A few years back my uncle, the family genealogist, proclaimed his disappointment. Try as he could he could not track our ancestry past 1498. I was impress and pointed out, like every good American school kids knows, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” With that my uncle realized his success. I thought I’d put things into a bit more perspective.
In 1450, a Finnish bishop is quoted in a German travel journal as saying:
“Mÿnna tachton gernast spuho somen gelen Emÿna daÿda”
In modern Finnish, “Minä tahdon kernaasti puhua suomen kieltä, (mutta) en minä taida.” Or in English “I would really like to speak Finnish, (but) I don’t know.” This is the first evidence of written Finnish language, in 1450. That’s only 42 years before Columbus, so my uncle did really well. It wasn’t until 1863, under Russian rule, that Finnish became an official language.
We know that Finland was under Swedish rule in the 1400’s. The Västgötalagen, the oldest Swedish provincial laws, was the first evidence of a written Swedish langauge from 1250. Written Swedish is only 200 years older.
Written Middle English was first seen in 1400’s. While Old English was around in 1200 it was very different from Modern English. Interestingly it was Scandinavian speaking vikings that helped to bring the change from Old English to Middle English.
Going back in time – The first evidence of written Finnic was the birch bark letter comes from between 1240 and 1260.