The roots of the Kyrö people: an onomastic and historical study of the settlement of Kyrönjoki river valley from the Middle Ages to the 17th century

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, lecture hall Poiju, OAMK

Topic of the dissertation

The roots of the Kyrö people: an onomastic and historical study of the settlement of Kyrönjoki river valley from the Middle Ages to the 17th century

Doctoral candidate

Licentiate in Philosophy Matti Leiviskä

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, The Research Unit for History, Culture and Communications

Subject of study



Professor Georg Haggrén , University of Turku


Docent Matti Enbuske, University of Oulu

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The settlement of Kyrönjokilaakso has prehistoric roots

The onomastic (= the study of proper names) and historical study of Kyrönjoki river valley in Southern Ostrobothnia shows that the roots of the current settlement of the region goes far back to the prehistoric age. The oldest names in the area stands out as a strong original layer. This suggests that the region has never been completely depopulated, but that new populations and influences have always come on top of the old population base.

Based on the study the oldest recognisable name strata in the Kyrönjoki river valley is based on Finnish language. However, there are many Germanic, Scandinavian and German elements in the names of the oldest villages and houses in the region, which are signs of the vast and very old connections of the Kyrö people throughout the Baltic Sea region. According to the names, the Kyrö people have also had contacts throughout the current territory of Finland. The strongest connections have been to the Upper Satakunta.

In his doctoral thesis, Ph.L. Matti Leiviskä studies the settlement history of Kyrönjoki river valley with the help of the oldest written documents and the nomenclature of the region during the period from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. Based on old tax records, in the 1540s there was a strong and well-established settlement in the area, which origins Leiviskä tries to explain retrospectively. Leiviskä studies the village names, household names and personal names found in the oldest written documents of the Kyrönjoki river valley through onomastic methods and looks for equivalents to the names from the entire Finnish language area.

– The Kyrönjoki river valley was already the core region of the current Southern Ostrobothnia region in prehistoric times. In the Iron Age, there was an unusually strong and rich concentration of settlements even on the scale of the whole Finland. At the beginning of the Viking era, however, the settlement of Kyrönjoki river valley seems to have faded. Due to the minor number of archaeological finds, it has even been suspected that the region was completely deserted in the 800s. One of the most controversial questions in the settlement history of Finland has long been whether the settlement has continued in Kyrönjoki river valley without dissappearing from the prehistoric era or whether the area was completely repopulated during the Middle Ages. This new study points to the continuity of settlements, says Leiviskä.

The onomastic and historical study of Kyrönjoki river valleys shows that by studying the names can provide new information on early settlements, population movements and contacts in the area. The same research methods could be used more widely in the study of settlement history. Knowledge on the early population and population history of the current Finnish region are still very incomplete in many places. There are only few written documents from the time before the 1540s and there is not enough archaeological material either. It is possible to obtain new information through onomastics because of the wide availability of place names throughout the country.

The study will be published by the Historical Association of Northern Finland in the number 87 of the series Studia Historica Septentrionalia (ISSN 0356-8199, ISBN 978-952-9887-71-9).
Last updated: 23.1.2024