Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where in Finland is...?

You can use Google maps if you like. But sometimes a better option is the official map site: Kansalaisen karttapaikka. It provides an address search but the the more useful option is place name search.

Do not worry about the municipality field unless you are already sure you have the right value for it. Enter the name you are searching to the search field. To search for places with the beginning of the name only, cut with *.

In the result list each row ends with the type of place: House, swamp, island, forest, elevation etc. Before that you can see the municipality the place is in. Press control down and select all that look promising and click "Show selected on the map".

Please note that farms/houses today are not necessarily in the same place as the farm/house with the same name ~100 years ago.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Did the only eat potatoes?

"Did I tell you that, in response to my comment that the family was land wealthy, Kathy replied, "Mummu said all they ate was potatoes some days"?"

- Finland was a poor country until WWII. Our last real famine was as recently as 1866-67.
- Farmers, of course, ate what they produced. The traditional Finnish food has been very plain and monotonous. What my grandmother (who grew up at a fairly prosperous farm) describes being the diet during her youth, doesn't seem very appealing to me. Since I have grown up eating lasagna, pizza...

So Kathy's "mummu" quite possible ate mostly potatoes at her home in Finland, as did many other people as well. And after coming to America and experiencing a greater variety of food stuffs, her opinion of the old days could very well have been coloured as not-very-rosy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What is torppari?

Conventional translation of torppari is crofter, but as I don't know what sort of terms crofters were living under, I don't know if that is accurate or not.

A torppari had a (probably small and simple) house and a plot of land to farm (these together form the torppa). This was not an independent farm, but a part of one. A torppari would pay rent, usually by working a set amount of days per week for the farmer. Additionally there could be yearly work product requirements like spinning yarn, gathering berries, making baskets, making trips to the closest town ... whatever was agreed. Often they also needed to work extra days during harvest - just when they would have needed to work on their own land as well. The saying is that moon is the sun of a torppari.

The agreements were seldom on paper so the torppari position was not very secure. But it could also be that the torppa would go from father to son for several generations (as was the case in one part of my own ancestry). Whereas farms are often (though not always) today in the same place they were a hundred years ago, torppas can be harder to locate as they could be a long distance away from the actual farm. After the civil war of 1918 we got a law that allowed the torppari's to buy the land (or equivalent) and many small farms were created. Many of these have since disappeared.

In church books torppa is usually on the pages after the main farm. Depending on the parish they can also be in a separate book reserved for non-owning class.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What is the big deal about Å, Ä and Ö?

Many Finnish people and internet searches will make a difference between a and å&ä and respectively between o and ö. Why? Because they are different letters.

Finnish is written phonetically. And we have more vowels than the English alphabet allows for.

Strictly speaking you don't need Å for Finnish. In Finnish it is called "Swedish-O", as it is pronounced usually the same as O and it is "swedish" because in Finnish text the place you see it in is names with Swedish origins.

But with Ä and Ö, Å is part of the Finnish alphabet. They are the 3 last letters, which might be useful to know when looking at indexes and registers.

Finnish alphabet with pronounciation from Wikibooks.