Ahvenanmaa County, Finland Genealogy

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Guide to Ahvenanmaa ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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How to Do Research in Ahvenanmaa County, Finland[edit | edit source]

Most of your genealogical research for Ahvenanmaa will be in online church records. Methods for locating and reading them are given in this article.

History[edit | edit source]

Åland Islands (Ahvenanmaa in Finnish), an archipelago, lie between Finland and Sweden, with a Swedish-speaking population but politically an autonomous region of Finland in recent times. Historically, the entire western portion of modern Finland was ruled by Sweden for a few hundred years but lost to Russia in 1809 after a war. The history of Åland gets even more complex during the 1900s but the control by Finland always maintained to some degree. Older vital records were kept by the state church and are mostly in Swedish.

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Patronymics[edit | edit source]

Parts of Finland used the system of patronymics, where the child's surname comes from the father: children of a man named Jacob receive the surname Jacobsson (for boys) and Jacobsdotter (for girls). There are other factors that can cause changes in a surname. Carefully read Finland Surnames for help with understanding how these surnames will affect your searches.

Church Records (Kirkonkirjat/Kyrkoböcker)[edit | edit source]

  • Church records are the primary sources for accurate information on names; dates; and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Since the state entrusted the church to keep vital records, virtually every person who lived in Finland was recorded in the church records from the time the records began.
  • They include records of christenings and births, marriages, burials and deaths, and communions. Church records may also include account books, confirmations, and records of people moving in and out of a parish.
  • In general, the Lutheran church began keeping records after a 1686 royal decree. Since Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom in 1686, church records were kept in Swedish. Records were not kept in Finnish until after 1863, when Finnish was made an official language in Finland. The transition from Swedish into Finnish was gradual, and about 30 Finnish parishes still use Swedish as their primary language.
  • The Wiki article Finland Church Records will give you a detailed list of the important facts you can find in each type of record.

Communion Books (Rippikirjat/Kommunionböcker) and Preconfirmation Records (Lastenkirjat/Barnböcker)[edit | edit source]

Perhaps the most important genealogical record, Communion Books list the inhabitants of a parish by village, farm, and household. They are called communion books, because a person's records are added to them beginning with their confirmation and first communion. These records greatly simplify the research process by grouping individuals into family units. These records make it possible to follow the lives of ancestors from birth to the grave by providing, in one place, references to birth, marriage, and death dates, as well as moving information and other personal items.

  • Each person’s name and occupation or his or her relationship to the head of the household
  • Each person’s birth date and birthplace and possibly marriage date and death date
  • The place to or from which a person moved and the moving dates
  • Circumstances such as poverty, illness, illegitimacy, and committed offenses

Pre-confirmation Records list each residence, the parents, and the children who had not yet been confirmed (usually all children younger than about age 14). After their confirmation, the children were transferred into the communion book. These records list each residence, the parents, and the children at the residence who had not yet been confirmed with their birth dates and, ultimately, their confirmation dates. Vaccinations are also noted. If a child died before confirmation, the death date is given. The records often include notation of blindness, disabilities, or other personal data. Pre-confirmation records were kept primarily in Eastern Finland. However, many parishes in western Finland kept them for a time.

Online Records

Online Record Databases for Ahvenanmaa[edit | edit source]

Most of the online databases have an option to work in English. Look for the words "In English" or an icon of a British flag.

Church or Parish Records

As you look for your parish in the following databases,
these terms will describe the parish records you are seeking:

Parish archive--seurakunnan arkisto
Parish registers--kirkonkirja

Other Record Groups

Although you will rely heavily on church records, other records such as census, military, probate, and land records can help add detail to your family history. They also might have clues that help you move forward.

1. First search for your ancestor on these websites. Different collections cover different parishes, so it is important to check every collection.

