Posts Tagged ‘Frälse’


April 23, 2017

The Frälse Nobility

I came across the now archaic Swedish term for the Nobility – Frälse (Finnish: Rälssi) recently.  I was intrigued by its meaning, enough to look at my own family tree, whose estates are described as ‘rälssitilat’ (noble estates).  I discovered it is a mediaeval designation for an abode of the noble classes only, usually a manor house, which had the status of being free of being tax-free.


Finland was a part of the Swedish empire from circa the thirteenth century and adopted Swedish jurisdiction.  Although Sweden never had a feudal system, as was common in Russia and central Europe, nonetheless, it did have a ‘noble’ class which attracted privileges such as the above and the right to collect tithes from tenant farmers.    Thus, as well as in Sweden, the nobility also owned noble estates in Finland.


One such is that of my earliest known ancestor, Michel Grelsson, who died in 1742, presumed to have been born circa 1660.  His fourth child, Petrus, is definitely recorded as having been born on such an estate in 1720 (d. 1801), and which remains within the family today.


The estate is that of Kallio, in Raukkala, Leito (sw. Lundo) near Turku (Åbo).  Raukkala also included the estates of Riikila (=of Rike), Äyrällä (=of Äyräs), Pilpola, Harjula and Kujanpää, all of which were designated Frälse.

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Kallio – Riikila – Äyrällä     –  Pictures courtesy of  Lieto History Museum

So, who was allowed to be called Frälse (Swedish/Finnish nobility)?  There are three types of person given this title:  the aristocracy (barons, counts, etc), the clergy (there was a great Christian crusade in the Middle Ages, with the church laying foundations in Finland), and possibly the largest class: those with military honours, from fighting in battles.  Members of the cavalry would be eligible for the award bestowed by the King.


In addition, the only persons allowed to live at a rälssitilat was a nobleman and his family.  Thus Michel Grelsson, would have been a Frälse and at least a lieutenant (as Kallio was designated as a ‘lieutenant’s office’) and a ‘Knight’, as the King’s order was called.  However, where did he come from before that?


After the official record of his confirmed residence at Kallio estate there is a direct recorded line of descendants through to the present day to the author.  Our great-great grandfather Kristian Kallio passed on the Kallio estate to son Frans and for another son Matti – my great grandfather –  he purchased the nearby Äyrällä, to start Matti’s married life with Maija Liisa Pilpola (Rosvall) a cousin, from the adjacent Pilpola estate in 1886, aged 20.  Our grandmother, one of his daughters, Anna Maria, was born and brought up at Äyrällä, with her extended family at Kallio and Pilpola.  The line of descent is:


  1. Michel Grelsson (1660? – 1742)
  2. Tuomas Mikonpoika (1703? – 1758)
  3. Jakko Tuomonpoika (1744 – 1807)
  4. Matti Jaakonpoika (1775 – 1853)
  5. Matti Matinpoika (1807 – 1863)
  6. Kristian Kallio (1836 – 1913)
  7. Matti Äyräs (1863 – 1919)
  8. Anna Maria (Äyräs) (1888 – 1968)
  9. Our mother
  10. Us
  11. Our children

matti a

Matti Äyräs (1863 – 1919)
Note: Swedish/Finnish names were patronymic, and surnames/family names did not become law until mid-C19, hence the terms, Michaels’son, and Thomas’ son, etc, until generation VI, when the owner took the name of his estate.  Poika is Finnish for ‘son’.


But who came before Michel Grelsson?  This I wanted to find out.  But first, let’s suvey who lived at Kallio before my confirmed family did so?


PEDER RIKE (b 1380? – d. 1445?)


The earliest records show it was inhabited by a Peder Rike, who gave rise to the name of the estate as Riikila, one considered a particularly fine one.  He was born circa 1380 and died circa 1445, in Raukkala Lieto-Lundo.    He is described as a ‘squire’ and ‘armed and belonging to the saviour’ (so perhaps he was both in the clergy and the army) [Ref:  Kingdom of Peter in Masku by Anthoni, Binamnet].  The name is Swedish and he is believed to come from the Turku- Åbo bourgeoisie.  (This was the capital city, situated circa seventeen miles away to the South-West).

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Swedish-Finland Turku-Åbo and modern day area – Wikipedia Public Domain

Rike lived with his wife, Elseby (Elizabet) Jönsdotter, possibly the daughter of Jösse Lundh – from the noble house of Lund, established in St. Marie, SW Finland, 1434.  Elseby’s heirs were the city councillors.  Peder Rike bequeathed his goods to the monastary at Naantali, ‘gift to Raukkala gods’.


