The date of death is often recorded in the communion book or at least a cross is placed in front of the person’s record to indicate that the person died during the period of that communion book. You will find more detailed information like age, cause of death and day of burial from the Registry of Burials. This post tells how you find the death records of your Finnish ancestors.

The Holy Cross Church cemetery in Hattula
The cemetery of the Holy Cross Church in Hattula

Many amateur genealogists search death records of their Finnish ancestors in the database of the Genealogical Society of Finland (HisKi). However, this source does not contain all the existing death records. Also, if you find a death record in HisKi, it is good to check the information in the Registry of Burials. With this cautions, HisKi can be helpful, especially, if you cannot trace whole lifetime of the person in the communion book, and he/she disappears from the parish records.

If you do not already know when the person you are researching died, it is best to begin by checking the communion books for the parish books where you have found the family. Check the communion books in date order until you find a marking of the death or there are no more markings of the Holy communion.

I will use the parents of knife fighter Antti Isotalo, Heikki Erkinpoika (Henrik Eriksson) Hanhimäki and his wife Maria Kustaantytär (Maria Gustafsdotter) as an example. Antti Isotalo himself died on 1911 and his death records are not yet freely available.

I dealt the communion book records of the Hanhimäki family on the previous post. We searched the communion book records of Antti Isotalo at the time of his birth. You can quite easily find the family in the following communion books. They are given in the following links:
Hanhimäki years 1829 to 1838
Hanhimäki years 1839 to 1845
Hanhimäki years 1846 to 1852
Hanhimäki years 1853 to 1860
Hanhimäki years 1861 to 1869
Hanhimäki years 1870 to 1879

There is a marking of the death of Heikki Hanhimäki in the communion book from 1846 to 1852. There is a cross before his name and the date of death is in the last column (Afgått, quit): “Död 17/11 52” (Died 17th November 1852).

Death record of Henrik Eriksson Hanhimäki in Alahärmä.
The cross in the margin before the name of Henrik Eriksson (Heikki Erkinpoika). HB = husbonde = farmer. Wife was the householder after the death of Henrik.
Henrik Eriksson Hanhimäki died on 17th of November 1852.
The date of death on the right side of the spread (Död 17/11 52). There is also a note of the Crime book record (Se Br. Bok No 207).

The knife fighter Antti Isotalo was also recorded in this communion book, but he married and moved out getting the new last name Isotalo, which was the name of the farm he moved to.

Antti’s mother Maria lived longer. In the following communion book, she was first the house holder (HB) but later the oldest son Erkki (Erik) was the head of the household. In the following communion books, Maria is marked separately at the end of the page having title Sytn. Enk. (Sytnings enka). Sytnings enka is a retired widow who was contracted to get residence and living on the farm. The death record of Maria is in the communion book from years 1870 to 1879.

Death record of Maria Gustafsdotter Hanhimäki
Sytn. Enk. Mor Maria Gustafsdr 27/8 1788
Retired widow, mother, Maria Gustafs daughter b. 27 of August 1788.
Maria Gustafsdotter Hanhimäki died on 16th of July 1873.
Död 16/7 1873
Died on 16th of July 1873.
(at the end of the row)

Using this information, you can easily find the death records of Heikki and Maria from the Registry of Burials. Easiest way to find them is to use the Alahärmä records of Finland’s Family History Association. Some of the burial records also contain records of births and marriages.

According to the information, we found from the communion books, Heikki Hanhimäki died on 17th of November 1852. The title of the Registry of Deaths and Burials in Finnish is: “Kuolleiden ja haudattujen luettelo” We should choose years 1843 to 1856 from the list:

List of deaths and burials in Alahärmä.
List of the registry of deaths and burials in Alahärmä parish.

The list, which you get when you click on the link, starts with marriages (Vihityt) and births (Syntyneet) so there are no death records (Kuolleet) on the first page. You should turn to the next page using the red tabs:

The deaths (Kuolleet) are in the third page (201-). You need still know if Alahärmä belongs to Lapua or Pietarsaari. If you do not know, you have to check both. You will find Heikki Hanhimäki record in the Pietarsaari records (Pietarsaareen kuuluneet, families in the Pietarsaari district). The month and year of death is given in the list.

