestor's Names

    Sometimes the name changes and spelling variations of immigrants from Finland can be frustrating. They followed no rule-of-thumb. Often, the farm name was dropped and only the patronymic name was used. At other times, a rather long Swedish or Finnish surname was shortened.

    Occupational names were sometimes translated into their English counterparts. Swedish or Finnish surnames were Anglicized. But there are occasions where there seems to be little rhyme or reason as to why an entirely different name was adopted in this country. Therefore, if you do not know your ancestor's original name in Finland, it is necessary to list every possible name you find that he/she used in this country as clues toward unraveling the puzzle. Sometimes the immigrant had his name legally changed and there will be a court record, but much more often this was not the case.

    It can become more of a problem if you do not know the place of origin of your ancestor, and it is all the more reason you need to move in an orderly process with your research, first by gathering together all material already available to you among the papers you have and then by interviewing elderly relatives in your family for their recollections.

    Your next step is to branch out by collecting from outside sources all the existing records you can find, moving backward in time from your parents to your grand-parents, etc., always going from the known to the unknown. For example, start by collecting death before birth records and searching on this side of the ocean before jumping over to Finland.

    And where do you find these records? The best place to start is your local Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Family History Branch Library. Many people are aware of the main Mormon church library in Salt Lake City, but most people do not seem to realize that there are over 1,000 LDS branch libraries in over 45 countries (including eight in Finland), and microfilm from the main Salt Lake City Library can be ordered by you through any one of these branches for a small fee. The main library in Salt Lake City has information on over 1.5 billion deceased people who have lived during the last 400 years, the world's largest collection of its kind. Members of their church have microfilmed church and civil records in over 100 countries, which are contained in 1.5 million rolls of microfilm and about 200,000 books. Over 4,000 new rolls of microfilm are added each month.

    When you go to a branch library, you can check to see if any of your ancestors are listed on their International Genealogical Index (IGI) of more than 100 million names of deceased people from all over the world. And you can check their Family History Locality Catalog (FHLC), an index which lists every community in the world for which any record has been microfilmed by the library, in order to determine what records are available in the areas where your family resided on this or the other side of the ocean. Or you can check your Ancestry File on computer to see if anyone else working on the same lines as yours has submitted information. Each branch library has volunteer librarians on hand to help you use these resources.

    If the Family History Library has not microfilmed the records you need, then you can always try the public library, various archives, genealogical societies, state, county, and city offices for the information you are seeking.

    Suzanne Greif Alskog, Swedish Finn Historical Society
    June Pelo