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The Finns, Round Three

A recent visit to Finland and a meeting with my third cousins there made me keen to fill out more of my Finnish family tree. I had worked hard on it twice before, but neither time did I exhaust all the research I could do. I started with my Finnish ancestry when I first set up a genealogy office in the 1980’s. I later returned to this line of research before I took a trip to Finland in 2014. Despite this effort, I knew I could do more.

I had begun my initial search with my immigrant great-grandparents, Alexander Mattila and Ada Alina Lampinen. That time I collected American records like naturalization papers, birth and death certificates for children born in the United States, and census records as they became available. I gathered quite a bit of information not only on my great-grandparents but also on several of his sisters who immigrated around the same time. This gave me a running start at learning more about their families in Finland.

Family Search has digitized many Finnish church records. This source enabled me to compile some short family trees before the Finland trip five years ago. I found the research slow-going due to my unfamiliarity with both the Finnish language and the script used in the 1800’s. My husband/tech advisor helped me with this task. He powered through my family tree back through the 18th century and pulled copies of all the documents he found. I ran out of time to process it all before our trip. Since then, much of it has been in a manila folder awaiting further action.

Now I have connected with a Lampinen cousin who has posted much of our shared family tree on WikiTree, a free site for genealogical collaboration. Right away I joined this site so I could work with her. This summer I dug out the 2014 folder and turned my attention again to the Lampinen records. Item by item, I am listing them as sources in my online tree and adding information where I can to my cousin’s Lampinen tree on WikiTree.

The public site also offers the option to add DNA test results. My direct maternal line is Finnish, and I have taken an mtDNA test. I am hesitating on whether to share my test on this site. I know that once I put it out in the public arena there will be no clawing it back. I have no strong incentive to share it because I have no mystery Finnish ancestors to identify. The church records have enabled us to extend my family lines without needing DNA clues. I suppose I will wait for someone less fortunate to contact me with a share request.

I still have a thick stack of documents to work through this year. I hope to compile it all and create a fan chart of my Finnish ancestors in time for Christmas. Most years I write an ancestor character sketch for distribution to relatives, but the type of research I am doing this summer yields few family stories. A distilled family tree taken from pages and pages of documents will allow everyone to see our roots at a glance. Preserving this information in a non-digital way can help ensure its survival.

An Exchange of Health Histories

Look at your family tree and you will see many of the health problems that will affect you someday. We all have heard this common wisdom.

I had a rare opportunity to do so last month when my Baltic cruise included a one-day stop in Helsinki. My relatives in Finland were eager to get together.

We spent the morning in a conference room at the new Oodi Central Library. There we compared family photos and swapped stories. One of my cousins also thought to bring up the idea of illnesses that might run through our Lampinen heritage.

None of us carries the Lampinen surname today, but we all descend from Matti Lampinen (1835-1894) and Anna Miettinen (ca. 1832-?). This couple was of Karelian stock and lived in eastern Finland.

Karelians have well-documented histories of heart disease. The cousins reported that many in their families suffered from this. The same is true among my Finnish relatives in the United States.

The cousins also told me that members of the small Karelian population tended to marry one another, and this in-breeding resulted in the prevalence of allergies and asthma among these people. I also see this tendency toward allergies in descendants of my Finnish great-grandparents.

Looking at my extended family tree confirmed some of the health predispositions I had already observed in my small group of Finnish-American relatives. I added the information about heart disease and allergies to my family health history when I returned home. I also sent it around to my American cousins.

Not everyone has the good fortune to compare health notes with distant relatives. I am glad one of the cousins I visited that day wanted to trade this type of information. All of us now know more about what lies in our genes.

The Trip—Part 3

Our third genealogy stop during our recent Nordic vacation put us in Helsinki, Finland. We had no idea we would do anything but go sightseeing there when we booked the trip. That famous genealogy serendipity stepped in to change our plans.

A Finnish finder of lost relatives contacted me last fall and put me in touch with a couple of third cousins in Finland. I mentioned to them that I would be in Helsinki in June. “We must meet you!” they responded. And so we made a plan.

Our ship, the Zuiderdam of the Holland America line, docked in Helsinki about 7:00 a.m. the day of our visit. My husband/tech advisor had done some advance planning for us, and he knew of a bus stop in the docking area. We left the ship, boarded the bus, and headed into Helsinki.

We had arranged to meet my cousins at the new Oodi Central library in the heart of the city’s cultural district. Completed in 2018, Oodi serves as Helsinki’s living room. This peaceful, open-plan space has new facilities not formerly seen in libraries. Only about one third of the building contains books. A café, restaurant, public balcony, movie theater, AV recording studios, and a makerspace (complete with 3D printers and sewing machines) occupy the rest of the building.

