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Genealogy Research by June Pelo

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Getting Started

Start your research at home. Interview your parents and relatives for any bits of information. Ask for old letters, documents, photographs and make copies of them for your file. Create a Research Log to record data from your interviews. The Log should have a place for the name, address and other pertinent information about the person. Use a separate Log for each person and enter any information received from them. The Log can also be used to record data from documents such as passports, old letters, naturalization papers, obituaries, census records, Bibles, cemeteries, etc. Be sure to record the source of all information that you find.

When you have gathered enough information, it can be recorded on Family Group Sheets. You will need a sheet for every family, including your own, your married children, your parents, siblings, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on as far back as you can go. The information will be incomplete at first, but you will add new information and when it's finished, you'll have a complete picture of your family - their full names, when and where they were born, were married and died. If you have a computer and a genealogy program, your program will have a Family Group Sheet form. If not, you can obtain the form from the Mormon Family History Library or a genealogical society. Keep your Log and other copies of worksheets, documents, etc. in a notebook for easy access.

Family group sheet

The husband and father of the family is listed at the top of the form, with all known statistics about him (birth date and place, christening date, marriage date and place, death date and place). Below him, list the wife and mother with the same information. Then list all the children born to this couple, including their birth, marriage and death information. There will be a place on the form to list the name of their spouse. If they had children, a new Family Group Sheet should be started for the grandchildren.

Write all names out in full, including middle names. Capitalize surnames so they are more easily read. If there is a double surname, put the newer one last. Be sure to list all women by their maiden names or you won't be able to trace their lines. Include the county or province as well as the name of the town and state. Use the European method of dating, with the day first, then the month and then the full year: dd/mm/yy. This method is used by all genealogists.

When recording information for people in Finland, include the patronymic name first and then the farm name. Without the farm name, it can become impossible to know from which village the person came. For example: Anders Johansson Hurr. The names of his children should be entered as Carl Andersson Hurr, Lisa Andersdotter Hurr, etc.

Pedigree chart

After you have gathered data covering several generations, the data can be entered on a Pedigree Chart which will give you a better idea how the families relate to each other. The numbers on the chart follow the Ahnentafel numbering system. No. 1 will be you, No. 2 will be your father, No. 3 will be your mother. The father of No. 2 will be No. 4 and his wife will be No. 5. The father of No. 3 will be No. 6 and the mother will be No. 7. By doubling the number beside the name you will find the father, and adding one number to it will be the mother. The Pedigree chart is always completed with the male family line at the top and the female family line on the bottom.

Branching out

Continue to collect data on this side of the ocean before searching for data overseas, moving backward in time from your parents to grandparents, etc. The vital records of your ancestors are the most important. The best place to start is the death certificates of relatives on this side of the ocean. These usually contain the date and place of death, age or date of birth, cause of death, place of residence, cemetery where buried, name of funeral home and the name of the person giving the information. Sometimes the names of the parents and spouses are listed. If the person died after 1900, there are state or county death records available. Your local public library will have books that give information on where to write for copies of certificates. Some states charge a high fee for a certificate, so consult the Locality Catalog at the Mormon branch library to see if the death certificates for your area have been microfilmed. You can then order the film and make a copy. Some funeral homes will research their old records for a small fee, and they can provide vital information about birth and death dates, children, next of kin, etc.

Another important source of data are marriage and birth records of people born on this side of the ocean. Don't rely solely on dates from the family Bible, or the memory of someone. The marriage records can be obtained through county and city clerks and generally give the names of the couple, their residence, date and place of license and of marriage. The application for the license is filled out by the bride and groom and gives their full names, residences, birth dates and places, parents' names and birth places.

Birth certificates usually give the names of the newborn's parents, the parents' birthplaces, ages, occupations, address and the number of other children born. These certificates are usually kept at the state level. First check the Locality Catalog at the Mormon Family History Library to see if the marriage and birth records have been microfilmed because you can obtain them more easily and at a much lower cost than through the various government levels.

