Finland Day 9 (Part 2) and Day 10: The Finnish Islands...

After visiting Fiskars and seeing the stunning scenery on the drive down to the south of Finland (see my previous post), I wondered if anything could be more beautiful. The answer to this is YES! Friday 7 July 2017 – Continuing Friday’s happenings … cousins of mine have a Summerhouse on Lilla Kuggskäret island, which is just one of the thousands of islands just off the south coast of Finland (who knew that Finland had islands eh?). This region they call the Finnish archipelago. Anyway Lilla Kuggskäret is a smallish island in comparison to some, but in saying that there’s oodles of room to roam and enjoy. This is my cousins very OWN private island, and I was fortunate enough that they invited myself and some other cousins to visit and share their little piece of paradise. For this I say thankyou, thankyou, THANKYOU. It was magical. After a boatride out the island we got to see why they visit as often as they can. The peacefulness is unbelievable. While the island is in the sea (I believe it’s the Baltic Sea), it is as calm as a lake, so you don’t have any crashing waves. In fact, apart from when boats went past, there really wasn’t even any ripples, it really was that calm. After unpacking and having some lunch, we visited a nearby island (Hitis) and checked out the Hiittinen church and cemetery, because that’s what I do! and in fact it’s one of the oldest churches in Finland, and has an amazing story behind it. You can read about that here (note: if you open it in Chrome, it translates to English). And the weather was absolutely perfect for a late BBQ tea (also known as...

Finland Day 9 (Part 1): Fiskars, Scissors, Roller Skiing and Deer...

As I write this, my holiday to Finland is over and I’m already back home (although still not in the right timezone yet). And yes it truly was the trip of a lifetime … the people, the places, the family and the cemeteries … so many memories (and photos) that I’ll treasure. And for the most part the weather was very kind to us, despite it being the coldest Finnish Summer ever. I did manage to get some reporting of my trip done while I was over there, but now have a backlog to catch up on. So bear with me while I get to these over the coming days. Friday 7 July 2017 – After the excitement of researching at the archives and walking Helsinki, checking out all the awesome old buildings (ok, ok, not all of them), it was time to have some quiet time … but relax time had to wait, as today we were up and off early to check out the some of the south of Finland. First stop was a town called Fiskars. Some of you may well have heard of the Fiskars brand which is well known for scissors, knives, scrapbooking tools, kitchen utensils and even gardening tools. It turns out that the Fiskars company started from this tiny town in Finland. The following is from Wikipedia … “Fiskars is a village in the town in western Uusimaa, Finland. The village of Fiskars developed around the ironworks founded by German-born Petter Thorwöste in 1649. The ironworks also produced copper. In 1822, John Jacob von Julin bought the ironworks and founded a fine production facility in 1830 and Finland’s first workshop in 1836. The history of the Fiskars company begins from the Fiskars Bruk,...

Phonetically Speaking

For those of you who have been reading my blog for at least the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that I recently visited Finland for a holiday to meet family and see the places where my ancestors came from. One thing I found when being with my relatives, was that all the names and places I knew from correspondence with family and various Finnish archives, I had been pronouncing very wrong. I had simply seen them written down, and gave them my own Australian-version of the pronunciation as best as I knew without ever hearing it. Now that I’ve heard the names and places said in Finnish, it’s made me realise how easy someone simply listening to it said could give a whole different spelling. One thing I did while I was in Finland was create a listing of names and places with both the proper Finnish spelling, and then I wrote each with the pronunciation as it sounds in Australian-English, which was quite often VERY different. An example of this is one of my family names, BACKBERG. It seems simple enough, Back (as in the back of something), and Berg (like an iceberg). But when it’s said in Finnish it is actually pronounced BACH-BERRY. Now had I simply ‘heard’ the name, I would have had no idea that is actually spelt Backberg. And the same goes for place names too. Add into the mix all of those who emigrated to another country, and you have foreign names and places, said with an accent and you have the perfect recipe for some very creative spelling. It’s not news for researchers to find alternate spellings on documents. In fact it would be far more unusual if you didn’t. But...

