After years at sea, Anders Johan Stenvall, grandfather of the writer Aleksis Kivi, returned in 1811 to his birthplace Nurmijärvi, where his family had fled from war. He worked first as a crofter on land belonging to Pekkola Farm and then as a landless agricultural labourer in the district. Kivi's father, Eerik (Eric) Johan Stenvall (who was registered as Anders Johan's son but was also claimed to be the illegitimate son of the nobleman and law counsellor Carl Henrik Adlercreutz) is recorded as being a Swedish-speaker in the Nurmijärvi confirmation register. Eerik Stenvall, a respected local tailor, moved in 1825 to Palojoki, where his jobs included acting as a scribe for the villagers. In 1824 he had married Annastiina Hamberg from Nahkela, Tuusula, some five kilometres from Palojoki. Her father Antti Hamberg (originally named Hannula after the family farm) lived there, working as a smith, with his brother, who ran the farm. The Hamberg brothers' father was a master builder who had, amongst other things, been in charge of repairs to the Tuusula church. In Palojoki a mansard-roofed house larger than the normal cottage was built for the young couple. They had four sons - Johannes, or Juhani (b. 1825), Emanuel, or Manu (1828), Albert, or Alpertti (1831), and Alexis, later Aleksis Kivi (1834), as well as a daughter, Agnes (1837), who died at the age of fourteen.
Nurmijärvi was hardly any different from other rural parishes of the time - though the 'Nurmijärvi robbers' were a well-known nuisance throughout the province; Eerik Stenvall's uncle Matti was a member of the gang. The careers of his seafaring grandfather and robber great-uncle provided subjects and colour for Kivi's literary imagination. Kivi's father seems to have been something of a model for the author's craftsman characters; and it was presumably from his father that Kivi acquired both his tendency towards occasional drinking bouts and his sense of the comical. For her part, Annastiina Hamberg - an industrious person, the mother of a flock of children and a busy caterer to village banquets - is the prototype of many of Kivi's bustling female characters. It was also through his mother that early in his childhood Kivi came into contact with local Pietists, whose leader was the minister Juhana Bergh. At the age of six, Kivi was given his first religious instruction - i.e. reading and writing - by the able local schoolmaster Malakias Costiander, a man of literary talent who furnished the model for the parish clerk in Seitsemän veljestä (English title: Seven Brothers).
An entire mythology has been constructed concerning Kivi's sunny childhood, with Aleksis as the leader of the village children's games: Mount Taaboor at Palojoki, the nearby woods with their rocky outcrops, the glades and heaths and the verdant banks of the River Vantaa with their swimming places are Kivi's paradise; the surroundings of Palojoki are reflected in the future author's works as a kind of 'basic landscape'.