View Full Version : Auction Children - huutolaislapset

21-06-10, 16:40
My grandmother Gustava Ainali, Saralampi told the story of her being an "auction child" or "huutolapsi" back in 1885 at the age of 6 years. In a recent article in The Finnish American Reporter there is a reference to "Huutolaislapset - orphans who were sold to houses to work for their living".

Does anyone have relatives or addition info on this practice?


21-06-10, 21:16
Well, I am afraid this needs understanding of how the poor were taken care of in Finland (and Sweden) in those times. It was the responsibility of the parish and in the 1700's it was organized by a "rota" system. I don't know if there is a word for "rota" in English, but it means a group of farm owners who jointly maintained soldier (rote soldat) or took care of someone incapable to earn his/her living, like an orphan child, an old and poor or mentally ill person or an invalid (rotfattig). In 1800's this auction system was invented, so that the "rotfattige" were "sold in an auction", i.e. the parish paid for the upkeep of this person to the one who had the lowest bid. These children were usually too young to do any real work, but as all children at that time, they had to learn the work on the farm from very early age. Of course these "foster homes" were different and there probably was no proper control on how the kids were treated, so there are many different childhood stories. But no, the children were not sold, the parish actually paid to the people who took the children. At least in the 1700's the children were expected to earn their living from 12-13 years on.

22-06-10, 15:12
I understand the process but once you hear your grandmother's story it becomes real. She was not happy because for her childhood she was a servant and was not able to go to school like the other children in the adopted family. At 16 she left Finland to join her older sister in Canada. Now looking at the dates of her siblings there must have been 3 others who had a similar experience. That never even crossed my mind before.

Karen Norwillo
22-06-10, 16:31
My Swedish grandfather was placed into "foster care" at the age of 9 when his mother was dying of cancer and father was not around. He was made a "ward of the Prinz Carl Institution" and then sent to live with a foster family until he was 14. He actually stayed on with them until he was 18 until he moved on to Stockholm. His two aunts paid an amount yearly for part of his expenses and I guess the government paid some to the foster family. He must have been treated well as he was educated and stayed on an extra 4 years with his foster family. I have the documents of petition to the Prinz Carl, as well as the agreement of his aunts to pay a yearly stipend and pictures of the school he attended and household rolls from his foster family.

June Pelo
22-06-10, 16:53
Jim Kurtti, editor of The Finnish American Reporter, said that he plans to run an article about the auction children in an upcoming issue.

22-06-10, 21:57
Eldon mentiones "a recent article in the Finnish American Reporter" - is this different? Anyway, I think the subject would be worth a book, there are so many stories behind this custom. The oldest ones we'll never recapture, they are not exactly family tradition material. Even today there are still foster children who have been taken to the custody because the parents have been unable to care for them (mental or physical illness, alcohol or drug abuse, etc...). When I was a child, just after the war, many families around had one. But of course the system now is very different, the families are selected and educated (like for adoption) before they can have a foster child, and even afterwards there is an ongoing control.

June Pelo
22-06-10, 22:23
According to Jim Kurtti, he hasn't published the article yet in FAR. Maybe there was some reference in a previous issue of the paper. I know Jim and I'll write and ask him about it.

22-06-10, 22:55
In the June 2010 edition of the Finnish American Reporter that is an article titled - Finnish scholar researches 1920s Finnish-American life by Selina Keränen. Buried in that article is the reference to huutolaislapset. And yes Jim is working on an article for a future FAR edition on the topic.