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Since Finnish was not an official language in Finland until 1863, most records were written in Swedish. To do research in these records, you will need to know some Swedish and Finnish key words and phrases. Also, be aware that Orthodox church records were written in Russian until after Finnish independence.
Finland recognizes the following as official languages: Finnish, Swedish, three Sami languages: Northern (Poooissame/davvisámi), Inari (Inarinsaame/anarâškielâ), Skolt (Koltansaame/sääʹmǩiõll); Romani, Karelian, and Finnish Sign Language. About 70% of the population speaks English as a second language.
When you are looking up names or words in Finnish dictionaries or indexes, it is important to know that the Finnish alphabet has three letters that follow the letter z: å, ä, and ö. The letter å does not occur in native Finnish words, but many personal and geographical names of Swedish origin use this letter.
Sounds[edit | edit source]
Vowels[edit | edit source]
There are eight vowel in Finnish, a, e, i, o, u, y, ä, ö, and å which is found in Swedish words. Finnish has 16 diphthongs of two types. In the first type there is more stress on the first vowel, and in the second, slightly more stress on the second vowel.
- First group: au, ou, iu, eu, äy, öy. äi, öi, yi, ui, ei, ai, oi
- Second group: uo, yö, ie
A double vowel is twice as long as a single vowel. Double vowel combinations are: aa, ää, ee, ii, oo, öö, uu, and yy.
Consonants[edit | edit source]
Double consonants are pronounced separately. The first is the final letter of one syllable and the second is the initial letter of the next syllable.
Accent[edit | edit source]
The stress always falls on the first syllable, even with words of foreign origin.
- Helsinki (HEL-sin-ki)
- Sibelius (SI-be-lius)
- Räikkönen (RÄIK-könen)
Language Aids[edit | edit source]
The Finnish Genealogical Word List and the Swedish Genealogical Word List contain key words to know for doing research in Finland. The following language dictionaries can also help you in your research. You can find these and similar material at many research libraries.
- Alanne, V. S. Suomalais-englantilainen suursanakirja (Great Finnish-English Dictionary). 3rd ed. Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 1968. (FHL film 1224706 item 3)
- Björkman, C. G. Svensk-Engelsk Ordbok (Swedish- English Dictionary). Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt, 1889. (FHL film 1224734 item 1) Swedish spelling was reformed in 1906; therefore, this book includes words as they were spelled prior to 1906.
- Ernolv, Carl. Svensk-Engelsk Ordbok (Swedish- English Dictionary). Stockholm: Svenska Bokförlaget Norstedts, 1947. (FHL film 1124531 item 12)
To find other language aids in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog, look under:
- FINLAND- LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES - DICTIONARIES
- SWEDEN- LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES - DICTIONARIES
You may also find language aids in the Subject Search under:
- FINNISH LANGUAGE- DICTIONARIES - ENGLISH
- SWEDISH LANGUAGE- DICTIONARIES - ENGLISH