Dead in the Pietarsaari area of Alahärmä.

The death record of Heikki Hanhimäki can be found from record 234 which starts with November 1852:

Dead and buried in Alahärmä on November 1852.
17 21 Hanhimäki, Bn Henrik Eriksson Watts. 70 4 4 Gifft.

Death: 17th of November 1852
Buried: 21st of November 1852
Bn =Bonden = farm owner
Henrik Eriksson = Heikki Erkinpoika
Cause of death: Watts. = wattusot, wattensot = edema
Age: 70 years 4 months 4 days
Marital status: Gift = married.

In this record, the order of the columns is: date of death; date of burial; title and name of the death person; cause of death; Age at death: years, months, days, and marital status. the number and order of the columns may vary depending on the parish and the time period. Sometimes age at death is given in years, months, weeks and days. The record may also include the place where the person lived, the place where he/she was buried and the burial fees.

The cause of death has been recorded since the mid-1700’s. However, since it was based on information given by the family or the priest until 1936, it is not fully reliable. Death records of persons who died more 50 years ago can be published.

To understand and translate the cause of death, you can get help from the article of Arno Forsius Kuolinsyyt vuosien 1749–1877 väkilukutauluissa. Unfortunately it is only in Finnish. A list, that gives the English translation is on the web page (cause of death in old documents). Tuomas Salste gives a list of causes of death in the years 1931 to 1951 (in Finnish, Swedish and Latin). The cause of death is often listed simply as infirmity caused by old age (ålderdoms svaghet, ålderdoms bräcklighet or ålderdom). The cause of death especially for children is often not known. In those cases the entry is unknown cause (oangifven sjukdom) often abbreviation oang.

The place of burial depended on the social class and wealth. Burial inside the church was restricted from 1773; however this was not fully obeyed until the absolute prohibition under the law of 1822. In Heikki Erkinpoika’s record, the place of burial was not given, but older records may report it as i kyrkan, i kyrkian, i kyrkjan (inside the Church) or i kyrkogården (in the graveyard).

Let’s search for the death records of Maria Kustaantytär. Maria died on 16th of July 1873. The death record should be in the book:
Kuolleet 1857-1884.

In the records for 1873, all the deaths in Alahärmä are in one list, (koko Alahärmässä)

Dead in year 1873 in Alahärmä.

You will find the death record of Maria on page 31. It is under July (Juli) on the right side of the spread.

Dead and buried in Alahärmä on July 1873.
Juli [July]
16 25 Sytn. enkan Maria Gustafs dr Hanhimäki ålderdom 84 10 19 Enk. _ 1

Death: 16th of July 1873
Buried: 25th of July 1873
Sytn. enkan = Sytnings enkan = Retired widow
Maria Gustafs dr = Maria Gustafs dotter = Maria Kustaantytär
Cause of death: Ålderdom = old age
Age: 84 years 10 months 19 days
Marital status: Enk. = Enkling = widow
Gender (male/female) = _ /1. = female.

The last two columns of this record give the gender, which is probably for statistics. There is number 1. in the column which responds the gender of the death person. In this registry the marital status is given by abbreviations G = Gift = married, Enk. = Enkling = widow, B = Barn = child, O = ogift = unmarried.

The information from the Registry of Burials adds to the information given by the communion book, giving the cause of death. The date of death is not always given in the communion book or sometimes it is difficult to read the text. You can check the date from the Registry of Burials. If you do not know the birth date of the person (sometimes it is not given in the communion book), you can calculate the birth date when you know the date of death and the age.

The format of the Registry of Burials varies. I hope that readers will send questions about information I have not covered. I will answer the questions here, adding the information to the blog post.

In my next post, I will describe the Registry of Moves. These records contain information about people who have moved from one parish to another in Finland.

English text edited by Barbara Wilson