Finnish Line
7/7/2010
Race toward ancestral discoveries with our guide to tracing suomalainen forebears.
If you’re among the half-million Americans with Finnish ancestry, your research path—like Finland—lies with the Baltic states and Russia on one side and Sweden on the other. 

Finland was a Swedish province and then grand duchy for almost six centuries until it became a grand duchy of Russia in 1809. Finland declared independence in 1917; after a short civil war, it became a presidential republic in 1919. Though it was largely agrarian until the mid-20th century, it’s caught up quickly, now regularly nabbing top spots in quality-of-life country rankings. So there’s no reason to let Sweden and Russia overshadow your Finnish ancestors’ roots—you’ll find plenty of material to start your genealogical engines.

The Finnish language is related to Baltic tongues, including Estonian, but most official records before 1863 are in Swedish. (Swedish remains an official language, and is spoken by 5.5 percent of the population.)