The Finnish Heritage Museum provided a wonderful platform for Ron Toivonen’s account of his search last month. The following are his words:
"I grew up knowing I am of Finnish descent and that my four grandparents
came to the United States as young adults. A few years ago, I began the search for
more information about them and soon my goal was to visit the four villages
where they were born.
Last September, my wife, my cousin Lois, and I met in Helsinki to fulfill that goal. What I didn’t expect, and what was a thrill, was to meet so many cousins, as well as to experience the warm hospitality of all the Finnish people.
With the help of the internet and a few contact names, I learned that my paternal grandfather, Anton Toivonen, was born in 1878 in Elimäki and my paternal grandmother, Justina Sundqvist, was born in 1887 in Isokyrö. In 1878 Eemil
Kyttä, my maternal grandfather, was born in Soini, and my maternal grandmother, JoHanna Riihimäki, was born in 1883 in Vimpeli.
And so my journey of discovery of their roots began. An email to Arja Mikkola-Lehtinen in Kouvola resulted in a visit to the farm where Anton was born. We were warmly greeted by the current owners, Irma and Pertti Ahola.
Elimäki genealogists Sirpa and Seppo Puujalka had traced Anton’s family back to 1760. They knew of five second cousins I didn’t know I had, and we met them in Valkeala, where my great-great grandfather Toivonen was born.
Matti Lehtiö, a genealogist, has researched the Sundqvist family back to the 1500s and through his efforts I was able to meet nine second cousins in Isokyrö. Jorma Tapio,
whose wife is also a cousin, has published a book of the Sundqvist-Salmiranta family tree.
We returned home with a copy of his book along with gifts from so many others we ‘d met.
Our visit to Finland was evidently news-worthy; we were photographed and interviewed for the Pohjankyrö newspaper in Isokyrö and and Elimäen Sanomat newspaper in Elimaki.
With hugs and tears, we left to return home with wonderful memories and many new acquaintances. It truly was a trip of a lifetime." Arlene Toivonen at right, echoes her husband Ron's thoughts: a wonderful experience.
Refreshments took on a decidedly green theme with St. Urho’s and that other Saint’s day closing in. They were provided by Virpi Buck, Bev Harbour, Bill Luoma, and Anne Pohto.
Text © FHM 2014, Photos © Bill Lukshaw 2014
Next month features the three Finnish churches in Helsinki.