Photograph by A. Sihvonen, ca. 1890
The story of my grandfather Alexander Kutvonen and his ancestors
In about year 1650, or maybe a little earlier, a boy called Niilo was born to farmer Kutvonen,
on the Laukansaari island in the parish of Sääminki.
Laukansaari is located in the Lake Pihlajavesi which is part of the
Sääminki is near the town of Savonlinna (nowadays actually part of it) and the
This boy Niilo grew up to continue the work of his father, married probably a local girl,
and in the year 1678 they got a son whom they named Lauri.
Life was hard as a farmer, but fishing added to the family table.
There were many children, although infant mortality was high in those days.
This rural life on the island of Laukansaari continued for six generations:
Lauri married Kristiina Niilontytär (daughter of Niilo) Tavi,
and they got a son Pekka in the year 1728.
The early 18th century was a difficult time in Finland.
In connection with the Great Norhtern War, Russia occupied Finland during the years 1713-1721.
If that was not enough, a plague epidemic raged in the whole Norhtern Europe.
However, the family survived and Pekka grew up, married Kaarina Erkintytär Laukkanen and
in 1770 he and Kaarina got a son whom they named Niilo after his great-grandfather.
He again found a bride from one of the nearby islands, Maria Erkintytär Tavi, and
then they got a son called Pekka, born in the year 1805.
Pekka then took over the farm and married Anna Maria Tiainen, from another Lake Pihlajavesi island.
They got five children, one boy Niklas and four girls, Anna, Maria, Eeva, and Loviisa.
Niklas was the eldest, born in 1832, but for some reason he didn't stay on the island after his father's death.
Instead, he moved to Vyborg (Viipuri in Finnish), the second largest town of Finland at the time,
and left the farm for his sister Loviisa and her husband Antti Heikinpoika (son of Heikki).
Niklas found work in Vyborg as an ordinary labourer. There he met his
future wife Anna Antintytär Siiskonen, who had come to
Vyborg from the parish of Juva, probably also for work.
After the Crimean War, Vyborg was in a period of rapid growth: the walls
and fortifications of the Vyborg Castle had grown old and were no longer fit
for purpose, so new fortifications and forts had to be built.
The Saimaa Canal was completed in 1856 and the to railway to Vyborg was under construction.
Niklas found a job as a lantern lighter in the city of Vyborg.
They married and had three children, Anna, Amanda and the youngest,
Alexander, my future grandfather, in 1859.
Alexander's mother died when he was only 5 years old.
His father remarried a few years later to Maria Tuomaantytär Myyrä and Alexander had four half-siblings.
As a young man, Alexander moved to the city of Hamina to become a trainee in the shop of merchant
It was probably there that he met his first wife, Swedish born Sofia Nilsson, with whom
he moved to St Petersburg to start his own business there.
They had two daughters, Maria Josefina and Ellen Sofia,
but their mother died when the girls were under 10 yars old.
Alexander soon remarried, to my grandmother Hilja Eufemia Kurki.
They had four children, my father Martti Aleksanteri 1905-1980, Lauri Antero 1906-1938,
Helvi Mirjam 1909-1911, and Niilo Pentti 1912-1972.
How Alexander's business dealings succeeded can be found in the following article published in the
newspaper Uusi Suomi in 1916:
Original article in Finnish
Just nine months after the article was published, the February Revolution broke out in Russia
and Alexander decided to leave Petrograd, as it was then called, with his family.
Luckily, they left before the October Revolution, but all business was lost.