A Family History Journey to Finland


Our grandfather and grandmother immigrated to Canada from Finland in the early 1900’s. For the past 35 years we have been trying to find information on our Finnish ancestors. With the increase in indexing and digitizing of census records, we were able to find a few more details about our grandparents and their spouses. We did not, however, have a lot of supporting information, and we were still unsuccessful in finding documents identifying birth, marriage or death records for our ancestors in Finland.


Preparing Family Names for the Temple


My brother Craig served his mission in Finland and had been back several times to find information on our ancestors: all to no avail. With the information that we had recently found, we believed that we had enough to perform the sealings for three couples. So, the three brothers—David, Richard, and Craig and our wives Betty, Valerie and Tammy—wanted to perform these ordinances in the Helsinki Finland Temple. We decided that we would travel to Finland. We booked a time for June 19, 2018 to perform these ordinances.


The three Hill brothers and their wives

Two weeks before we were to leave, I contacted my brother Craig to make sure that he had met with his neighbor, who is a family history expert with Scandinavian and Nordic names. We wanted to ensure that the information we had was sufficient to be temple ready. He met with her and was amazed at her expertise with FamilySearch. She quickly worked through areas he had never seen. She thought everything was okay to proceed with printing temple cards, but first she needed to search for possible duplicates. That search brought up a duplicate for our grandfather Evert Mäki. The name that came up was Evert Hermaninpoika Teerimäki. Our father had written on his four-generation worksheets that he believed their last name was Teerimäki, but we never had any proof.


When Craig saw this, he literally fell out of his chair. Because of serving his mission in Finland, he knew that it is common for a child to be given their father’s name as his middle name. He knew that Teerimäki was the correct name for our grandfather. Also, all of the dates matched our records. Our great grandfather was Herman, so his son would receive the middle name of Hermaninpoika, which means Herman’s son. Craig explained to the temple and family history consultant that he knew this was correct and that it was okay to allow this record to overwrite our previous record in FamilySearch. Once she executed the override, we connected into 11 generations of work on my grandfather’s ancestors that someone else had done. Since that breakthrough, we now have found 16 generations down one line and 11 generations down another.


As a result of this incredible breakthrough, we learned that some of the couples we had intended to seal had already been done. We were able to identify three families for whom we could do the sealings. We also did the baptisms and confirmations for seven women and seven men. The spirit was so strong as we performed the baptisms—it was palpable. While changing into dry clothes following the baptisms, Craig said to me that he knew what Anders Mattsson looked like. He said that as he brought me out of the water, it was not me he saw: it was our ancestor, and he had a beard. Temple ordinance workers commented to us that they could feel the presence of our family members. Before performing the sealings, the workers arranged for us to complete the initiatory work for all seven men and three of the women. Every moment we spent in the temple seemed blessed.


couple at temple
Richard and Val Hill at the Helsinki Temple


Divinely Guided Meetings


There is a part of this miraculous family story that I need to go back to explain. Earlier I mentioned that we connected into work that someone else had done. Craig identified from the information on FamilySearch the name and email address of the individual who had submitted the information. The submitter lived in a city where Craig had served on his mission. He contacted a friend who lived in the same city to see if this individual was a member of her ward. The response Craig received was that this person was not only a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but also the stake patriarch and a sealer in the Helsinki Temple. My brother was able to contact him by email before we left for Finland. We had determined that he was a distant relative and that our family histories connected at our fourth great grandfather.


As Ronald A. Rasband noted in his October 2017 conference talk, “The Lord’s hand is guiding you. By ‘divine design,’ He is in the small details of your life as well as the major milestones” (“By Divine Design,”Ensign, Nov. 2017). In that talk, Elder Rasband also referred to an experience when President Thomas S. Monson told Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin: “There is a guiding hand above all things. Often when things happen, it’s not by accident. One day, when we look back at the seeming coincidences of our lives, we will realize that perhaps they weren’t so coincidental after all” (“Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life,” Liahona, May 2001).


Our loving Heavenly Father guides spiritual events to occur in our lives. Months earlier, when we had booked the sealing of our great grandparents in the Helsinki Temple, it was also the same day that our distant relative was scheduled to be the sealer in the temple. Therefore, my brothers and I, with our spouses, were all gathered in the sealing room with our relative to perform these sacred ordinances. We each participated with our wives as proxies in the sealings as the brothers rotated as witnesses. We also spent more than two hours together participating as proxies helping others who were there to have their family sealing ordinances performed and helping with temple file names. It was a wonderful way to meet our relative for the first time.


extended family
The Hills with the Palomäki family

At our relative’s request we returned to the Patron Housing Facility on the temple grounds that evening when his temple shift was completed so that we could visit. As a result of his extensive research into the family history of our ancestors, we were able to learn information about our family name and where our ancestors were born that we never could have found any other way. We now have a wonderful group of friends and relatives working for the benefit of our ancestors with new information being found regularly and more temple work to do.


How blessed we feel for the “tender mercies” (1 Nephi 1:20) of our loving Heavenly Father and the connection we feel to our ancestors. Working together with brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, we have been able to perform the rest of the ordinances of salvation for those names that we took to the Helsinki Finland Temple. Many more family names have been discovered since that blessed event. We know that God lives and is involved in the tiniest details of our lives. Based on the Lord’s timing, we will be blessed to accomplish His work for our ancestors in holy temples of the Lord.