Alexander Kutvonen – photograph by A. Sihvonen, ca. 1890
History of my family Kutvonen
The origin of the surname Kutvonen is unclear.
A theory has been presented that its origin could be the old Scandinavian name Gudhvald,
which is also known in the german speaking world in the form Gottwald.
Another theory is that the name originates from a German mason called Gottbaum,
who participated in the construction work of the St. Olaf's Castle in the end of the 15th century.
I personally do not believe in either theory.
More probably the name has something to do with the physical characteristics of some of my ancient ancestors
or a place name that has been since long time ago forgotten.
In about year 1650, or maybe a little earlier, a boy called Niilo was born to
the family of farmer Kutvonen,
on the Laukansaari island in the parish of Sääminki.
Laukansaari lays in the Lake Pihlajavesi which is part of the
Sääminki is located near the town of Savonlinna and the
St. Olaf's Castle (Olavinlinna) in the nowadays Eastern Finland.
Parish registers were ordered to be mandatory in 1668, after which date we have fairly
good records of births, marriages, and deaths.
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.
In the Treaty of Åbo 1743, Sweden had to cede the areas in southern Karelia and around Savonlinna to Russia.
This hardly had a great impact on the life in Laukansaari as Russia was mainly interested in the Castle.
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.
Niilo 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 married Anna Maria Tiainen from another Lake Pihlajavesi island
and took over the farm,
probably in the 1830s, after his father had been widowed and was getting old.
They got five children, one boy Niklas and four girls, Anna, Maria, Eeva, and Loviisa.
Anna, the mother of the children, died just before her youngest was one year old.
Pekka soon remarried. His new wife was Eeva Halonen from Särkilahti in Juva parish.
But Eeva died within two years after their marriage and Pekka had to look for a third wife.
He found Kaarina Abrahamintytär Metso, from a nearby island called Ritosaari.
In two years' time, in 1847, was Pekka a widow again with children of ages
15, 12, 10, 7, and 4.
The family somehow managed the next years.
All the children were over the age of 18 before the death of Pekka.
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 had been completed in 1856 and the railway from Helsinki to Vyborg was under construction.
Niklas found a new 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.
The mother of the children, Anna, died when Alexander 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
After having completed his military service,
he moved to St. Petersburg,
married there his first wife Swedish born Sofia Nilsson whom he might have met already in Hamina,
and started his own business.
Alexander and Sofia had two daughters, Maria Josefina and
but their mother died when the girls were under 10 years 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.
After living in Hyvinkää (north of Helsinki) until 1920, Alexander
and his family moved back to Vyborg to the address Papulankatu 20 and opened a
cloth shop along Pietarinkatu.
However, Alexander died in 1921, but Hilja lived until 1952.