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# Thursday, 06 August 2015
How Your Scandinavian Ancestors Got Their Surnames
Posted by Diane



Most of the time in genealogy, you can rely on a child to have the same surname as his or her father. A big exception—one that's often frustrating for those of you tracing Scandinavian ancestors—is the patronymic surname.

Starting Monday, Aug. 10, our Family Tree University four-week course Scandinavian Genealogy 101 will help you overcome surname, language, record-finding and other challenges in researching ancestors from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Here are some Scandinavian surname basics:

The people of Scandinavia gradually began using surnames around the 15th or 16th century. Most of the population used the patronymic system, in which a child's surname was formed from the father's given name plus a suffix (in some other cultures, a prefix would form the patronymic). Commonly used suffixes in each Scandinavian country are shown in the chart above.

The patronymic system continued at least through the 19th century, and sometimes into the 20th. A number of laws mandated fixed surnames, but especially in rural areas, populations were slow to adopt them.

Not everyone stuck to this system, though. Merchants and craftsmen sometimes used German surnames or names reflecting their occupations, so you may find Scandinavians with names such as Schmidt (German for “smith”). The clergy often Latinized their surnames. Other methods that might be used for determining a surname include:
  • Military names, primarily in Sweden. Only one man with a particular name could be in a unit, so the next arrival with the same name would use another surname, which he might keep after his service ended.
  • Farm names, primarily in Denmark and parts of Norway. A family might take the name of their farm and carry the name to a new area.
  • Geographic names, primarily in Sweden and sometimes Norway. The name might represent some physical attribute of the land, such as Lindberg (“tree” plus “mountain”), or be the name of a town.

Need information on tracing your Norwegian, Swedish and Danish family tree? See a Scandinavian Genealogy 101 course outline on FamilyTreeUniversity.com. Class starts Aug. 10!


Family Tree University | Scandinavian Roots
Thursday, 06 August 2015 09:17:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 08 April 2015
Scandinavian Genealogy: Chart of Patronymic Surname Suffixes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark
Posted by Diane

Patronymic surnames (formed by adding a prefix or suffix to the first name of a child's father) exist in many countries, but the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark are perhaps best known for their patronymic naming systems.

On the plus side, patronyms give you clues to a father's name, but a surname that changes with every generation can make it hard to trace a family over time. The "rules" for creating a patronym also changed with the time, place and family.

Each Scandinavian country’s residents used different suffixes, shown in the chart below, to form their patronymic surnames. Norway generally followed the pattern of the ruling country.

The chart holds true through most of the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as countries began passing laws that mandated fixed surnames, families slowly began adopting them. Late in the 19th century, many families, especially in Denmark, began using the male extension for both sons and daughters.

Country Son Daughter
Denmark -sen -datter
Sweden
-son -dotter
Norway before 1814 (Danish rule) -sen -datter
Norway 1814-1905 (Swedish rule) -son -dotter
Norway after 1905 (independence) -søn -dotter

Sorting out patronymics is just one skill you'll learn in our Family Tree University online course Scandinavian Genealogy 101, which runs April 13-May 8. The course also covers history and geography and their effect on your research, language and genealogical terminology, and church and other records of Scandinavian countries.

Learn more about Scandinavian Genealogy 101, see a course outline and register at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.


Research Tips | Scandinavian Roots | Swedish roots
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 13:29:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]