The library was completed with the climate in mind, using local materials. The façade consists of Finnish spruce planks. The glass-enclosed upper floor offers a panoramic view of the city, including Kansalaistori square and the Finnish parliament. Already one upper corner has become known as the best spot in Helsinki for taking selfies.

My cousins could not have been more welcoming. One had reserved a study room. She promptly unpacked tea and cookies for us to enjoy while we talked genealogy. Another unrolled the massive family tree she had created. I brought along all the unidentified Finnish family photos I had recently received from a cousin in Minnesota. We talked and talked about our Finnish forbears.

At lunchtime we walked through a city park on our way to a restaurant. The cousins wanted to show me a statue there. My grandma’s cousin, Ida Andelin, had served as the model. The subject of the statue, the Weeping Woman, comes from a character in Finland’s epic poem, the Kalevala.

When we reached the Kuu restaurant, we enjoyed a traditional Finnish meal. My husband had venison stew, and I had perch. Being from a landlocked state, I order as much seafood as I can when I am near the water. Afterwards, my cousin handed me a few pieces of Fazer Pihlaja candy, the oldest candy produced in Finland. It’s good, and I have since learned that I can order some more. I plan to do so and share it with the rest of my family.

The day in Helsinki could not have gone better. I learned a great deal about my family. I had an insider’s view of Finnish life and experienced warm Finnish hospitality. My cousins urged me to return someday and promised that next time we would go to the sauna. We’ll see.

 

 

Old Photos

A woman sitting next me at a genealogy meeting earlier this week told me about a family photo album she acquired recently. It had been for sale on eBay.

She recognized it because she had seen it in person, years ago. Its owners no longer wanted it but did not make the effort to offer it to other family members. Instead, they posted it for sale online. Genealogists cringe at this behavior.

I had my own experience this month with family photos belonging to another. My mother’s cousin on her Finnish side inherited their grandmother’s photo album.

It contained many images of relatives in Finland, all taken a hundred years ago and more. None had labels.

A few years ago, this cousin visited me and brought along the album. She had no idea who the photo subjects could be, and she asked me for help in identifying them. It saddened both of us that I recognized no one although I could see a strong family resemblance to my Finnish grandmother.

The cousin took her album home again, and that was that. She died a couple of years later. I assumed the album passed down to her son. I did not pursue the idea of acquiring a copy of the unfamiliar contents.

Last fall a couple of our more distant cousins in Finland contacted me. We began exchanging family information, and they asked about family photos. I mentioned the cousin’s album.

They wondered whether I could get my hands on it. Perhaps they could identify some of the people.

Their interest encouraged me. I contacted the cousin’s widower and explained that I may have discovered a way to add some value to her album. I asked for scanned copies of the photos to share with our Finnish cousins.

He replied that he had no interest in keeping these pictures. Nor did his son. He would send me the originals.

The photos arrived in the mail a few days later. My husband/tech advisor has scanned them all.

I will e-mail them to my Finnish cousins to see if they recognize anyone. When I visit them next time I am in Helsinki, I will take hard copies of those and some other family papers. We plan to meet at the new Oodi library in Helsinki to discuss our family history.

Without their encouragement, I may not have acted to preserve these photos. They, too, might have ended up on eBay or in the trash. Instead, I now have digital copies that I can share with all my Finnish-American cousins. With some luck, I may be able to tell them who some of the people are. I just wish my mom’s cousin was still around for this exciting opportunity.

A Place for a Family Tree

Have you ever used WikiTree? This website (https://www.wikitree.com/) offers social networking to build a world-wide family tree. Speakers at genealogy events often mention it.

I had never made time to visit this site until recently. Then one of my newly-discovered cousins in Finland told me she was posting our shared family tree on this site. I decided to take a look.

This week I set up an account and located her tree. She has done a tremendous amount of work, tracing our shared Lampinen family line back many generations. I found that this site provides a great place for us to collaborate.

As a native Finn, she has advantages in pursuing Finnish research that I do not have. Sites like Ancestry or Family Search hold all the records from Finland that I can reach. I have trouble determining the methodology the record keepers used, and I find it difficult to decipher the words.

My cousin knows the Finnish language. Plus, she can visit the repositories where the records are kept if she needs to. She, rather than I, suits the role of Finnish researcher for our extended family.

On WikiTree, I can add the particulars from my American Finns to supplement her work. Together, we can add an entire family to the world-wide family tree.