  • The HisKi Project. Choose a specific parish or click on "All" to search the entire country. This collection is a partial database of indexed births, marriages, and deaths. It does not have data from the communion books and pre-confirmation books.
  • MyHeritage.com: Finland Church Census and Pre-Confirmation Books, 1657-1915. "Census books" here refers to communion books.
  • Finland's Family History Association--SSHY (Suomen Sukuhistoriallinen Yhdistys). Click on "Church Records" in the left sidebar. Select your parish from the list that comes up. Some of the features of this website are available at no cost. It appears that the paid subscription version (which is very reasonable) gives access to additional records not found with the free version.
  • Digihakemisto (Digital Directory). In the left sidebar, select your parish. This is a partial directory to parish records found in the Finnish National Archives. The index changes between the Finnish version and the English version. If you cannot find a parish, switch to the original Finnish.

2. The parish records are digitized online in the Finnish National Archives. This is the most complete collection, but it is more complicated to use. Use it when the records you need are not in the simpler indexed records above. Choose the parish you need from the "Tree View", which is a list of parish archives.

3. Once you find the records for the parish you need, select the specific record group. The records you are looking for will be labelled in English or Finnish as follows:

Communion books--rippikirjat or pääkirja
Pre-confirmation books--lastenkirjat

4. See the section below, Search Strategies, for help in understanding what you are looking for once you get to the records. These tips will help you choose which record you are looking for and what searches come next logically.
5. For more detail on searching these collections, see An Introduction to Finnish Church Records Online Resources.

Microfilm and Microfiche of Records for Finland[edit | edit source]

The original records used for developing the online databases are also available on microfilm and microfiche. You will also find additional records that have yet to be digitized. Eventually, all of the microfilmed records will be digitized, reportedly by 2020. In the meantime, some records might be found at a Family History Center near you. To find a record:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Finland, Ahvenanmaa.
b. Click on "Places within Finland, Ahvenanmaa" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the parish you wish to search.
d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct type of record and time period for your ancestor. Births=syntyneet. Baptisms=kastetut. Marriages=vihityt. Deaths=kuolleet. Communion books=rippikirjat or pääkirja. Pre-confirmation books=lastenkirjat.
f. Some combination of the icons shown below will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record.
FHL icons.png
Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

Writing to the Local Parish[edit | edit source]

If you have not found your parish records in the above collections, the next step is to write to the parish. Also, the Family History Library does not have recent church records, due to privacy. But private information can be given to family members who write to the local parishes in Finland. If you do not speak Finnish, you may write your letter in English. In your letter, include a statement that you are willing to pay for the services you request. You will be billed when the research has been completed. Response time will vary, so be patient.

  • For addresses of parishes throughout Finland: Parish Contact Information
  • For details on writing to Finnish-speaking or Swedish-speaking parishes, discontinued parishes, payment methods, etc., consult this Finland Letter Writing Guide
  • A convenient printable form letter is provided here for writing to Finnish speaking parishes.
  • A convenient printable form letter is provided here for writing to Swedish speaking parishes.
  • You should copy the letter and fill in the appropriate blanks. A separate request form should be used when requesting detailed information on a spouse or child. Make sure you type or neatly print your letter and, when necessary, add any diacritical marks and special characters (such as å, ä, ö) with a pen.
  • If the form letters do not cover the records you want, you can write your request in English.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Since Finnish was not an official language in Finland until 1863, most records were written in Swedish. To do research in these records, you will need to know some Swedish and Finnish key words and phrases (such as born, died, mother, father, etc.), but you do not have to be fluent in the language.

Search Strategies[edit | edit source]

When you begin using church records, it is usually best to first verify the information you already have before you try to find new information.

The following steps may be helpful as you use Finnish church records:

  1. Find a person’s birth record. Write down the name of the parents and the place where the family was living. You will then be able to find the person in more records.
  2. Search the communion records and pre-confirmation rolls of that parish for the date when the family was there for the birth you just located. Note all information about the family, including names, birth dates, birthplaces, marriage and death dates, and moving information. You will now have much more information about the family.
  3. Search the birth, marriage, and death records to verify the information you found in the communion and pre-confirmation books.
  4. Search the communion records and pre-confirmation rolls for all the years the family lived there. Start with the year of the parents marriage and go until the family dies out.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the person’s parents, siblings, or other persons of interest.

If you do not find earlier generations, search neighboring parishes.
These step-by-step case studies with illustrations show how to apply these strategies: