How to research Finnish graveyards to find your ancestors – with videos

Or: What to expect when you look for your Finnish ancestors’ graves. As you will probably have seen most of my blogs are in German, but this one is in English, due to the fact that most people with a Finnish background can be found in English speaking countries (if we don’t count Sweden). Altogether about 300.000 Finns emigrated to the US and their descendants sometimes come to Finland to look for the graves of their fore fathers and fore mothers. This blog is for you, it will help you to know what to expect, and also prepare you. Preparations at home are crucial and I will have another blog coming up about your work at home before you enter Finland. Of course this blog will help you independently if you and your family live now in the States, or Canada or Australia or in some other country like Germany, Austria or Switzerland, where we also find thousands of persons with Finnish parents or grandparents.

This summer (2021) I have made some videos when I was looking for my own Finnish ancestors in Nilsiä, situated in the area of Northern Savonia or shortly Savo. The oldest graveyard there was founded in 1730, but there are only very few graves from that old. Pay attention, a lot of times there is more than one cemetery in one city and the name of the cemetery is not always the same as the city’s name!

The following video shows you what to expect when you arrive at the gate of a cemetery. It is not the same as in the video before, but also on the area of Nilsiä, the name is Kankaisen hautausmaa, a perfect example of the fact that the cemetery’s name does not always equal the city’s or village’s name!

Nothing in English, sorry! Pääportti = main entrance, ortodoksihautausmaa = graveyard for the orthodox, huoltorakennus = service building, muualle haudattujen muistopaikka = place to remember people buried somewhere else. It is also a good idea to check for the toilets, in case you spend more time here, so you don’t have to search for them, when you are in a hurry 😉

The older the graves are, the more you will graves stones that are very hard to decipher. Many times you will have to give up.

Watch my video about what you can expect when you have to decide if this grave stone might be interesting for you:

A Räsänen is buried here, but what else are you able to read?

In the following video I clean the grave stone and we find out what is written on the stone.

The text we deciphered is: “Talon isäntä Olli Räsänen, s. 24.3.1826, kuoli 12.11.1870 Mariaanvaaran kylässä”. = Head of the household Olli Räsänen, born 24.3.1826, died 12.11.1870 in Mariaanvaara (a place near Kaavi in Carelia). Save time and try to decipher first only the birth date, as we first did here. We made a mistake here and first thought the birth day was in May (we deciphered a “5”), but in the end it was March (a “3”). This way you can compare with your own data, if this person can be someone from your family. If you have more time, of course it is better to find out about both dates, but time is money, and sometimes you need to go through a lot of grave stones. Despite of all our work, Olli was neither in my friend’s nor in my family, too bad. Maybe in yours?

In the next video I try to get as close as possible so that you follow the deciphering process.

One more tip: Sometimes your finger is more sensitive to the information than your eye. In case if you are unsure about what you read, let your finger go over the dates and letters.

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