Genealogy – what is it?

This page sheds light on the background of genealogy in general and from the perspective of a Finnish genealogist in particular

What is Genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of kinship and personal history research, which can be done in two different ways: ancestral research or posterity research.

The ancestral study examines the ancestors of one person from the present to the past, and the number of ancestors and ancestors basically increases exponentially from generation to generation (2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64, etc.). In practice, this does not always happen, as the father of a child born out of wedlock cannot, as a rule, be determined, which causes the so-called loss of ancestors.

Descendancy research is the actual study of the genus. In it, the starting point of the research is chosen to be the parent pair, the offspring of which are being studied towards the present day. Earlier, in the study of noble families, the study of offspring was limited to male offspring, but the rapidly growing study of peasant families since the 1970s has extended the study of offspring to daughters as well.
A typical presentation of the results of a descendant study is a family book, in which the family is organized into family branches consisting of nuclear families.
The offspring of each child in the family pair are ascertained to the end, followed by the next child.

In the pedigree system, each married couple with children forms a pedigree and receives a serial number in the family. When each person who has produced offspring is on two tables (in the table of their parents as a child and in their own table as a parent), a system of references emerges from the table numbers, indicating the lineage relationships. They are clarified with graphical pedigrees.

Information sources in Finland

Oral information about families can always be obtained by interviewing family members. Often, however, there are beliefs or stories in the genealogy that contradict documents. Assessing and documenting the reliability of the source is an essential part of preparing a genealogy study.

The basic sources of genealogy data are church books, which have been kept in Sweden-Finland since 1628. They are kept in the pastors’ offices in the localities concerned. Old church books can also be found in the provincial archives and the national archives.

Until the end of 1970, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church collected information about their own members. When the Freedom of Religion Act came into force in 1923, then a person could resign from the church. On the other hand, however, the person had to be somewhere in the books, so between 1919 and 1970 a non-denominational civil register was kept, the information of which was transferred to the magistrates after its abolition. In 1969, the Population Register Center was established, the task of which was to control and monitor the population census and to maintain the population information system.

The Digital and Population Information Agency began operations on 1 January 2020, when the Population Register Center, the local register offices and the Local Government Control and Development Unit of the Eastern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency merged. The registration of data is based on statutory declarations from citizens and authorities, but this personal data is not available as a source of genealogy data.

However, family pedigrees can still be ordered for a fee (min. € 45) from pastoral offices and local councils, as long as you find the unit you want.

Computer programs

Currently, the data found in genealogy is most often stored on a computer using special genealogy software.
Software typically maintains a database of data and sources, and is able to print reports of data using the presentations used in genealogy.
There are numerous software programs, including domestic ones. In addition, a translation into Finnish or Swedish is available for several foreign programs.

Genealogy as a hobby

The pursuit of genealogy has greatly increased with the interest of large age groups. Previously, genealogy was considered a hobby for retirees, now more and more younger generations have joined.

The basics of genealogy are easy to learn and basic skills go a long way. A large number of completed genealogical studies are available, as well as clean-written sources available everywhere via the Internet, such as the HisKi database of births, deaths and consecrations, and the Karelia database of donated Karelian church books.

Taken further, the genealogy requires careful attention, as the handwriting of old documents can be cumbersome and the language is old official Swedish, Latin, German or Russian. Searching for documents in archives and interpreting them often requires special expertise. Because the genus can be very extensive and, on the other hand, because research is sometimes laborious and slow, it can take decades for an enthusiast to thoroughly research the family.

Today, the internet allows genealogy research on various genealogy sites.

Genealogical research should follow the code of conduct developed by the steering group of the Finnish Genealogical Society’s Legal Advocacy Project (2013). The steering group also included a representation from the Finnish Family History Association and the Confederation of Finnish Family Associations. These rules have been audited by the Finnish State Data Protection Commissioner.
Unfortunately, this code of conduct has only been published in Finnish and Swedish.

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