Peder and Elseby’s children are recorded as Anna Persdotter Rike b 1403, Lohja, d. Dönsby, Karris, Finland.


KLAUS ÅKENPOIKA TOTT / (Claes Åkesson Tott) b.1525 d. 1590


Klaus Åkenpoika Tott came into possession of Riikila and Äyrällä in 1573. He was born in Örebrö, Sweden.

klaus akenpoika tott

Klaus Åkenpoika Tott – Picture Wikipedia Public Domain

His son was Henrik Tott, who married Princess Sigrid, daughter of King Erik XIV of Sweden.   Father Klaus Åkenpoika Tott was the Councillor and proconsul during the Russian war of 1555 – 1557,  taken prisoner by the Danes in 1565, at war with Estonia 1570 – 74 in the Nordic Twenty-Five Year War, 1576-77,  the Finnish Commander, 1577 – 83, the South Finland Commander, 1587 – 1590 the East Finland Commander.


He lost all for opposing King John III, known in Finland as Duke John 1556 – 1563, and whose younger brother was King Charles IX.


Klaus Tott was married to Kerstin Henriksdotter Horn and Catherina Gllyenstierne (both noble families).


HENRIK CLAESSON TOTT b. 1552 (Finland) d. 1603 (Poland)


Son of Klaus, he was a Field Marshall, a talented soldier who had studied at Uppsala University.  He married Sigrid Eriksdotter Vasa 1597, the daughter of King Erik XIV.


Prince Sigrid – Picture: Wikipedia Public Domain

Princess Sigrid av Sv was born 15 Oct 1566 in Svärtsjö Slott, Uppland, Sw. d. 24 April 1633, Liuksala, buried at Turku-Åbo Cathedral.  Liuksala was their main estate, as well as Raukkala.

ake tott

ÅkeTott – Picture Wiki Public Domain

Their children were Åke Henriksson Tott born in Kirkniemi, Uusimaa (Nyland) 1598, a formidable warrior who lead the ‘Hakkapelit’ and whose tomb is at Turku-Åbo Cathedral d. 1640.  He was favoured by King Gustav II Adolf and named affectionately, ‘Snowplough’.  Åke married 1628 Sigrid Bielke b. 1607 d. 1634.  Their son was Clas Tott.


Father Henrik’s other children, and Åke’s siblings were: Anna, Emerentia, Claus, Johann, Kerstin Maria and Erik.



HANS JOAN RAMSAY b. 1550 (Scotland) d. 1649 (Somero, Finland)


His parents were: Alexander Williamson Ramsay of Balnabreich and Matilda Anand. He married Elin Ståhlhandske (father Hans Jönsson [his father: Jöns Tönnesson] Ståhlhandske) who had  inherited Riikila and Äyräs.  She was born 1582 died 1667.  Her mother was Felissa Gyllenhierta (= Gold Heart) noble family of Stockholm.   This was Hans’ second marriage.  His first was to Helena Andersdotter.


Ramsay Crest and the ‘Gold Heart’ Gyllenhierta Crest

Elin came into the Raukkala estate in 1606, under King John III, who by a letter from the king enabled rälssitilat to be inherited, by Act.  The estate included Äyräs, Kujanpää, Harjula and Pilopla.


Hans Ramsay was one of a number of Scottish mercenary soliders who went to fight for Sweden and was rewarded with a knighthood and a rälssitilat.  He was a cavalry rider and the regiment master General of Somero, 1613 – 1636, Somero is an outlying area the of Turku-Åbo province.


Hans and first wife Elin Andersdottir till Botila (m 1550): children include Alexander, Anders, Hans, Henrik and Johan Hansson Ramsay (b. 1576 – 1636 – died in Würtzberg, Bavaria)


Elin Ramsay (1582) was his second wife, children: Helena, Jacob and Ebba.


In 1683 the Raukkala estate went to Anders born circa 1636 of Johan Hansson Ramsay. Anders Erik Ramsay was a captain and governor.  He died 1735 in Porvoo.

The estate was in the Ramsay family for several generations.




Circa 1660 – 1680 the rural chief marshall, nimismies, known only as Heikki and his son Heikki Heikinpoika farmed at the Estate and was one of the estate which was part of the ‘Big Reduction’ Iso Reduktio by King Charles XII of Sweden to reduce the tax-free estates to increase money collected by the crown.


MICHEL GRELSSON (1660? – 1742)


So back to the mystery of how Michel Grelsson came to take up the reins at Kallio, Raukkala.


It is informative to look what was taking place in the wider history of the area during that era.  There were fierce wars, plagues and famine.