Census records are a very important part of genealogical research. They are available on microfilm from their beginning in 1790 up through 1920 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. or at their regional field branches around the country. Most of them are also available through the Mormon Family History branch libraries or can be obtained on interlibrary loan through your local public library. Information about census records can be found on the Internet at several sites:

The 1900 census gives the year of immigration, the number of years each person has been in the US and whether or not naturalized. Census records help us to trace our ancestors from one state to another because they always give the person's place of residence at the time the census was taken. Other information includes family names, ages, relationships to the heads of households, birthplaces, occupations, education, marital status and immigration data. The 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records contain more valuable information than earlier censuses did.

If you do not know your ancestor's original name in Finland, you'll need to list every possible name that was used in this country as a clue. Often the farm name was dropped and only the patronymic name was used. Sometimes a long Swedish or Finnish surname was shortened. Names were also Anglicized (Swedish-Finn names, examples). But if you don't know the place of origin of your ancestor, that can be a big problem. One of the best places to find records is the Family History Branch Library of the Mormon Church (LDS). The main library is in Salt Lake City, but there are branch libraries in the US and other countries. The LDS has microfilmed church and civil records around the world and microfilms can be ordered from Salt Lake City through a branch library. All church records in Finland from the period of the 1680s to 1850-1860 have been microfilmed and are available through the Mormon Church.

The LDS web site: http://www.familysearch.org The IGI index is also located there.

The Mormon branch library has an International Genealogical Index (IGI) which contains more than 100 million names of deceased people from around the world. You can check the Index to see if your ancestors are listed in the IGI. You can also check the Family History Locality Catalog (FHLC), which is an index listing every community in the world for which any record has been microfilmed by the library. You can then determine what records are available in the areas your family resided here or the other side of the ocean. You can also check the Ancestry File on the computer to see if anyone else is working on the same line as yours and has submitted information. There are volunteer librarians available to help you use these resources at each branch library.

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

The Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia University (formerly Suomi College) in Hancock, Michigan has several thousand rolls of Finnish microfilms, mainly from the northern parts of Finland. The films can be used at the Heritage Center.

The Internet

The Internet is a good place to research. It makes historical and genealogical records accessible. The number of genealogy reference tools online is growing. New web sites are continually being added. Many researchers have posted their own family trees online. There are personal home pages detailing the heritages of specific families, articles on research strategy, as well as huge databases containing thousands of names. Mailing lists and bulletin boards are valuable resources. Topics may be specific surnames, geographical regions, or historical topics.

Some of the databases online include church membership listings, cemetery listings, and the Social Security Death Index. There are records such as census records, land deeds, wills, immigrant ship lists and tax records. Some databases have information about which libraries or historical societies contain the records.

Use your computer, if you have a genealogy program, to enter your family data: names, dates, marriages, places, sources and other data. If you don’t have a genealogy program, it’s possible to read about them by using a search engine, looking for ‘genealogy programs’. Some offer demos for a trial period to give you an idea of the options available. You can access a list of programs at Cyndi’s List (http://www.cyndislist.com/). Click on Software and Computers; then on Genealogy Software Programs. Or you can download a free copy of PAF (Personal Ancestry File) at FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org) .

Most genealogy programs generate a variety of reports, family charts, and indexes. They convert your family-tree data to a GEDCOM (Genealogical Data COM-munications) file which you can share with others.

If you don’t have a genealogy program and are keeping records by hand, you can download blank genealogy charts from Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com). Click the Record tab. Then click the Charts and Forms link. At the left is a list of charts to download.

TIPS: Type surnames in caps. This avoids confusing middle, maiden and surnames.

A good search engine is (http://www.google.com ). Type ‘genealogy’ after a surname. If you get too many results, add a first name or spouse’s surname, or a geographical location. You could also type ‘obituaries’ or ‘cemetery’ after the surname. When using a search engine, you’l find personal web sites, official records and historical sites.