Do You Have an “About Me” Page on Your Blog?...

Think about it, you read an article or story and if you enjoy it you are likely to look to see who the author is, right? You’re intrigued. You want to know more about the person. Novels normally have a have a biography of the person, while articles online or in a magazine usually have a paragraph or two. I know I read those, and  I’m sure I’m not the only one. But there are a number of bloggers (geneabloggers included) who choose to remain effectively anonymous online. That’s their choice, and I say ‘each to their own’, they have their reasons. But there are some compelling reasons to have an About Me page on your blog. Let me start by saying that I see the usefulness of an About Me page on my own blog. I use Google Analytics to keep track of my blog stats for me, and using that I can see how many people look at what posts each day (or even hour if I wanted to). And from that I can see that my About Me page ranks in the Top 10 looked at posts on most days. So that tells me that people are interested to find out more me, and about who is writing this blog. I’m not saying your have to have your whole life story written there, but just enough to give those reading a sense of who your are. Besides, it adds a small personal touch to your blog, and that’s also important. My own About Me page which you can read here, is small, but I think it says enough. It includes my name, where I’m from, approximate age, experience in genealogy and my goals! But it can say whatever...

Finland Days 7 and 8: Research Fun, Libraries and Touristing...

The last two days have made up for my lazy days at the Summerhouse, as I reckon I’ve walked every street in the centre of Helsinki. Some probably twice. And my Fitbit can prove it. Anyway I was fortunate enough that another Finnish cousin of mine was happy to play tour guide for Wednesday and Thursday, and as a bonus as he’s also into research and libraries took me to all the fun places, as well as a heap more. Wednesday 5 July 2017 Wednesday was pretty much a visit-libraries-and-research-day. I think I went to three libraries, one museum, and the National Archives of Finland. Sound fun doesn’t it … well it does if you’re into that type of thing. Fortunately for me my tour guide cousin, also played interpreter when we were at the archives. I can read names, but don’t understand the record that I’m looking at otherwise. Anyway it was a great day at the archives as we found a death duty record for my 4x great grandma, Ulrika Winter! Who would have thought, eh? But oh so very cool!! Thursday 6 July 2017 This was set aside to be another another research day, but rather than heading back to the archives, my cousin and I spent a couple of hours comparing information, before heading off for a day of touristing. First stop was Suomenlinna (previously named Sveaborg which is the Swedish name for it). Founded in 1748 when Sweden owned Finland, this sea fortress which is built on a group of islands was so they could defend themselves against Russia. Soumenlinna is is now UNESCO World Heritage Listed and is really something to see. The scale of it is phenomenal, and it is all so...

Finland Day 6: Countryside, a Cemetery and Pizza...

I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I arrived. My trip seems to be going so fast, but in some ways it also seems longer, as I’ve done so much … and I have almost another week to go. Tuesday 4 July 2017 Today was a packup-and-leave-Heinola day, but rather than heading straight home, my cousins took me to another beautiful cemetery. They know me so well already! Anyway it was here at the town of Hämeenkoski I got to see my 4x great grandpa’s grave. This place is about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Helsinki. So that was another very exciting day. The journey to and from the cemetery really was beautiful, as we went through the most spectacular countryside. And as you do, on lazy country drives, we found strawberry farm and got the tastiest strawberries EVER. My cousins and I had pizza for tea, and I must say their “small” pizza is huge. I would expect that in America as everything there is supersize, but not Finland. Anyway it was very tasty, but waaaay to much. Oh and here’s a Finnish thing, when you buy a pizza it’s not pre-cut into slices for you. If you want that done it costs more. Tomorrow I head to the archives for some research...

Finland Day 4 and 5: Summerhouse, Games and Long Nights...

