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I’ve been digging into some genealogy lately and I realize how much I miss ‘pure research’.  It’s been ages since I have dug into archival sources and honestly, I would rather pursue this work than eat and sleep.

My first foray into genealogy was about fourteen years ago.  I had received a parish excerpt about my paternal grandmother’s family which led to 1860.  The year was key because that was the latest date available online for that parish in Finland.  I had always known the name of the big city closest to my grandmother’s birth place, but digging into the local and actually finding my great-grandmother’s baptismal record and the name of her parents gave me a profound sense of connection.

There is something in that act of writing, of documenting, that imparts something much greater than the physical act, perhaps value and meaning?  It says, this is worth knowing and remembering.  The fact that these records survive and are accessible to us seems like nothing short of a miracle.

In addition to accessing those archive records though, I’m also a big fan of using literature to understand the context of those lives.  For those Finnish ancestors, a book series called Under the North Star by Väinö Linna is set in the same region my grandparents came from.  Most interesting for me is how Linna sets the stage for massive social change in the late nineteenth century, and the brutality of the Finnish Civil War after the declaration of Finnish Independence in December of 1917.

(As a side note, my grandmother would have been about 15 or 16 at the time and was sent into the forest with the cows by the family she worked for fearing that should “the Reds” descend on the farm, they’d have been stolen.)

Over the next while, I’ll share some of things I’ve learned about my family and others.  I’m always open to suggestions and feedback and hope to also hear about your experiences with tracking down the family history.

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