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Rippikirja

This month I am in the final push to complete the Finnish research I need to do on my great-great grandparents. I plan to write about them next month and then present my findings to my extended family as Christmas gifts.

How do I find information on these people who lived in faraway Finland in the 19th century? I use the online Church of Finland parish records found at the Genealogical Society of Finland (http://hiski.genealogia.fi/historia/indexe.htm) or at Finland’s Family History Association (http://www.sukuhistoria.fi/sshy/index_eng.htm).

I have spent the year looking at records from two regions: Juuka parish in Kuopio for Matti Lampinen and Anna Miettinen, and Viipuri parish for Antti Mattila and Liisa Myllynen. When I first started Finnish research, I discovered a new and exciting record called the Rippikirja or Communion Book.

These records began in the 1600’s and provide the backbone for research in Finland. They provide more personal information on an ancestor than you can find anywhere else in the world.

The Communion Books originated when the Bishop implemented his goal of a literate populace who could read the Word of God and who took Holy Communion regularly. He required every parish pastor to keep track in ten-year increments of when Finns took communion and whether they could read and write. They kept these records by household group and included birthdates, so they serve well as a census substitute.

This week I looked at Anna Miettinen’s Rippikirja record for Juuka parish in the 1850’s. She lived on Halivaara farm no. 2. The record tells me she was born in 1832 although it does not give the exact date. She came to Halivaara from Kaava. She had received a smallpox vaccination at some point. She had also received instruction and demonstrated understanding of the ABC book, the Bible, Luther’s Catechism, and David’s Psalms. She could explain how people of different ranks should behave toward one another. She regularly took Holy Communion during her time at Halivaara.

Anna Miettinen lived at Halivaara with her mother Anna Toivain and several other Miettinens. The final entry for her in this Communion Book says she left this farm in 1856. She married Matti Lampinen that year and moved on to the Kuhnusta farm.

I know so much now about her life from just this one record. Where else can you find such detailed information about every person in a nation? The Finns have a fabulous resource in the Rippikirja.

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