Help with Swedish and early Swedish-American surnames

+3 votes
129 views
This is not a question specific to any particular profile, and not even related to my lineage (unfortunately, no Swedes there), but while trying to help a newbie link a source, I came across this, which confuses me GREATLY!

https://colonialswedes.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/SCSJournal_1996-Spring.pdf

Specifically, page 3, columns 3. I understand the "Martensson" and "Martenssdotter," but why, when (3) "Anna Martenssdotter" married "Gustaf Gustafsson" would their children have the surname "Justis"?
in Genealogy Help by Carole Bannes G2G6 Mach 1 (18.4k points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
Names were often americanized to fit the English language better. Mårtensson became Morton and Gustafsson Justis.

Thank you for the interesting read.
by Juha Soini G2G6 Pilot (101k points)
My impression is also that the name transformations of those early (New Sweden) immigrants were different in style from the name transformations of 19th century Swedish immigrants.

The former somehow sound "earthier" to me - probably because they were transformed from 17th century Swedish to 17th century American English. Also the New Sweden folks often seem to have gotten their names from monikers used by others to refer to them, while the later immigrants picked a (Swedish) family name for themselves (IF they abndoned their -son name). That name was then modified to fit the English language.
Just speculating here, and not a strong Swedish speaker, so please do correct me if I'm off on this. I'm guessing that the pronunciation and spelling of English and Swedish plays a role in understanding how someone might get the name Justis out of Gustaf.

In Swedish, the G in a name like Gösta or Göteborg is not a hard G sound but more like a "yuh" Y-sound. I'd guess the name Justis or Justus would also be pronounced with a similar Y-sound, or maybe closer to "yoo". But in any case, the name wouldn't be a homophone with the English word "justice" but sound more like the name "Eustace". I'd guess the name Gustaf could have been pronounced sometimes with a softer-G as well. Hearing it this way, or feeling the sounds in your mouth, it is a more natural step to go from Gustafsson or Göstasson to Justisson. And from there the step to Justis is just as natural.
Marta, I noticed that kind of transformation in my own colonial Swedish family. They were Jöransson to Yourinson to Yourison and Urison. In my 3rd great grandmother’s line, she and one brother used Urison and the other two used Yourison.
Marta's soundalike suggestion of Justis and Eustace seems very spot-on to my ears. As a Swede the English pronounciation of fair justice didn't even cross my mind as applicable to the Justus name.

And while Gustaf is (at least nowadays) is spoken with a hard G, Gösta is spoken with a soft G. The following vowel decides it - A O U Å are "hard" and E I Y Ä Ö are soft - that's what we learned at school in my time.

In old records (17th century) you will also find the spelling Göstaf. And in olden days the names were used interchangeably, while today, when we want our names to be always spelled "correctly" they are two different names.
I learned something new today! How a couple things are pronounced! Thank you.
I remember my grandmother's thick Swedish accent: "It took me tventy years to pronunce yelly, den dey shanes it to yam."
Spot on, Eric!

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