General Collection Information
This collection contains Finnish population registries, known as the henkikirjat, from 1809 to 1920. The henkikirjat (which translates to “life books” in English) recorded information about population and real estate in Finland. It was similar to a census, except that it was taken yearly to determine taxes.
Records from this collection are organized by county and parish and written in either Swedish or Finnish.
Using this Collection
The collection includes the following information:
- Person’s name
- Name of town
- Place of previous registration
- Whether or not the person was tax exempt
If you don’t speak Finnish or Swedish, knowing a few common words can aid in your search:
- Läänin is Finnish for “county”
- Seurakunta (may be abbreviated as kunta) is Finnish for “parish”
- Ikä is Finnish for “age”
- Maatila is Finnish for “farm”
- Kodin numero is Finnish for “house number”
- Verottaa is Finnish for “tax”
- Grevskap is Swedish for “county”
- Socken (may be abbreviated as Sokn) is Swedish for “parish”
- Ålder is Swedish for “age”
- Odla is Swedish for “farm”
- Hemmans nummer is Swedish for “home number”
- Skatte is Swedish for “tax”
When starting your search, it’s helpful to know where your ancestors lived, as each municipality kept their own henkikirjat. If you can’t find a relative and think they may have moved, check their last place of registration and try searching the surrounding towns.
While these records are very thorough, you might not find some people listed. These records were originally kept for the purposes of paying taxes and life insurance, and many citizens were exempt. Exempt groups included people under 15 or over 63 years of age, active duty members of the military, the very poor, or members of the nobility. By 1765 all citizens had to register, but compliance was difficult to enforce.
Collection in Context
The henkikirjat initially began while Finland was part of Sweden and may be referred to as Mantalslängder in Swedish. In 1809, Finland was captured by Tsar Alexander I and became a Grand Duchy of Russia. The henkikirjat carried on, but it was only recorded every five years instead of yearly. Though under Russian control, the Finnish upper class still kept ties to Sweden. As a result, most records were still kept in Swedish. It wasn’t until the Fennoman (Finnish nationalism) movement in the 1860s that Finnish became one of Finland’s national languages and the henkikirjat began to be recorded in Finnish. Finland gained its independence in 1917.
Arkistojen Portti. “Life Books.” Last Modified November 27, 2018. https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fi&u=http://wiki.narc.fi/portti/index.php/Henkikirjat&prev=search&pto=aue.
Digital and Population Data Services Agency. “History of the Population Information System.” Last Modified May 2021. https://dvv.fi/en/history.
The National Archives of Finland. “Digital Archives.” Last Modified 2020. http://digi.narc.fi/digi/?lang=en_US
The Village of Saramojärvi.“Life Books of 1815 and 1880.”Last Modified 2021.