The Registry of Marriages

The Finnish registry of marriages can provide information about the couple, especially the wife, that is often not available in the communion record books. For example, the last name (or farm name) of the wife is not always included in the couple’s communion record, but it is recorded in the registry of marriages. The marriage records also provide information about the husband and wife’s occupations, indicating their families’ social classes.  Finally, the records document where the man and woman were living when they decided to marry. This article will describe the Finnish marriage records and how to find them.

Altar of Rauma Church.
Altar of Rauma Church

Before a couple could become engaged, their marriage had to be announced on three consecutive Sundays in the home parish church of the bride. The dates of these marriage banns may be found in the records. The wedding usually occurred in the parish of the bride’s family so that is where the marriage record will be located.

If the place of marriage is unknown, the record might be found by searching the parish where the married couple lived after the wedding or the adjacent parishes. If that is not successful, another alternative is to search the HisKi database. If the marriage is in HisKi, it will provide both the parish and date, making it easy to locate the full marriage record.

Sometimes the date of marriage is recorded in the married couple’s communion records. If the date cannot be found in the communion records or in HisKi, you can estimate the year from the birthdate of the couple’s first child. Keep in mind that the first child might be born before the marriage or less than nine months after the marriage. Although an early birth was not unusual, sexual intercourse before the marriage (conceived before marriage, in Finnish ajaton vuoteus, in Swedish otidigt sängelag) was punishable by the Church.

Although the marriage announcements, engagement, and marriage were all recorded in the church books, few of the announcement and engagement records are available. They have either disappeared or have not been digitized. Therefore marriage records are most often used in genealogy.

I again will use the family of knife fighter Antti Isotalo as an example. According to the communion book record of Isokyrö, the first born son of Antti’s parents was Erkki (Eric). He was born on the 14th of November 1808. Therefore, it is sensible to check the registry of marriages for Heikki Erkinpoika Hanhimäki  and Maria‘s record in the years from 1805 to 1809.  

From the archives of Finnish Family history Asccociation, you find registry of marriages for Isokyrö parish beginning from 1734 to 1885. The title of the registry is “Kuulutettujen ja vihittyjen luettelot” (registry of engagements and marriages):

Registry of engagements and marriages in Isokyrö.
Registry of engagements and marriages in Isokyrö.

From the list you find that the announcement and engagement records (Kuulutetut) are available only from year 1867 to 1885 and the registry of marriages (Vihityt) contains in most cases also birth and death records. “Vihityt (sisältää myös syntyneet ja kuolleet)” means “Married (contains also birth and death records)”.

From the link:
Vihityt (sisältää myös syntyneet ja kuolleet) 1798-1821
you find the marriages from 1798 to 1821. Record 11 (Kuva 11) contains records from 05.1806 (May 1806):

Registry of marriages from year 1798 to 1821
Registry of marriages from year 1798 to 1821

By clicking on number 11 you open the record. Henric Ericsson (Heikki Erkinpoika) Hanhimäki is the first record of the year 1805 (on the right side of the spread):

Marriage record of knife fighter Antti Isotalo's parents.
År 1805.
Januari 6. Nybyggaresonen Henric Ericsson Hanhimäki med
Bondedottren Maria Gustafsdotter Kumbula i full Skrud.
Year 1805.
January 6th. Settlers son Heikki Erkinpoika Hanhimäki with Homesteader’s daughter Maria Kustaantytär Kumpula, in complete wedding dress (with crown).

Some records give the names in Swedish, while others give the names in Finnish. Usually, if the person was Finnish speaking, the Finnish version was used. The fact that the bride wore the full wedding dress (i full skrud, sometimes also i brudskrud, i skrud, med skrud, uti skrud) meant the bride had not had sexual intercourse  prior to marriage.  Church Law from the year 1686 states that only a decent bride is allowed to wear the complete wedding dress with crown, and the Church would punish misuse of the crown. Since the couple’s first son was born ten months after the wedding, Maria was able to wear a crown.

Church law from the year 1686 (in Finnish)
Church Law from year 1687 (facsimile 1986) in Finnish.

Free translation:
If a woman is known to have intercourse with a man before she marries or if she is known to be pregnant, a priest must insure she marries in ordinary clothes, without special decoration. If a bride wears traditional wedding apparel and her premarital intercourse becomes known after the wedding, the couple must pay a penalty of two silver dollars.

In this example, the family name of Heikki’s wife, Kumpula, was mentioned in the communion book so the registry of marriages only provided the date of the wedding .

Do not hesitate to request further information if you have additional questions about this subject.  In the next post, I will describe the registry of deaths (burials) in Finland.

English text edited by Barbara Wilson


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