The following list gives answers to some of the questions frequently asked about the Tenkanen–Tengén family.
How did the surname Tenkanen come about?
Tenkanen is an old Karelian surname. Tenka was a monetary unit used during the Russian regime and also used in Finland, and it was long believed that the surname Tenkanen would be related to this. However, the majority of old Finnish surnames have been derived from male given names. In the 17th century Tenka was commonly known amongst Orthodox Karelians as a male name. It was a popular transformation of the Russian male name Dementij (common nickname of which was Demka), derivative of the Greek name Dometios, meaning “domesticator”.
Even if the surname Tenkanen is likely to be related to the Karelian-Orthodox given name Tenka, it seems that the present-day Tenkanens are not descendants of an ancestor whose given name was Tenka. E.g., the inhabitants of the Jääski parish might use the farmhouse name as a byname and change it when moving from one place to another. This would eventually become a kind of a surname. The same was true in situations where a man would be recruited as a regular or extraordindary infantry soldier (ruotusotamies). It is known that Tenkanen was one of the ruotu soldier names in the village of Immalanjärvi in Ruokolahti in the late 17th and early 18th century, and there is documentation on at least one person, with the surname Hu(u)htanen, having taken the name Tenkanen after having been recruited as a ruotu soldier.
How did the surname Tengén come about?
The eldest and youngest sons of parish clerk of Sakkola Tuomas Tenkanen (b. 1773, d. 1837) and his wife Maria Kituinen (b. 1774, d. 1851) left their home town to educate themselves as priests. As was customary amongst the educated, they adopted a name that would sound Swedish. All present day Tengéns are descendants of these two clergymen.
Anders Silfwast writes the following in the Evangelic Calendar of 1891 (translated from Swedish): “There was a young man called Tenkainen, who wanted to become a priest, and it was in this purpose he arrived in the diocese city. But here the high clergymen refused to inaugurate him to the office unless he would adopt a name that would be appropriate for a priest. He was proposed the name Tengelin but he declined it by saying that it was a kind of a name all cobblers and tailors would have. With these words he wanted to ridicule one of the members of the chapter whose name happened to end with the suffix ‘-lin’. He wanted to have the name Tengén, instead. This man, Johan Tengén, later to become the chaplain of Vehkalahti, was married to Ulrika Charlotta Rosenström, the marriage of which produced them two sons and one daughter.”
Are all Tenkanens of today related?
The majority of people with the surname Tenkanen are descendants of the tenant farmer Yrjö Tenkanen (Jöran [George] Tenganen) and his wife Anna Toiviainen, mentioned in documents first time in 1730's in Sakkola -- or spouses of these descendants. However, some people with the surname Tenkanen are related to farmer Ivan Dimitrinpoika Tenkanen (b. 1858, d. 1924) from the village of Palojärvi in the parish of Salmi, and do not seem to have any relation to Yrjö Tenkanen. Considering the way people initially got their surnames, there may be other similar cases.
Is Tenkanen a protected surname?
The surname Tenkanen has been protected from 1967, at latest. However, the law does not give full protection e.g. against artists' pseudonyms. On the other hand, a literary or artistically unique artifact is not allowed to be made public using a pseudonym that that would cause either the author or the artifact to be confused with another public artifact or its creator with the same name. (Copyright law on literary or artistically unique artifacts, 51 §.)
From where and why did the ancestors arrive in Sakkola?
In the Stolbova peace treaty in 1617 Sweden got from Russia the shore areas around Lake Ladoga in the surroundings of Käkisalmi and Sortavala, inhabited by the Orthodox Karelians. During the Swedish regime Sakkola belonged to the province of Käkisalmi. Between the years 1617 and 1660 the majority of the Orthdox population fled for Russia, and Karelians from the province of Vyborg who had turned to Lutherans moved in their place. As for Sakkola, it got most of its immigrants from the neighbouring parish Äyräpää. However, there were no members of the Tenkanen family amongst them.
According to oral lore the origins of the Sakkola-based family Tenkanen would be in Estonia. Furthermore, the ancestor of the family, assumed to be an infantry soldier, is said to have been imprisoned by the Russians during the Great Northern War and taken to Nizhny Novgorod. There is no evidence, however, neither to confirm or deny these interesting statements.
The ancestor and ancestress moved to Sakkola probably between 1724 and 1736. At that time, mainly between 1722 and 1727, thousands of prisoners of war and their family members who were captured during the Great Northern War, as well as civilians transferred against their will to Russia, returned through St. Petersburg back to home in Finland and Sweden. Most of these people came from the surroundings of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. However, according to oral lore the ancestor would have arrived in Karelia from Tallinn, first by crossing the Gulf of Finland and arriving in Helsinki and then continuing by foot to the surroundings of Vyborg.
It is not known why the ancestors chose to move in Sakkola but one likely reason is that Sakkola was in those times free from military recruitment. In addition, situated along the shores of Lake Ladoga and near the growing St. Petersburg, Sakkola seemed to offer better chances for a decent livelihood for a simple farmer than e.g. the surroundings of Ruokolahti and Jääski, where people by the names of Tenka, Tenkanen or Toiviainen are known to have lived.
Did women use their husbands' surnames in the 18th and 19th century?
Normally they did not. As a rule women continued to use their birth names as they were generally considered to belong to their fathers' families, even after having married and left their homes. This began to change only in the latter part of the 19th century after the example shown by clergy wives and other upper class women. In the beginning of the 20th centry most women already used their husbands' names. Legislation would force this only starting from 1929 along with the new marital law. For more information, see www.genealogia.fi/nimet/nimi17s.htm (Finnish only).
Where do Sakkola-based members of the Tenkanen family live today?
In the time before the Karelian Isthmus was lost to the Soviet Union the majority of the family lived in Sakkola and Pyhäjärvi (Vyborg province) but several family members lived in diverse municipalities around the Vyborg province, some also elsewhere in Finland, as far as in Rovaniemi. After the Second World War many of those who lived in the Karelian Isthmus found eventually new homesteads in Huittinen, Hämeenkyrö, Lempäälä, Pirkkala, Ruovesi and Tampere. Today the most popular living places are Helsinki, Tampere and Huittinen, but the majority of the family live scattered around the Southern Finland.
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