the Scandinavian Countries, naming practices make it difficult
to just search for people with the same last name. Therefore,
you usually find the area that your family is from and use the
parish records to trace your family.
our case we have family from Norway and Sweden. In Norway we have
family from Sogn og Fjordane, mostly in the Balestrand area and
Nordland around Stamnæs in Alstahaug. Also, in Sweden my ancestors
are from Skåne from many parishes, but mostly from Vollsjö, Öved,
Svensköp and Östraby
the time of more regular church records (early 18th century) most
"common" people were referred to by their first name and - if
necessary - by a reference to the village or farm where they lived.
Sometimes adding an occupation title or a personal characteristic
as suffix. Example: "Edvin i Elovsbyn" = Edvin who lives in the
village named Elovsbyn, "Christina i Åsen" = Christine living
on the farm Åsen. This practice was common in many countries in
Europe. Adding an occupation as a suffix has been used at least
since the time of the Bible, e.g. John the Fisherman and in Sweden
e.g. Birger Jarl. Many kings, vikings and widely known people
were referred to by their first name and a characteristic like
Harald Blåtand (H blue tooth), Erik den Helige (E the Holy) not
to forget "Erik läspe och halte" (E the lisping and limping one)
Sweden, laws about names mainly aim to protect the right to existing
family names and to guard against "offensive" names. In early
times the only law protection that existed were a few rules protecting
names of the royal house and the nobility. Also a soldier was
not allowed to change his name while enrolled (but often had to
change when he joined). In general people could take on any surname
as long as it was registered in the church records.
1901 the first law about surnames was passed. In effect it outlawed
the earlier custom using patronymics:
The norm became to
use the father's surname for all children regardless of the
A child born in wedlock
receives the father's surname.
A child born out of
wedlock receives the mother's surname. The father, or a man
(later) married to the mother, can allow the child to use
Adopted children receive
the surname of the adopting person. By court permission an
adopted child may use his/her surname at birth alone or in
conjunction with the surname of the adopting parent. The legislation
regarding names has been revised / extended many times after
1901, notably major, coordinated revision in 1963.
(from Greek pater =father and onoma =name). Naming practice
common in the Nordic rural society from very early ages. It is
known in the Nordic countries at least since the Edda tales (the
younger Edda from abt 1220 by Snorre Sturlason). The use is diminishing
in the 2nd half of the 19th century until outlawed in 1901. The
practice created problems since many people had identical names
but it solved the ancient problem from the times when people did
not have surnames at all.
was not as common in urban areas, among craftsmen or in the middle
Father's given name +genitive "s" +"son" for a son or "dotter"
for a daughter. The genitive "s" is sometimes left out. The "dotter"
was often abridged to "dtr" or "dr". Examples: Eriksson =son of
Erik; Johansson =son of Johan; Jonsson =son of Jon/Jonas/(Johan);
Olsson or Olofsson =son of Olof, Persdotter (or Persdr or Persdtr)
=daughter of Per. Changes: After emigration to an English speaking
country the possessive "s" was often dropped and the whole name
anglicised, often changing the spelling to sound like the old
name when pronounced as were it an English name. Umlauts were
often replaced by the same letter without umlaut (like "ö" becomes
"o") OR replaced by a "sound-like" combination. You must take
these possible changes into consideration when deciding what name
to search for in Swedish records. Remember to restore the special
Swedish characters (å, ä and ö). (more guidance here) Examples:
e.g. Jönsson / Jonsson / Johansson -> Johnson; Eriksson -> Erickson.
Effect of the 1901 "name law": The literal meaning of a patronymic
surname is lost. Karin, daughter of Karl Svensson, would be named
Karin Karlsdotter if born before 1901 but Karin Svensson if born
after 1901. This is important for genealogists. It is often useful
to create a patronymic surname from the father's first name or
deduct the father's first name from a known patronymic surname
of a child born before the end of the 19th century but almost
always leads you wrong regarding children born after 1901. In
the latter case you should look for a father with the same surname
as the child.
from other Nordic countries: If you find a male patronymic surname
ending in "-sen" instead of "-son" then suspect he could be from
Norway or Denmark. The same goes for a female name ending in "-datter"
instead of "-dotter".