Other genealogy sites are:

  • Cyndi Howells (http://www.CyndisList.com/) has a huge categorized list of genealogy links. For instance, the P section of the main index has varied topics, such as passports, personal home pages, photographs, Poland, poverty, Presbyterian, prisons and professional researchers.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) runs Family-Search (http://www.familysearch.org ). Search results include International Genealogical Index (IGI) listings, Ancestral File submissions, Social Security Death Index listings, and links to some personal web sites.
  • RootsWeb.com (http://www.rootsweb.com) is a free genealogy web site. It has a Name Roots Surname List search engine with over 300,000 entries searchable by surnames and locations. It also has WorldConnect (a free way to post and view GEDCOMs), mailing lists, the Social Security Death Index, census extracts and county history indices. RootsWeb also has more than 1,000 mailing lists, most focusing on discussion of a particular surname. The Web site includes a lengthy index of the mailing lists. For instance, the K page tells how to subscribe to 40 lists covering names from Ka- to Ku-. RootsWeb also has databases such as the California Birth Index, and the Early Marriages Database.
  • The US GenWeb Project (http://www.usgenweb.org) pages are part of the World-GenWeb Project (http://www.worldgenweb.org ). Each state has its own page, and the state pages link to its counties’ pages. Volunteers post files to the Project.
  • Some of Ancestry.Com’s (http://www.ancestry.com) services are free, such as the Ancestry World Tree, the Social Security Death Index, message boards, and genealogy articles. You have to subscribe to Ancestry.com to access Gene Pool Individual Records, Census Records and Images, Birth/Marriage/Death Records, and specific database files. Ancestry.Com has over 600 million names in 2,500 databases.
  • The GenForum (http://genforum.genealogy.com) is a good resource with separate message boards for different surnames, counties, states and topics, such as immigration or wars. If you click an author’s name next to the Posted By header, you’ll see the author’s e-mail address. Click Show This User’s Message Posting History to see a summary of other messages posted by that author.
    • A Search Tip: When searching for ancestors, try alternate spellings. Records have errors, and surname spellings change over the generations. Some records were written in shorthand, such as Wm. or Thos. Instead of William or Thomas.
    • Message Board Tip: Don’t post a living person’s information on a Message Board, such as Social Security numbers, specific dates or personal stories.
    • Not all information is online. Check historical societies, libraries and other sources for documents or to verify records.
    • You can create a free web site at RootsWeb.com to post family stories, documents and photos. You can submit GEDCOM files to RootsWeb.com even if you don’t have a web page.

Here are some examples of genealogy sites to show what others have done:

This site is a good one for the exchange of e-mail with people seeking data about relatives in or from Finland:

The Genealogical Society of Finland has a web site at: http://www.genealogia.fi They have an e-mail mailing list known as Finngen. There are members in Finland, Sweden, the US, Canada, Australia, etc. Their home page contains a Research Directory listing the names, farms, parishes, etc. for which members have data; a query site containing queries from members; articles about emigration, Finland, history, traditions, etc. The most popular web site is known as HisKi which contains searchable parish records for births, marriages and deaths. Not all parishes are online yet, but more parishes are being added continually. To subscribe to Finngen, send an e-mail to: postlist@genealogia.fi and in the message type:subscribe finngen

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. has a web site that contains useful information for people researching their roots. It provides guides, research tools and links to genealogical publications. They also have information on searching naturalization and post office records. Their site:

There are many genealogy sites on the Internet. Some of interest:

Research in Finland

The most important sources for genealogy in Finland are the church records. The best way to research those records is to contact a parish register office and ask for information, or to read church records on microfilm in archives or libraries. Some church records are on microfiche from the period 1850-60 to 1900. If there is no microfiche for this time period locally, one must contact the parish register office. Information in church records from 1900 to the present is available from the parish register office. They are required by law to give the information for genealogical purposes and they charge a fee for their service. Because of the popularity of genealogy research, and the small staff at parish offices, response time may be slow.

The parish was the main jurisdiction in Scandinavia. The church pastor was given responsibility for keeping a record of vital events concerning each parishioner: birth, confirmation, marriage, death, etc. In Sweden and Finland the household examination roll, also called the clerical survey record (husförhörsrulla), is considered the best record for research. Every change in the family status such as new family members, marriages, deaths and moving away information was recorded and updated whenever a change took place.

Information about Finnish genealogy, including addresses to parish register offices, and sales of microfilms and fiche can be found in English at the web site of the Genealogical Society of Finland: http://www.genealogia.fi/.

References and comments

  1. Currently (Jan'10 - over 2100 members)
  2. currently over 1.600.000 individuals

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