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.

There are currently about 300 people with the surname Kutvonen living in Finland. We are not necessarily all related, at least not through the last ten generations. There have been several of Kutvonen families in both Sääminki and Rantasalmi. My family belongs to the Sääminki branch.

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 Greater-Saimaa basin. 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. During the the Great Norhtern War, Russia occupied Finland in the years 1713-1721, a period called the Great Wrath. As if the occupation had not been hard enough to withstand, a plague epidemic was raging throughout Northern Europe. In the Treaty of Åbo 1743, Sweden had to cede areas in the southern Karelia and around Savonlinna to Russia. This hardly had a great impact on the life on 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 managed somehow through the following 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 gaslight lantern lighter in the town 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 left Vyborg and moved to the town of Hamina to become a trainee in the shop of merchant Konstantin Aladin the Elder. 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 Ellen Sofia, 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 “INKERI” in St. Petersburg in 1916: English translation (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. Alexander's intention was to set up a fabric shop in Vyborg at Pietarin­katu (St. Petersburg Street, later known as Kannaksen­katu). Alexander lived to open his new shop, but he died in the spring of 1921, only about six months after moving to Vyborg.

However, Hilja and the three boys Martti Aleksanteri, Lauri Antero, and Niilo Pentti, later settled at Papulan­katu 20 where Hilja opened a new shop. She lived 31 years as a widow and died in Helsinki in 1952.

Rights to the photographs

Petri Kutvonen and Susanna Kutvonen own the rights to the photographs taken by them, and their permission is required to use them. To the extent of our understanding, the rights to all other photographs have already expired, but we ask you to exercise discretion in their use. The general legal status of AI-generated images is not clear. Since the inputs and weights of the images for the AI have been chosen by me, Petri Kutvonen, and as all rights to the input images have either been expired or are owned by me or Susanna Kutvonen, and as the AI generated images have been postprocessed by me, we consider that the right to decide on the use of these images remains with me or me and Susanna Kutvonen together.

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