This page has been updated and corrected on 3rd of March 2023 due to changes in the services of the National Archives of Finland and the Digihakemisto.

A Finnish estate inventory (bouppteckning in Swedish, perukirja in Finnish) provides interesting information about the property of a deceased ancestor.  The document also lists the deceased’s beneficiaries. This may allow you to discover additional family members. The inventories can be found in the archives of the Judicial Districts or the City Courts. The estate inventory of a person whose spouse remarried after their death may also be found in the Church Archives. I will briefly describe the content of the Finnish Estate Inventory then explain how you can find the documents. I will conclude by providing examples of two inventories.

Estate inventory of Uno Cygnaeus.
The Estate Inventory of Uno Cygnaeus, the developer of Finland’s school system.

In Finland, the property of a deceased person had to be enumerated and its value estimated. The act of doing the inventory is called bouppteckning in Swedish and perunkirjoitus in Finnish. The law of 1734 required an estate inventory be made and submitted to the judicial authorities within three months of a death. The law was not enforced very closely, so not everyone who died had an estate inventory. In some cases, the document was completed years after the person’s death. The earliest Estate Inventories are from the 1600’s. More are available in the archives beginning in the 1800s.

The documents were usually submitted to a lower court. In rural areas this was the Judicial District Court (domsaga, tuomiokunta), and in towns, the City Court (rådhusrätt or rådstuvurätt, raastuvanoikeus). Estate Inventories of noblemen were submitted to the Court of Appeal (hovrätt, hovioikeus) until 1869.

Almost all the estate inventories up to 1919 have been digitized and are freely available. To find a document, you need to know the person’s name and the time and place of their death. The birthdate is usually not included in the document. If the deceased lived in a rural area, you need to know the District Court of the place where the person died. Finland’s Family History Association (FFHA) has an index which gives the District Court for each parish from 1623 to 1862 (Pitäjien kuuluminen tuomiokuntiin vuosina 1623-1862). It is in Finnish and Swedish; however, it is quite easy to use even if you don’t know those languages. For the period after 1862, there is no index available on the Internet; however, the offices of the National Archives have a complete list of District Courts. For more recent deaths, you might start by looking up the parish’s District Court in 1862. In urban areas that are part of a City Court, the name of the Court is raastuvanoikeus in Finnish. However, in cities with a Swedish-speaking majority, like Jakobstad, it is rådstuvurätt, which is Swedish. The City Court records have a folder in the Archives named Perukirjat.

As an example of how to find an estate inventory, I will use the inventory of the parents of Aleksis Kivi, the Finnish author. Aleksis’ mother Anna Kristiina Stenvall died in Nurmijärvi on 17th of December 1863, and his father Erik Johan Stenvall on 26th of March 1866. (Kivi was Aleksis’ penname.)

You can find the District Court name from the FFHA index. For Nurmijärvi the list advises you to look in the Helsingin pitäjä or parish: Nurmijärvi: ks. Helsingin pitäjä – se Helsinge. (Nurmijärvi was part of Helsinki rural municipality). Helsingin pitäjä gives a list of the District Courts in different periods:

Helsingin pitäjä-Helsinge: Porvoo 1623-1658, Hollola ja Porvoo 1658-1750, Porvoo ja Kymenkartano 1750-1807, Porvoo 1807-1862.

In 1862, Nurmijärvi belonged to Porvoo District Court (Porvoon tuomiokunta), so it is sensible to search for the Stenvall documents in that District Court.

Easiest way to find an estate inventory is to use the Digihakemisto. Click the quick searches tab “Tuomiokirjat“. In the Archive list you will find “Porvoon tuomiokunnan arkisto” (the Archive of Porvoo District Court). On this page you will find L Porvoon tuomiokunnan digitoidut perukirjat (1808-1917) (the digitized estate inventories of the Porvoo District Court of years 1808 to 1917).

This is the link to the digitized Estate Inventories of Porvoo District Court from 1807 to 1915. Some sections have an index of the documents (perukirjaluettelot) but others do not. The index is usually at the beginning of a section. In some cases, the first pages of the section list the dates of the Court sessions of each municipality, giving the page where the documents of each session begin.

Searching for an estate inventory can be time consuming if there is no index. Some knowledge of Swedish and/or Finnish is also needed. All the Estate Inventories for a session in a municipality are grouped together. There usually were two Court sessions in each municipality every year, the winter court (vintertinget in Swedish, talvikäräjät in Finnish) and fall court (höste tinget in Swedish, syyskäräjät in Finnish). Documents from the two sessions are separate from each other. The winter court documents from all the municipalities are given before the fall court documents.

