I received what I think will be the last email from my Finnish relative (at least for now), but also the most definitive and the one that provided all the answers I need. She wrote it in Finnish, so I am hoping I’ve made no errors in translation. She said “Pahoittelen, etten voi auttaa” [I’m sorry that I cannot help] and “Toivomaasi sukupuuta ei minulta löydy” [I can’t find the tree you want].

I didn’t expect that she would be able to, really.

She did talk about our family being “puolimustalainen” which I think means “half-Gypsy” and “tattare”, which I think is an offensive name for Finnish Romany, but she used them to mean the same thing –  “valkolaisen näköiset mustalainen”…light-skinned ‘Gypsies’.  The way she’s talking about this, clearly she finds this part of our heritage distasteful (and I honestly find the way she’s talking about it a bit offensive). I already knew this was a possibility. She seems to want nothing to do with either the Saami or Romany heritage that we have (the reason I can tell this, is because she said at least her grandmother married a “proper” Finn and she signed off with “En ole syvällisemmin perehtynyt sukuuni ainakaan” [I’m not deeper acquainted with my family, anyway], which I took to mean this was an end to the discussion).

Apparently, my female relative married a second time after her first husband died (she was supposedly the “tattare/mustalainen”), but because the second husband had the same name as the first, they took the name of the farm where they moved to as a surname (it also sounded a bit like this was looked down on or wasn’t an approved second marriage). This would explain why my search (and in turn their search) is so difficult. The names we both have stop at the same place – either right before or right after they left the country and they become, almost literally, different people. My relative says she thinks they moved just over to Sweden and that they maybe became “Lindi” there [“ottivat yhteiseksi sukunimekseen ostamansa tilan nimen, ehkä se oli Lindi”] before moving to the UK. This could make sense, as I have a great aunt called Lindis (an uncommon name in the UK) which could be a nod to our Finnish heritage (it’s a Fennoscandian name), as well as the preservation of the family name of Lindi/Lind.

It seems like the mixture of Saami and Finnish Kale Romany is something that she doesn’t want to talk about. I think she’s ashamed of it and now I have to try and find the answers on my own.

But, I finally have an answer of where they are from – Näkkäläjärvi, Enontekiö, Finland. Their surname was also either Näkkälä or Näkkäläjärvi, at least until it was changed. I don’t know for sure what they changed it to [Lindi seems like a guess (a pretty good one, considering many Finnish Kale Romany have Swedish surnames, anyway) from my cousin]. The other names I was given (Isak and Apollonia Suontajärvi) are names related to her family, but not to me. I don’t know the name of my female relative, yet.

I guess I have a lot of questions about everything:

What happened to Finland and the lands where my family lived during the wars between Sweden and Russia and the resulting depopulation/colonization? Where did the Saami and Kale go during those times? Were any of my family forced into the mines in Karelia? Did they flee into Sweden and then to the UK because of the conditions they faced?

I have other questions too: can I learn about Saami and Finnish Kale language and history? Are there Finnish Saami or Kale who will talk to me about their history and lives? If I want to say my heritage is part-Saami or part-Kale, can I?

I guess I will keep learning Finnish, so then I can at least read information in Finnish and maybe speak with some Saami and Kale.

I tried looking up stuff about the area, but honestly I can’t find much. I think everything is in Finnish, of course (why would it be otherwise?) and I am not good at reading it yet.

I don’t really know what to do now…

2 Replies to “Answers”

  1. the information you have managed to get so far is worthwhile, even if it is hard to hear/engage with. I feel much the same way, in that my cousins would rather let that chapter of our ancestry die, as they tend to look down on it, even though I am interested in learning more. also, given the results of your DNA tests, and your upbringing, I think it’s fully within your right to claim that heritage. I wonder what I will do when I manage to get tested, and see the results – what if they say I’m not what I’ve believed myself to be all these years? even given the stories? I think I will go right on supporting the culture, whether or not I’m part of it, though I won’t claim ancestry if it’s not my right to claim. I think, in your case, it is.

    1. I actually had that experience – where I thought and believed I was entirely one thing based on my experience growing up and the stories I was told and I heard. It turned out to not be true – not only that, the DNA test that I did broke everything even further apart and now I doubt that my grandmother was even entirely what she said she was. It’s hard to have that doubt, but I’m glad that I was open to the process. I still support the Roma even though, being Romanichal/Finnish Kale/Saami makes things so much different now. I do believe Maami had roots in Slovakia and some of her family lived there (we visited), but I don’t believe that her life was everything I was told. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that you can claim anything you want, but no one will claim you back. That search for belonging is so difficult, especially in families like mine, I think. They hid so much of their histories to provide a safe space for us to grow up, that now we’re like boats adrift in the ocean. Our heritage is our sail and we have to find it ourselves.

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