“Searching in Finland,” Liahona, Sept. 2008, 28–29
My sister and I felt an emptiness because we had no idea who our Laurunen forebears were. All we knew is that they had come from Finland to America in 1901. So in August 2004, my sister Janice and cousin Sandy joined my husband, Charlie, and me on a trip to discover our ancestors.
In the process of researching for our trip, Sandy discovered a two-page report on the Laurunen Homestead, built in 1605. The earliest mention of our family was in 1569 in the town of Kauhajoki.
Once in Finland, we rented a car and left early the next morning for the long drive to Kauhajoki. We had a hard time finding it and were about to give up when Charlie caught sight of a small airport. We drove there to ask for help. Sandy showed a young man our report, and he kindly offered to take us to the town library. I am sure we would never have found Kauhajoki by ourselves since it is well hidden down a forested highway. It seemed the Lord was leading us in our journey.
At the library a young woman gave us a map, circling the Lutheran church and cemetery. We found the church easily. After two hours of research, with the help of the pastor and several clerks, one of them called our Laurunen relatives and told them they had visitors from America. They came immediately with family genealogies dating back to the year 1550.
With the church bookkeeper as our interpreter, we walked through the beautifully manicured cemetery. Sandy stood at her grandfather’s grave for the first time. Later, she saw a picture of him and held his violin. We were all deeply touched as the void we had felt before was being filled.
Then our Finnish cousins drove us to the family homestead, which was pictured on our two-page report. They told us that our family had owned as much land as the eye could see. The house on the family homestead was enormous and had housed Laurunen families as far back as 1550. When the Russian military came into Kauhajoki, they used the homestead for military headquarters. They burned down the church and all other homes in the area. Everyone, including our family, fled to the woods for safety. After the Russians left, our grandfather led the building of the new church that we had seen earlier. Eventually the land around the homestead was divided and sold.
In 2005 Janice, Sandy, and I returned to Kauhajoki for another visit with our newly found cousins and more research. In 2006 we had our first Laurunen family reunion in America, and 15 of our Finnish cousins joined us. Eighty-nine family members celebrated the lives of our grandparents.
What a joy it has been to discover such a rich, fascinating family history and know more about who I am and where I came from. Family history is the work of the Lord.