Anna Stenvall died at the end of the year 1863, which means that her estate inventory would have been processed at the earliest in the winter court 1864. You should search for the document from the link Ec1:28 Porvoon tuomiokunnan perukirjat (1864-1865) These estate inventories are partly indexed in Digihakemisto. If the indexing is missing you will have to go through a large number of pages to find the document you are looking for. The Estate Inventories of the winter court of Nurmijärvi municipality (Nurmijärven pitäjän talvikäräjät 1864) start at the digitized image 511 (page 512). The persons for whom Estate Inventories were processed in the winter session are listed in the minutes of the session which precede the actual inventories. Third inventory in this list is that of Skräddarehustrun (tailor’s wife) Anna Kristina Stenvall från Palojoki by (from Palojoki village). Her inventory starts with image 518 (page 519).

Anna Kristina Stenvall's estate inventory.
Beginning of the Estate Inventory of Anna Christina Stenvall.

Erik Stenvall died in March 1866, so his estate inventory would have been processed at the earliest in the Fall Court of 1866. The documents of that year are under the link Ec1:29a Porvoon tuomiokunnan perukirjat ja perukirjaluettelot (1866-1866). The session of that year is partly indexed in Digihakemisto. It contains an index (in Finnish) giving the starting page numbers for the municipalities. The index is on image 1. It indicates that the documents for the 1866 fall (syysk.) court in the Nurmijärvi municipality (käräjäkunta) starts on page 393. In this case, the image numbers and the page numbers are the same, so the documents of Nurmijärvi’s fall Court begins on image 393. Erik Stenvall is fifth in the list on that page (5. Skräddaren Erik Johan Stenvall från Palojoki by), and his estate inventory starts on image 411 (page 411).

Eric Johan Stenvall's estate inventory.
Beginning of the Estate Inventory of Erik Johan Stenvall.

The indexing of these documents in Digihakemisto is being done by volunteers. So far only some of the Estate Inventory Indexes contain the complete lists of names. Some of the indexes are partial or blank. For this reason, Digihakemisto does not always help.

Estate Inventories archived by parishes can be found in the parish archives of National Archives of Finland. They can also be accessed using the Digihakemisto. Estate Inventories in the Church records can be found through Finland’s Family History Asscociation (FFHA). It is a good idea to check these archives if you know that the spouse of the deceased person remarried and if you did not find the estate inventory in the Archive of the District Court. The document may be in the records of the parish where the spouse remarried. In the archives of FFHA, the Estate Inventories (perukirjat, perukirjoja) are at the end of list of documents for each parish under Muita luetteloita (Other indexes). This is the link to the estate inventory documents of Nurmijärvi parish in FFHA. The estate inventory documents of Nurmijärvi parish are slightly difficult to find. They are in the Väestörekisteriarkisto, väestörekisteri-ilmoitukset, Kuulutus- ja vihkimisasiakirjat section of the archive (Civil register archive, Civil register announcements, banns and wedding documents).

The placement of estate inventory documents may differ depending on the parish. They are usually found with the banns and wedding documents in the parish archives.

Ordering an Estate Inventory from the National Archives of Finland

Finnish citizens can order estate inventories from the 1900’s onwards from the document service of the National Archives of Finland. There is a charge for this service. If the death was less than 40 years ago, the document may still reside in the local tax office or in the District Court Office. The local tax office has estate inventories from September 1994 to the present.

Detailed instructions in Finnish, on how to order the document, are given in my Finnish post “Perukirjassa luetteloidaan ja arvioidaan vainajan omaisuus“.

The Creation of an Estate Inventory

In towns, the mayor or the city council assigned two or more honest men to estimate the value of the property of a deceased person. In countryside, the inheritors could choose men they trusted to make the inventory.

The content of the Estate Inventory

The content of the estate inventory became established quite early. Newer ones are very similar to those created in the 1700’s. The first paragraphs of the inventory usually contain the following information:

  • Date of the inventory
  • Author of the document and the assistant officers
  • Name and death date of the person
  • The beneficiaries and the guardians of the underage children
  • The participants in the estate inventory.

The estate inventory of Anna Kristina Stenvall was quite traditional, with one exception. The author of the inventory and his assistants were usually listed at the beginning, before the name of the deceased person. In this document, their names are only found in the signatures at the end of document. Otherwise, the format is standard: date of the inventory, name and death date of the deceased person, the names of the beneficiaries, and a statement that all the beneficiaries were of legal age. Anna Kristina’s spouse Erik Johan and one of their children, Emanuel, were present during the inventory. The widower was reminded that he had to report all the property under the compulsion of oath.

Anna Stenvall's estate inventory.
Beginning of the Estate Inventory of Anna Kristina Stenvall.

