This article focuses on the culturally shared knowledge and understanding regarding family and kin relations held by the rural poor of Finland. The source material consists of the life stories, and poverty narratives within them, of Finns born between 1880 and 1938, seventy-nine texts altogether. Although all the narrators became financially secure by Western standards later in life, childhood poverty left them scarred. A recurrent focus in their life stories is how meager living conditions led to miserable childhoods and adolescences, a situation reinforced by the existing peasant family economic model. Stories that emphasize this situation are called poverty narratives. In this article I point to themes apparent in these narratives: tensions in the nuclear family, the perception of children as burdens, and criticism of extended relatives. Poverty narratives deal with topics, ideas, and evaluations that are relevant to their bearers; this article therefore provides insight into the linguistic competencies, concerns, feelings, and agencies of the individuals.