My adventures in Finland continue and the last couple of days were spent at Heinola, at my reli’s summerhouse. This is just over an hour away from where they live… so it’s not far, but it truly is a whole different world, and not just the scenery but also the house and everything in it. It kind of reminds me of my grandma’s place which was filled with everything from a past era, it’s like walking into an antique store. Old knick knacks, old tools, old everything, even an outdoor toilet … but that’s part of the charm of it. In Finland it is a common thing for families to have a summerhouse. It’s school holidays in Finland at the moment and those who work tend to take their holidays during summer if they can, and then all head off to the summerhouse. Some might get there a for a few days, others the entire holiday period. Apart from the noise from roadworks that are happening nearby at the moment, it is incredibly tranquil, and you could totally lose track of day and time very easily. And remember it doesn’t even get vaguely dark until maybe 10.30pm … so you really can stay up all night, outside playing games, or whatever. Sunday 2 July 2017 to Monday 3 July 2017 I won’t go into detail of the past few days, but with the nice weather we had breakfasts outside, went in their sauna (by the way the correct pronunciation of it is sow-nah, not sor-nah), playing games, reading, learning more family history, checking out the town centre, including the bird rescue centre and more. It’s been relaxing and fun, and I’ve taken hundreds of photos. Below are just a...

Finland Day 2 and 3: Churches, Cemeteries, a Mental Hospital and Family...

My adventures in Finland continue and cover churches, cemeteries, a mental hospital and family. Sounds like an interesting mix. Right? Friday 30 June 2017 The day was cool and cloudy, and rain was forecast, still my cousin took me touristing again. This time to the Rock Church in Helsinki. I found this listed on a number of “things you must do in Finland” lists, so asked if we could go there. The Rock Church is a modern church, built in the 1960s that has been built into rock and largely underground. I know my photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a link to find out more about it. It is a big tourist attraction, and yes it even costs to enter (3 Euros/person). Next stop was the Helsinki cemetery. I visited this cemetery a couple of years ago and was shown some relatives graves then, so it was an interesting challenge to see if we could locate them again from memory. Yay for us, we did, though we pretty much walked the entire cemetery looking for them. But since it’s a spectacular cemetery, and the rain held off it was lovely to just wander. I know a cemetery wouldn’t be on most tourist’s itinerary, but you know it’s what us genie folk LOVE, so I was pleased that we got there.   Following on from visiting a church and a cemetery, my cousin took me to a mental hospital which is now partly a cafe … you’d never guess it from outside would you? Saturday 1 July 2017 Yesterday was seeing the ancestors, today was seeing the cousins. Today was an ‘at home’ day, so I don’t have any interesting place pictures to show you. But we did...

Finland Day 1: Squirrels, Porvoo, Korona and a Moose...

Thursday 29 June 2017 was my first full day in Finland, and despite me figuring that I’d need days of straight sleeping to catch up from the trip over, I was up early, and out enjoying the blue sky and warm day and watching the squirrels play in the backyard. My relatives live in Vantaa, which is not that far from Helsinki (Finland’s capital), but it’s a whole lot quieter and a whole lot greener too. Very picturesque. It’s holiday time in Finland (not just for me), so my morning started with sitting out enjoying the sun, watching the squirrels, and enjoying a Finnish breakfast. After that, my reli’s took the opportunity of the great weather and took me out to Porvoo (pronounced porr-voe, like toe). Porvoo is old, and I mean REALLY OLD. When Australian’s think of old we think 100 years is old, but most other places in the world ‘old’ means hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Porvoo fits into that category. Wikipedia says the following: “Porvoo is a city and a municipality situated on the southern coast of Finland approximately 50 kilometres east of Helsinki. Porvoo is one of the six medieval towns in Finland, first mentioned as a city in texts from 14th century.” So this is a town that was founded back in the 1300s … and is STILL STANDING. This means two things: 1. it was built THAT well, far better than anything is today, and 2. developers haven’t come in to demolish and build apartments or businesses instead, which is a blessing as Old Porvoo is a very picturesque (although a little touristy now), place to visit. So if you ever get the chance … go visit. We visited the...