Swedish Medieval Royal Family

King Gustav Vasa 1523 – 1560 became Sweden’s first king after its establishment as a country independent from Denmark, a relationship which broke off after the Stockholm Bloodbath where up to 90 members of the clergy, archbishops and guests at a banquet were dragged out and beheaded or hanged in the town square.  It had been ambushed by rogue soldiers of King Christian II of Denmark’s army, who had a quarrel over dominion and Swedish rebels.

Gustav was succeeded by King Erik XIV 1533 – 1577, who married Karin Månsdotter, said to have come from peasant stock.  The pair spent much of their time imprisoned at Turku-Åbo Slott (Castle), daughter Sigrid married Henrik Tott, but their son led a tragic life and died dissolute.

Next came King John III, 1568 -1592, or Duke John of Finland, followed by Duke Carl of Södermanland, Charles IX, 1604 – 1611, Gustav II Adolf 1611 – 1632,, King Charles X, 1654 -1660, Charles XI 1660-1697, Charles XII 1697 – 1718.

The Great Famine

Between 1695 and 1697 there was a Great Famine over large parts of Northern Europe.  The Swedish mainland had grain, but refused to sell it to the East Swedes (Finns) except at the highest prices.  As the famine progressed in Lieto, there were more than 500 burials in the peak year, many in mass graves, many unidentified, having come from other areas further inland, in search of food.  Beggars were said to have lined the route from Lieto, all the way down to the coast, in a desperate state of starvation.  One witness recounting seeing an old man, half naked crawling along a major road, when he toppled over and landed dead in the ditch by the road side.  He was taken to Lieto Church (St Peter’s) where he was buried with nine others that day, in a mass paupers grave.  68% of deaths were of chidren.  (Liedon Historia I)

Before that, there had been a plague which had decimated much of Europe, carried into countries by infested rats from ships.

To add to the misery of these grim years, was the Great Northern War of 1700 which was lost by Charles XII  1697 – 1718, with a devastating defeat at Poltava against the Russians (in what is now known as the Ukraine), followed by the Great Wrath 1714 – 1721.  Russia invaded Finland desecrating churches and scorching buildings.  They were reported to have put suckling babies to the sword and cut off their mothers’ breasts.  (Liedon Historia I)

The Swedish gentry fled to Sweden, taking as much livestock with them as they could.  Others fled to the forests to hide. (ibid.)

The population of the area decreased in sized compared to the beginning of the millennium in 1600.

Charles XII decreased the rälssitilat.  Thus it could be, Michel Grelsson was a returning Frälseman.  His sixth child Petrus  (b 1720 d. 1801) is the first to show on the extant records of having been born at Kallio.  He was married to Kaarina Jaakontytär (Karin Jacobsdotter) d. 1764 Lieto, and their other children were: Agneta, Maria (1705 -1784, Matti, Kirsti, and Tuomas.

These are all Finnish names, and Petrus is the youngest.  Thus, it is unlikely he was a Russian officer who took over during the Great Wrath – as some did, and aided by the unpopular King Charles XII, or someone of non-nobility class, for it was prohibited until the 1789 Unity & Security Act.  It was completely done away with 1864, as land tax was abolished.

Michel Grelsson (= Mikko Rekonpoika in Finnish) is estimated to have been born 1660.  I believe he is almost certainly from a local noble family as it was noted that the community was solidly of local stock (ibid).  That is, most families had lived in the area for generations.

Thus, I believe Michel Grelsson’s father and grandfather may have been the following:

GRELS MÅRTENSSON LUND (born 1600? d 1658)

Grels Mårtensson Lund was a lieutenant with Turku-Åbo land cavalry regiment.

He is buried at Piikkio (Pikkis) – a neighbouring village to Lieto.  He was married to Karin, and brother to Henrik Mårtensson Lund.  The couple are recorded as having seven children.  However, only two are listed: Michel Grelsson and Agneta Grelsdotter Lund.

Problem is, this Michel Grelsson is born 1626 and died 1708 so could not be the father of young Petrus born 1720.

However, let’s persist.  Records show the ‘1626 Michel Grelsson’ was married to Maria Simonsdotter Bock of Bukkila, and their children were Helena and Johan (Mikaels’).  They lived at the Knaapi home.  (Another Lieto estate dating back to 1412.)

My confirmed family records show that ‘our’ ‘Michel Grelsson 1660’, was married to Kaarina Jaakontytär d. 1764.  He died 1742.  This is certain.  The one of 1626, son of Grels Mårtensson Lund died 1708.  Thirty-four year’s difference.  Therefore, I believe a generation is missing from the record.