A Nordic Vacation Draws Closer

This weekend our traveling companions will visit us to put the final touches on our plans for a trip to Scandinavia and the Baltic. My husband/tech advisor’s brother and his wife will join us later this year to see the lands of our roots. We have scheduled time in several spots of significance to us:

  1. After landing in Oslo, Norway, we will take the train north to Hamar. The guys’ Norwegian family, before their immigration to America in the 1880’s, lived on various farms around Lake Mjøsa in the Ringsaker district of Hedmark. We have been there before, so we will rent a car and drive the other couple around to see all the sites we discovered in 2013.
  2. Back in Oslo, we will catch another train. As we cross the country toward Bergen, we will travel through the Voss municipality of Hordaland. My great-grandmother’s grandparents lived in this region before they moved north to the cod fishing grounds of Nordland in the 1840’s. One local history claims the couple left Voss because their families disapproved of their marriage between members of different social classes.
  3. From Bergen, we will take a ferry tour along Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, the Sognefjord. My great-father’s grandparents lived along the fjord. This couple, too, left their birthplaces for the fishing grounds of Nordland. A possible reason for their move is the lack of opportunity in Voss for an illegitimate son.
  4. We will fly to Copenhagen, Denmark from Bergen. There, my husband/tech advisor’s ancestor Jorgen/Georg Rasch once served as court musician to the King of Denmark-Norway. A well-regarded lutenist, his likeness is painted on the ceiling of a building in Copenhagen. We plan to see it.
  5. A cruise ship from Copenhagen will take us around the Baltic Sea with a stop in Helsinki, Finland. I hope to meet some of my Lampinen relatives there.

With our visitors this weekend, we will finalize plans for our shore excursions from the cruise ship. In addition to Helsinki, we have stops in Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Germany. This voyage means a lot to me. My Finnish family sailed on the Baltic when they left Finland for America in 1905, and now I get to sail on the same sea.

I hope my sister-in-law enjoys the trip, too. She has no Scandinavian or Baltic ancestors, but she looks forward to seeing Norway and taking the cruise. A visit to this part of the world has been on her bucket list. I am sure we will find many fun things to do that are not related to genealogy.

We are looking forward to seeing these family members and finishing up our trip plans this weekend. Anticipation is building up for all of us.

I Get In Touch With My Nordic Roots

I have had an amazing week. My mother’s family stepped in to give me a much-needed break from the frustrations of trying to locate a birth family in my dad’s line. Mom was half Norwegian and half Finn, and recently I have had contact with people from both heritages.

A Huge Family of Finlanders

Several days ago, I received an amazing e-mail message from a man in Finland who specializes in finding missing relatives. He learned that his client’s great-grandmother, Hendrika Lampinen Andelin, and my great-grandmother, Ada Lampinen Mattila (1879-1948), were sisters. He put me in touch with his client, and he told me that I have a lot of relatives in Finland.

I had always suspected as much, but I had no easy way to find them. My family did not keep any contact information after my great-grandmother died in 1948. My own grandmother stated that she knew nothing about her mother’s family because they all stayed in Finland.

A few years ago, I did some genealogical research on the Lampinen family. I learned that Ada had 10 other siblings besides Hendrika. The new correspondence from Finland now tells me the Hendrika alone had 15 children. I cannot imagine how many Lampinen descendants there are.

When I did my Lampinen research, I focused on working backwards from Ada. This gave me her lineage but did not tell me anything about siblings and their descendants. Doing this aspect of research presents many challenges because of modern-day privacy laws.

Now I have an open door for learning about my extended family in Finland. My new cousin has many family photos dating from my great-grandmother’s day. She also has photos my family sent to her great-grandmother up until the 1940’s. She has sent me several from her collection, and I can really see my grandmother’s resemblance to her Lampinen family.

I hope my cousin can reassemble the modern-day Lampinen descendants. The family stretches not only from Finland to America. A couple of Ada and Hendrika’s other sisters married Russian soldiers after WWI and emigrated to Russia. My cousin hopes to locate their descendants, too.

Norwegians On Tour

This week my husband/tech advisor and I had the opportunity to have dinner with a group of travelers from Norway. These 40 or so Norwegians came across the sea to tour the American Southwest. Upon their arrival, they stopped in Denver for a couple of days. The Trollheim Lodge of Sons of Norway hosted a supper for them and invited locals of Norwegian descent to participate. We greeted the tour bus with waving Norwegian flags.

Once inside the Lodge building, we all enjoyed a Western meal of pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans. Of course, the Trollheim folks added some Norwegian touches like pickles (beets and cucumbers), desserts, and coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

Few of the Americans speak much Norwegian, but many Norwegians speak fluent English. This allowed for international conversations all along the banquet tables. We learned about the tourists’ travel plans and something about their homeland.