After this information, the estate inventory lists the property and the liabilities of the deceased person. The real estate (Fasta egendomar, kiinteä omaisuus) is reported first. In this case, there was no real estate. After that, other property is reported in detail. Often this property is divided into categories such as:

  • Gold and silver items (Guld och Silfver, kulta- ja hopeaesineet)
  • Copper and tin items (Kopper och Tenn, kupari- ja tinaesineet)
  • Iron items (Järn saker, Rautatavarat)
  • Horses and livestock (Hästar och boskap/Kreatur, hevoset ja karja)
  • Vehicles and field tools (Kör och åkerredskap, ajokalut ja peltokalut)
  • Boats and fishing equipment (Båtar och fiske redskap, veneet ja kalastustarvikkeet)
  • Miscellaneous (Diverse persedlar, sekalaista)
  • Clothing (Gång kläder, pitovaatteet)
  • Bed clothes (Säng kläder, vuodevaatteet)

According to the estate inventory, Anna Kristina Stenvall owned the following movable property. (In Finland, a house is movable property if the person does not own the land). This list includes things that belonged to both the husband and wife.

In addition to dishes, tools and furniture, Anna Kristina owned a cow named Herdinna. Often even the names of cows were mentioned in the inventory. The house is the most valuable item in the inventory of Anna Kristina. Older property lists often contain items, that are not familiar to us today, making translation problematic.

The photos illustrate some of the items which were listed in Anna Kristina’s inventory. The photographs of the loom, a tool to maintain the cloth’s width while weaving, the tub, trough for dough, the bucket and the yarn winding tool are from the collection of The National Museum of Finland, Seurasaari Open-Air Museum. The photo of the keg is from the collection of Kerava museum.

(Click the photo to see the description)

Next, the estate inventory lists the receivables. Farmer Anders August Wahlberg and son Johan Stenvall owe money to the heirs:

Receivables in Anna Christina Stenvall's estate inventory..

Next the costs associated with the person’s death are listed and deducted from the assets. These include burial costs, debts, poor aid, and estate inventory costs:

Dedustions in Anna Kristina Stenvall*s estate inventory.

The value of the estate is the value of the property (967.54 mk) plus the receivables (266.20 mk) reduced by the deductions (186.36 mk). For Anna Kristina, the estate’s value is 1047.36 mk. (markka, mk was the Finnish currency at the time.)

At the end of the document the estate administrator and the assessors attest that the information given is correct. The organizer of the estate inventory was Malakias Costiander, the school master of Nurmijärvi, who was also Aleksis Kivi’s teacher. The payment of the poor aid was also certified. According to the law of 1734, every estate had to pay 1/8 of one percent of the inventory sum to poor aid.

Certification of Anna Kristina Stenvall´s estate inventory.

Erik Johan Stenvall’s estate inventory

Erik Johan Stenvall died soon after his wife Anna Kristina. The list of property in Erik’s inventory begins with the value of Anna Kristina’s property that Erik inherited. One twentieth (5 %) of Anna’s property was calculated to be Erik’s benefit share (fördel, etuosa) and 2/3 of the rest was his marriage share (giftorätt, naimaosa). These shares are included in Erik’s estate. After that, Erik’s own property was listed. He owned more property than his wife.

Benefit share and marriage share of Erik Stenvall.
Erik’s share of his wife’s property.

Interest on receivables in Anna’s estate inventory (50.44 mk) received after her inventory was completed, was added to Erik’s property as well as the cash (17.17 mk) Erik had when he died. This money and a payment for hay (5.40 mk) received from Wuolteenmäki was in his son Emanuel’s possession.

Erik’s estate inventory contains a long list of property under the heading Diverse (miscellaneous). These are not discussed here.

Tailor Erik had outstanding receivables from two customers:

Receivables of Erik Johan Stenvall.
Erik’s receivables.

In the deductions section, two thirds of the deductions reported in Anna Kristina’s estate inventory were included in Erik’s estate inventory.

Erik’s son Emanuel deducted the costs of Erik’s final illness (13.84 mk), the cost of the coffin (25.34 mk), and the funeral expenses (36.52 mk) He also deducted the cost of renting a house in Yli Hemmola during the past year (14 mk) as well as the meal costs during the estate auction (9.40 mk).

Son Johan deducted 37.56 mk that had been spent on his mother’s care but had not been included as a deduction in Anna Kristina’s estate inventory.

At the end of the inventory, the normal costs have been listed:

  • poor aid 1/8 of one percent, 1.20 mk
  • to Anders August Wahlberg, the fee for the evaluation of the property and the work as an auction broker, 3 mk
  • Fees for the inventory and its documentation, 12 mk
  • Stamp duty 0.30 mk
  • Registration fee 1.30 mk.

As an estate administrator, Elias Stenvall certified that the given information was correct. According to the signatures, his brothers Johan and Albert Stenvall were also present, but Aleksis Stenvall (Kivi) was absent.

Malakias Costiander organized this estate inventory as he did for the estate inventory of Anna Kristina Stenvall. Alexander Eriksson Heikkilä and Anders August Wahlberg assessed the property.

In the next post, I will discuss the use of census documents in genealogy.

English text edited by Barbara Wilson