Finland Church History

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Finland Genealogy Gotoarrow.png Church History

It is helpful to understand the historical events that led to the creation of records, such as parish registers, where your family is listed.

The Swedes brought Christianity to Finland in the form of Roman Catholicism between 1050 or 1150 and 1300. Along with religion, the Swedes also established administration in southwestern Finland, from which it spread north and east.

By the time of the Protestant Reformation, Finland was an integral part of the Swedish kingdom. The Lutheran religion became the kingdom’s official state church in 1611. When Finland gained its independence in 1917, 98 percent of the population was Lutheran. In the FamilySearch Catalog, the Finnish Church [Suomen Kirkko/Finska Kyrkan] is listed as the author of church records.

While the Swedes were introducing Christianity in the west, the Novgorodians, who were from a Russian city-state, converted the eastern Finns to Eastern Orthodoxy. The Swedish government continually contended against the practice of Orthodoxy, and the Orthodox population remained very small.

Historically, the orthodox religion in Finland has been called Greek Catholic [Kreikkalais- katolinen/Grekisk katolsk]. The term Greek Catholic in east central Europe refers to the Uniates; however, in Finland it refers to the Orthodox Church of Finland [Suomen ortodoksinen kirkko/Finlands ortodoxa kyrka]. The Orthodox Church of Finland also became a state church in 1918. Today, 1.5 percent of the Finnish population belongs to this church.

Other denominations were tolerated, especially from the late 1800s on. Methodists, Baptists, Roman Catholics, and other groups were quite small in Finland. The earliest records from these groups date back to the 1890s. From 1923 on, when a freedom of religion law was passed, people without a religious preference were recorded in the civil registry [Siviilirekisteri/Civil registret]. These records are also discussed in Finland Civil Registration.