Finland: The Long Trip

As I wrote in my last post, over the next couple of weeks my posts will take a different tack. Rather than writing about genealogy-related topics, I am going to show you a little of Finland, which is the homeland of some of my relatives (past and present). So I’m taking a holiday to visit this beautiful part of a world, to see my relatives who I’ve come to know through emails and Facebook, and have briefly met some of them (but not all). So I have 2 weeks to enjoy their company, meet more relis, and discover the wonders of Finland! My “trip of a lifetime” already is underway, and there’s so much I’ve seen (and photographed) already, and despite the fact that it took about 2 days, and 3 plane flights to get to Finland, it’s totally worth it … not that I ever doubted that. The place is beautiful, and my relatives have made me feel like one of the family. My journey started in Adelaide (South Australia), then went to Singapore, then to Frankfurt (Germany) and finally to Helsinki (Finland). I had no dramas with any of the flights, either with any being delayed or cancelled, or with any issue on the plane. So that’s always a bonus! But the trip getting there was an experience in itself, so before I get on to showing your Finland itself, let me share a few pics I took along the way. Stay tuned for more pictures of my adventures in...

Heading to the Other Side of the World...

The trip of a lifetime is what I’m calling it. In just a couple of days I will be doing something I’ve dreamed of for years, and that is heading to Finland to visit my relatives over there. Having corresponded with them for many years, I had the opportunity to meet them very briefly (8 hours or so) when I was on Unlock the Past’s Baltic Cruise back in 2015 when our ship stopped at Helsinki for the day (you can read about that here and here). That was super awesome, but nowhere near long enough. So since then I’ve been saving my dollars and am now actually going … and I’m rather hyper excited about it? Can you tell? Anyway for those who don’t know, I am 1/8th Finnish, the rest being a mix of English and Irish. Otto Rafael Winter was my Finnish great grandpa who became seaman as a way of getting out of compulsory service to the Russian Army.  And after sailing the world on cargo ships for a number of years, he jumped ship in Australia in 1907, settled in South Australia, got married and had a family … and interestingly enough even signed up to fight in both WW1 and WW2 as an Australian. For a change this is not a work trip for me, but rather an actual holiday, though I am hoping to hit the National Archives of Finland for a little research and suss out the National Library of Finland as is one library which is always on the “libraries you you must see lists” while I’m there. But other than that I’m playing tourist, taking in the sights, scenes, and daily life of Finland, as well as generally just taking a break. While I’m...

This Time I’m an Ambassador...

I’ve been to many genealogy events over the years. Local South Australian ones, big Australian ones, and even bigger International ones, and while I’ve written about many of them over the years, I’ve never taken on the role of “Official Blogger”, or the more recent term of “Official Ambassador”… at least until now. Unlock the Past’s “Researching Abroad Roadshow” is coming up in August 2017, and I’m excited to say that I will be an Official Ambassador (ie. Official Blogger) for the event. I will be going to the Adelaide leg of their tour (23-24 August), and will get to hear both Chris Paton (from Scotland) and Dirk Weissleder (from Germany) speak, together with other guest presenters on DNA, as well as British Isles and European resources that are available to use locally. I have met Chris a number of times over the years, and he’s one of the funniest and easiest people to listen and learn from, and his knowledge of Irish and Scottish research and records is incredible. While I haven’t heard Dirk speak, he was a speaker at RootsTech earlier this year, so I managed to meet him there, and I look forward to catching up again, and learning how to to go about researching Mr Lonetester’s German roots. It’s always been one of those “I’ll get to it sometime” branches. Anyway going to an event is not only inspiring, and a way to learn and get totally enthused, but you also get a vibe from meeting others who love genealogy just as much as you do! So they totally understand. As an Ambassador I’ll be reporting about how it all went in due course. But why not come along anyway. The Roadshow will be visiting Auckland,...