Finland History

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Beginning Research
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Local Research Resources

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records, such as land and military documents that mention your family.

Your ancestors will become more interesting to you if you also use histories to learn about the events in which they may have participated. For example, by using a history you might learn about the events that occurred in the year your great-grandparents were married.

The area of Finland administered by Sweden spread from the southwest towards the east and north. The eastern boarder has fluctuated over time. The various county and parish divisions have also changed. Books about Finnish history frequently contain maps of these developments. One source that is especially useful for understanding the development of political, ecclesiastical, judicial, and military jurisdictions is:

  • Jutikkala, Eino. Suomen historian kartasto: Atlas of Finnish History. Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö (WSOY), 1949. (FHL book 948.97 E3j; film 157159.)

An informative overview of the use and availability of historical and archival sources in Finland is:

  • Suomen historian asiakirjalähteet (Documentary Sources of Finland’s History). Helsinki: Kansallisarkisto WSOY, 1994. (FHL book 948.97 H2sha.)

Some key dates and events in the history of Finland are:

1050 or 1150–1300 The Swedes engaged in Christian crusades to Finland.

1300 The Turku Cathedral was dedicated.

1350 The black plague occurred.

1397–1521 The Kalmar Union united Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under one ruler.

1523 Gustav Vasa was crowned king of Sweden.

1527 The Diet of Västerås proposed changing the official religion from Catholicism to Lutheranism.

1530s The government began keeping continuous tax records.

1548 Mikael Agricola’s translation of the New Testament in Finnish was published.

1569 Titles of nobility were made hereditary in Sweden-Finland.

1570 The Älvsborg Ransom was issued, resulting in the silver tax (see Finland Taxation for more information).

1570s Finnish migration to central Sweden began.

1593 Meeting of clergy in Uppsala adopted Lutheranism over Catholicism.

1611–32 Gustav II Adolf reigned as king of Sweden.

1626 The government decreed that provincial military regiments were to be established. These regiments supported Swedish involvement in the Thirty Years’ War.

1640 Åbo Academy (university in Turku) was founded.

1642 The Bible was published in Finnish.

1686 A church law prescribed that parishes should begin keeping records.

1700–21 The Great Nordic War involved Sweden-Finland and Russia.

1734 A new common law was established to instigate estate inventories (probates).

1753 Sweden-Finland made the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

1808–09 The Finnish War. Sweden lost Finland to Russia.

1809 At the Diet of Porvoo, Finland was granted autonomy within the Russian Empire.

1812 "Old Finland" (Viipuri County) was joined to Finland. The capital moved from Turku to Helsinki.

1835 Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, was published. It contributed to the rise of Finnish nationalism.

1863 Finnish was proclaimed equal to Swedish as the official language.

1901 The Finnish army was abolished. Finns were to join the Russian army.

1906 Women were given right to vote.

1917 Finland declared its independence from Russia.

1918 Finnish socialists and nonsocialists fought a civil war.

1920 A law decreed that fixed surnames were mandatory.

1939–40 Finland fought the Winter War against the Soviet Union.

1941–44 Finland fought the Continuation War against the Soviet Union.

1944 Finland fought the Lapland War against Germany.

1995 Finland joined the European Union.

The following are only a few of the many historical sources that are available at the Family History Library. Books with film numbers can be ordered through local Family History Centers. Some may be found in major research libraries.

Jutikkala, Eino, and Kauko Pirinen. A History of Finland. Espoo: Weilin & Göös, 1984. (FHL book 948.97 H2juti.)

Juva, Einar W. Suomen kansan historia (A History of the Finnish People). 5 vols. Helsinki: Otava, 1964–67. (FHL book 948.97 H2ju.)

Finlands historia (Finland’s History). 3 vols. Esbo: Schildts, 1992–96. (FHL book 948.97 H2fi.)

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find information about locally prominent people and lists of farm owners. Even if your ancestor is not mentioned, you may find information on other relatives that can provide important clues for locating the him or her. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

In addition, you can study and enjoy local histories for the background information they can provide about your ancestor’s lifestyle, community, and environment.

The Family History Library has some local histories for towns and parishes in Finland. Similar histories are often available at major public and university libraries and archives as well. To find general and local histories, look in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:




To find bibliographies that list works about Finnish history, check under:



Calendar Changes[edit | edit source]

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar commonly used today. It is a correction of the Julian calendar that had been used since a.d. 46. Because leap years had been miscalculated in the Julian calendar, by 1582 the calendar was 10 days behind the solar year.

In Finland the last day of the Julian calendar was 17 February 1753. At that time, 11 days were omitted to bring the calendar in line with the solar year. The day after 17 February 1753 became 1 March 1753.

When you are looking for information about Finns who spent time in Russia after 1753, remember that Russia continued using the Julian calendar until after the revolution in 1917.