Finland Church Records
Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called vital records because critical events in a person’s life are recorded in them. Church records are vital records made by parish ministers. They are often referred to as parish registers or churchbooks. 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. Each parish gradually complied with this decree.
Before the decree some prominent churchmen, including bishop Johannes Rudbeckius in Sweden and bishops Isak Rothovius and Johannes Gezelius in Finland, promoted record keeping. Hence, some parishes began keeping records earlier. For example, Teisko birth records begin in 1648.
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. This outline gives the names of records and institutions in both languages.
Church records [kirkonkirjat/kyrkoböcker] 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.
In Finland, birth, marriage, and death records are called history books [historiakirjat/
historieböcker], and the communion books are called main books [pääkirjat/huvudböcker].
- 1 Information Recorded in Church Registers
- 2 Births [Syntyneet/Födda] and Baptisms [Kastetut/Döpta]
- 3 Marriages [Vihityt/Vigda]
- 4 Deaths [Kuolleet/Döda] and Burials [Haudatut/Begravna]
- 5 Church Records Extracts [Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker]
- 6 Confirmation Registers [Rippilapset/Skriftskolebarn; Konfirmationer]
- 7 Communion Records [Rippikirjat/Kommunionböcker]
- 8 Preconfirmation Records [Lastenkirjat/Barnböcker]
- 9 Moving Records [Muuttaneet/Muuttokirjat; Flyttningslängder/Flyttningsbetyg]
- 10 Finding Church Records
- 11 Records at the Family History Library
- 12 Records Not at the Family History Library
- 13 Search Strategies
Information Recorded in Church Registers
Information recorded in church books varied over time. Later records generally give more complete information than earlier ones.
No uniform format for church records was used, but the information listed in the various formats was generally the same.
Births [Syntyneet/Födda] and Baptisms [Kastetut/Döpta]
Children were generally baptized or christened within a few days of birth. Stillbirths were generally registered in both the baptism and burial records.
- Christening registers usually contain:
- Names of the infant and parents.
- The baptism date (later registers also contain the birth date).
- The child’s legitimacy status.
- Names of godparents and witnesses.
- Father’s occupation.
- The family’s place of residence.
- The records may also contain:
- Death information if the child died very young.
- The street name or family’s address if they lived in a larger city.
Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes including only the names of the child and father and the date of the christening. Until the end of the 1700s many pastors either did not include the mother’s name in the birth records or included only her given name.
Couples were generally married in the bride’s home parish. Typically, people were well into their 20s before they married.
Marriage registers generally include:
- Names of the bride and groom.
- Marriage date.
- The residences of the bride and groom before the marriage.
- The occupations of the bride and groom.
- Marital status (single or widowed).
- The names and residences of witnesses and possibly the parents.
- The three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced in addition to the marriage date.
The three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced are often referred to as banns [kuulutetut/förelysta]. They ensured that the persons to be married fulfilled all legal conditions for marriage, such as being of age, having parental consent, not being closely related, and widowers and widows having probated their former spouses’ estate. Banns may also be in a separate register.
Deaths [Kuolleet/Döda] and Burials [Haudatut/Begravna]
Burials were recorded in the parish where the person died and was buried. Burials usually took place within a few days of death.
Burial registers often give the following information:
- Name of the deceased
- Burial date and death date
- Age of the deceased
- Place of residence
- Cause of death
For the death of a woman or child, earlier burial records often list only the husband’s or father’s name and the word for wife or child. They may not give the name of the deceased.
Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before the earliest birth and marriage records and can at times extend your research another generation. Stillbirths were generally recorded in both the christening and burial registers; however, many stillbirths were recorded only in the burial records.
Church Records Extracts [Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker]
To preserve the original records, the Finnish Genealogical Society has transcribed Finnish church records. These transcriptions are called church record extracts [Kirkonkirjojen kopiot/Avskrifter av kyrkoböcker].
The extracts cover births, marriages, deaths, and sometimes church accounts and moving records from the earliest records, some beginning in the 1600s, to at least 1850.
The extracts are written in modern handwriting and are therefore easier to read than the original records. The information in these records has been put into columns and contains the basic information as in the original records. However, christening extracts do not list the names of the witnesses, and other random information is also left out.
The Family History Library Catalog lists the original church records as kirkonkirjat and the extracts separately as kirkonkirjojen kopiot under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS
The extracts of birth records and some marriage records have also been extracted and included in the International Genealogical Index. You can find alphabetical printouts for many parishes in the catalog under the heading:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES
Confirmation Registers [Rippilapset/Skriftskolebarn; Konfirmationer]
A person’s confirmation, or first communion, generally took place between the ages of 14 and 16. Most parishes kept confirmation records, the earliest dating from the mid 1700s. The records frequently list boys and girls separately by villages or residences, giving their names and birth dates or ages.