I also had an opportunity to ask a few questions in anticipation of our own planned visit to Norway next spring. The Norwegian group did not come from any of the areas on our itinerary, but some of them had visited places like Bergen and Lake Mjösa. They pointed us to must-see sites.

I enjoyed my pivot from research on my American brick-wall ancestors. Although my mom’s family has resided in the U.S. for over 100 years now, I still feel comfortable with Nordic culture. A week spent interacting with the Finns and the Norwegians was time well-spent.

Celebrate St. Urho’s Day

Perhaps you have not heard of Saint Urho. Tomorrow, March 16, will be St. Urho’s Day, and Finns like me will gather to celebrate.

This special day falls one day before that of the more widely-known St. Patrick’s Day. The date is fitting because St. Urho and St. Patrick have something in common.

St. Patrick, as you probably know, is famous for driving the snakes from Ireland. St. Urho accomplished a similar feat. He drove the grasshoppers from Finland, saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He used the famous phrase Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen (meaning “Grasshopper, Grasshopper, go to Hell!”).

Now, if this story sounds suspicious to you, perhaps it is because St. Urho is a made-up character. His feast day began in the 1950’s in the upper Midwest of the United States. Finns there wanted a reason to begin drinking green beer a day before the Irish. From there the hilarity spread, and nowadays Finns everywhere, even in Finland, celebrate St. Urho’s day. They mark the occasion by wearing the colors of grasshoppers and wine, namely Nile green and royal purple.

If you want to get a head start on your St. Patrick’s Day festivities, go ahead and join all the Finns in raising a glass to St. Urho. I will be joining some Finnish friends to do the same.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #61 & 62—Henric Miettinen & Anna Toivain

At last we reach the end of my series on the stories of my ancestors. Over a year ago, I took up the challenge of writing about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I began with my parents and worked backwards. At the end of last year, I had written about 52 ancestors, but it seemed a shame to stop part way through a generation. I elected to continue to relate what I know of each of my third great-grandparents. The final couple on this list is Henric Henricson Miettinen (ca. 1804-1836) and Anna Andersdöttir Toivain (1802-a. 1858).

Henric was born at Halivaara in the Karelian region of Finland about 1804. He lived there all his life and worked as a farmer.

On December 27, 1819, he married Anna Toivain in the Juuka parish. She was from the nearby village of Kajo. Together they had seven children:

  1. Carin, b. 1821,
  2. Henric, b. 1823,
  3. Christina, b. 1827,
  4. Margret, b. 1829,
  5. Johan, b. 1830,
  6. Anna, b. 1832, my great-great grandmother, and
  7. Brita, b. 1835.

Like so many Finnish men of the time period, Henric had a short life. When he was thirty-two years old, he contracted a fever. He died on October 22, 1836 when my great-great grandmother Anna was just four years old. Henric was buried in Juuka parish.

His wife survived him by a number of years. She lived until at least 1858. The previous year, she had attended the local kinkeri, or religious meeting, in Juuka parish where confirmed Lutherans were required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran faith. In 1858, her name appears on the communion register, but no record of her has been found after that.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #57 & 58—Simon Myllynen and Sofia Ampuja

During the 19th century, my Myllynen ancestors lived near what was then Finland’s second-largest city, Viipuri. This municipality lies east of the Baltic Sea on the Karelian isthmus at a distance of 81 miles northwest of St. Petersburg. It is known for its landmark Vyborg Castle, built by the Swedes in 1293.

When the Viipuri parish was ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II, all the Finns left and resettled in other parts of modern Finland. Today the town of my ancestors is known as Vyborg and only Russians live there.

Simon Mattson Myllynen was born at Tervajärvi on July 8, 1810 to Matti Johansson Myllynen and Anna Simonsdottir. They had him baptized a couple of days later in the Viipuri rural parish. When Simon grew up, he married a local girl, Sofia Hendriksdottir Ampuja. Their marriage took place in the Viipuri rural parish on December 11, 1831 when he was 21 and she was about nineteen. They made their home and raised their children at Tervajärvi.

Simon and Sofia had ten children:

  1. Matthias, born February 10, 1834,
  2. Elisabeth (Liisa), born April 25, 1836, my second great-greatmother,
  3. Henric, born December 24, 1838,
  4. Helena, born May 27, 1841,
  5. Henric, born May 27, 1841,
  6. Regina, born June 1, 1844,
  7. Philip, born April 15, 1847,
  8. Adam, born March 11, 1849,
  9. Adam, born May 30, 1851,
  10. Filip,born May 20, 1851.

Simon worked as a farmer. He did not have along life, and he passed away at Tervajärvi on April 10, 1857 at the age of forty-six. He was buried at the Viipuri rural parish a week later on April 17, 1857.