The ‘1626 Michel Grelsson’ had a sister Agneta Grelsdottor b 1668 in Nautela (a nearby Lieto estate).  It is interesting ‘our’ ‘Michel Grelsson 1660’, has an eldest daughter, Agneta.

So, what do we know for sure about Grels Mårtensson Lund?  He had a brother, Henrik, a lecturer in Satakunta, lived 1661 and had two children.

He is the son of Mårten Bertilsson of Nautela (note: an estate in Lieto), which he sold to Jöns Kurck, 1650-06-19.  Rider at the company land regiment Turku, 1626.  Introduced 1634.  Lieutenant at Turku County Cavalry Regiment 1637, died circa 1658, Piikkio.  Thus, we see he was born 1626 and his father was Mårten Bertilsson.  His wife Karin, died circa 1667.

Thus, the records show that Grels Mårtensson Lund’s grandparents, parents of Mårten Bertilsson Lund were born 1492.  I estimate his parents were thus born, mid-1500’s.  Grels must have been born by 1618 (when Mårten Bertilsson Lund died).  Let’s assume he was a lieutenant aged 26, as per the meticulous Swedish  Frälse  records, above, and impute a date of birth for him of 1600, a nice round figure.

He died, as per the Swedish records 1658.  Therefore, if Michel Grelsson is his son, and I believe he is, Michel was likely born a couple of years earlier than his estimated date of 1660, which shows the estimate to be reasonably accurate.

However, if Grels was born 1600, it is quite possible his eldest son, Michel Grelsson was born 1626.

Let’s return to the Swedish Frälse records:

Grels Mårtensson Lund:  Nautela in Lundo

[= Lundo is Swedish for Lieto]

Finnish Salvation* 1634 Riksdag 1634 -7 – 3 a rescue letter published by King Erik of Pomerania 1412 – 05 -22 to Jöns Jakobsson in Lundo  (the father’s nest) after ancestors arms a ‘hot horseshoe’.

Introduced as Hästesko named ‘Lund’ after his cook.  Signed the Riksdag resolution 1412-07-29.

“ Grels Mårtensson Lund, RIDD.O.AD, PROTOCOL 1634

hot horseshoe

‘Hot Horseshoe’ Crest of Grels Mårtensson Lund

Children: Mårten Bertilsson, Brita Bertilsson, lived 1610.

Nautela in 1472 is called Old Salvation, rust service 1616, dead 1618.  The son Grels Mårtensson filed 1624 for Masku 1599 LUNDO ‘that Mårten in Nautela has nowhere been near Carl’s people 1597 and still in country.”

(Google translation – apologies)
Note, The reference to ‘the Kingdom of Peter’ earlier and Nautela being ‘Old Salvation’ is a reference to the Swedish Christian crusade in Finland.  Clergy were part of the noble classes and given comfortable estates.

Nautela estate is now the site of Lieto History Museum Liedon Historia Museo.

It is well-known for its rapids and worth visiting.

What seems clear from the above, the Lund reference is more likely a reference to Lieto-Lundo, than ‘his cook’s name’(!).  It also shows that Grels and his father had been in the area a long time.

Michel Grelsson Found?

I feel reasonably sure I have now identified – albeit, tentatively – two further (unconfirmed) generations of our family dating back to 1412.  Jöns Jakobsson.  The first with the arrival of Mårten in Nautela, and then with Mårten Bertilsson Lund ‘s grandfather (Bertil?)  born by 1492,  Mårten Bertilsson Lund b circa mid 1550’s, died 1618, – as per the Swedish records, above, of the Frälse  -married to NN Lund.

Grels Mårtensson Lund  born circa 1600 died 1658, and our formerly ‘oldest known ancestor’ Michel Grelsson born circa 1658 died 1742.

The could well be a missing generation Michel Grelsson,  one shown on records for these dates, using the child’s name by reference to the father’s in the parish records, possibly due to the effects of the destruction caused during the Great Wrath.

If I have calculated correctly, I would now be Generation XII,  or even XIII or XIV, from being number X.

What happened next

From 1721 to 1809, after which Sweden was defeated in the Napoleonic wars, life was relatively peaceful in Finland, still part of the Swedish Empire.

Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous Grandy Duchy of Russia under the czars, reasonably content until Czar Nicholas.  2017 sees Finland celebrate 100 years of independence.

Much of Raukkala is still in family hands.

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Äyrällä today – there were plans to turn it into a museum


Liedon Historia I – Mansikkaniemi, Luoto, Hiltunen, Pub. Liedon Kunta ja Seurakunta, Turku 1988
Liedon Raukkalan Kyläkallion suku – Maija Hanhijärvi – Pub. Turun Yliopisto, 2000




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