Communion Records [Rippikirjat/Kommunionböcker]
The 1686 royal decree required ministers to keep rolls of all their parishioners, where the parishioners lived, their attendance at communion, and their religious knowledge. Some communion books go back to the late 1600s. They exist for most parishes from the mid 1700s.
Many ministers began making yearly entries for each household, but with time, ministers began making entries every 5 to 10 years.
Communion records list the inhabitants of a parish by village, farm, and household. The head of the household appears first and other household members next. The records generally list the following information:
- 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
Typically earlier communion records have less information than later ones. Search all available communion books for the place where and time when the person lived. Verify all birth, marriage, and death dates in the respective original records.
Preconfirmation Records [Lastenkirjat/Barnböcker]
Pre-confirmation records were kept primarily in the parishes of eastern Finland. Many parishes in western Finland also kept them, at least briefly. These 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.
Moving Records [Muuttaneet/Muuttokirjat; Flyttningslängder/Flyttningsbetyg]
Moving records can help you trace a family as they moved around Finland. You can find moving records in several sources.
Communion Books. Ministers used the communion books to note individuals and families who moved into or out of the parish.
Moving Certificates. By the late 1700s some parishes began to issue moving certificates [muuttokirjat/flyttningsbetyg] to persons leaving the parish. These certificates identified the persons to their new minister and were chronologically archived in the new parish.
The certificates usually included the following information about a person:
- Birth date and birthplace
- Marital status
- Reading ability
- Knowledge of religion
- Worthiness to partake of the communion
- Character reference
- Vaccination information
- Place where the person was registered for taxation
If a whole family moved, the certificate generally contained at least the name of each family member.
Arrival and Removal Records. In the 1800s parishes began using special arrival and removal records [sisään- ja ulosmuuttaneet; seurakuntaan ja seurakunnasta muuttaneet/in- och utflyttningslängder]. These records, which are frequently essential to family history research, chronologically list the people who moved into or out of the parish.
The records give the following information about a person:
- Parish moved to or from
- Previous or subsequent residence in the parish. In more recent records, the residence is indicated by the page number in the communion book.
- The records sometimes list:
- Age or date of birth
- Religious knowledge
- Character reference
Wives and children may not be mentioned by name, only as numbers in a separate column.
Finding Church Records
Church records were kept at the local parish church. The term parish [seurakunta/socken; församling] refers to the jurisdiction of a church minister.
Before you can find church records, you must know the name of the parish that kept the records about your ancestor.
The boundaries of a parish may cover many villages and farms, which generally have their own place-names. If you know a place of origin, use a gazetteer to determine whether the name refers to a farm, village, parish, or county. See the "Gazetteers" section of this outline for more information.
For large cities that have several parishes, the Family History Library Catalog lists the parishes under the name of the city.
Over time, some parishes have been divided and borders have been changed. The earlier records of a particular parish may be found in its "mother" (previous) parish. A guide to the divisions of the parishes in Finland is in:
Leinberg, K. G. Finlands territoriala församlingars ålder, utbildning och utgrening intill 1885 års utgång (Finland’s Territorial Parishes’ Ages, Development, and Branching through the End of 1885). Helsingfors: Svenska Literatursällskapet, 1886. (FHL book 948.97 B4 No. 3; film 157159)
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has Finnish Lutheran church records from the time they begin, in the late 1600s or early 1700s, to 1860 and sometimes to 1900.
The Family History Library also has church records from Orthodox parishes in Finland beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until about 1900 and most of the church records (both Lutheran and Orthodox) from areas that were ceded to the Soviet Union in 1944.
To find Finnish church records, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
FINLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - CHURCH RECORDS
Records Not at the Family History Library
The Family History Library does not have recent church records. You can obtain this information by writing 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. A Finnish Letter-Writing Guide (36215) is available through Family History Library publications.
For a list of the Lutheran and Orthodox parishes in Finland and their addresses, see:
Kunta- ja rekisterinpitäjäluettelo: Förteckning över kommuner och registerförare (Register of the Parishes and Record Keepers). Helsinki: Väestörekisterikeskus, 1981. (FHL book 948.97 E4k.)
You can also find addresses for the Evangelical-Lutheran Churches in Finland on the Internet:
You may also find more information in a large database, the HisKi Project, that is being developed for the Internet. The database includes indexes and extracts to many Finnish parish records. Records from additional parishes are added to the database as they become available.
The database includes christenings, marriages, burials, and moves. The indexes include records for some parishes during the period 1860 to 1900, for which the Family History Library does not currently have all the records.
You can search the indexes for a single parish, several parishes, or by a county or region. To find the HisKi Project in English, go to the following Internet address:
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:
- Find a person’s birth record. Write down the name of the parents and the place where the family was living.
- Search the communion records and pre-confirmation rolls, if applicable, of that parish for the date and place where the family was then living (several households may have been living in the same place). Note all information about the family, including names, birth dates, birthplaces, marriage and death dates, and moving information.
- Search the original church records to verify the information you found in the communion and pre-confirmation books.
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 and the International Genealogical Index (IGI).