Scandinavian Patronyms

+16 votes
I'm on hold on this profile, waiting for access to add a daughter.

In the meantime, I noticed in the bio that this person was born Pedersen, by Danish/Scandinavian patronymic tradition. Later in life, he changed it to Mortensen, also his father's surname. One sees this pretty often among Scandinavian immigrants to the US.

I have an Icelandic friend who was not allowed to give his son a patronym in the US even though they wanted to; back in the 1990s this was. In Iceland, the phone book is alphabetic by first name - not an easy concept if you're not used to patronymic traditions.

Anyhow, Mr. Mortensen was born Pedersen, later changing it to Mortensen like his father. I suspect that they were required to abandon the patronym upon immigration to the US. But for WikiTree, the LNAB should be Pedersen, no? Then changed to a different one, entered like we enter married last names for women.

I'm pretty sure I'm right on this, am double checking before bothering the profile manager further.
WikiTree profile: Morten Mortensen
in Policy and Style by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 7 (72.0k points)
edited by Living Winter

3 Answers

+6 votes
I agree.  I'm currently engaged in the same effort with some of my Swedish ancestors -- e.g.,. LNAB should be Akesson, but has been entered as Helm, which is the name he adopted as an adult.
by Jim Angelo G2G6 Mach 5 (51.3k points)
Jim, this may give you some keyboard headaches but his LNAB should probably rather be Åkesson. You probably know that we have a few more letters in the Scandinavian alphabets. They were thrown in to confuse foreigners ...
Thanks Gunnar -- that is how the name was set up back 2016 (Åkesson-154).  I'm afraid that I sometimes get lazy with the American-style keyboard and don't always use the correct form in messages  (but I always try to keep my cheat-sheet handy - )
+11 votes
I'll add my agreement to this, being Swedish and with an ancestry mostly consisting of peasants living their lives within the patronymic naming system, where LNAB will be gendered and derived from the father's name. This IS the name they were born with.

I always think that it's a point of interest to see when patronymic people adopt an inheritable surname - which is usually when they leave the peasant life and go to town, emigrate or start teaching school. Craftsmen like smiths had inheritable family names from early on. Likewise the nobility and the clergy (of which I have very little experience).

Another characteristic is that women did NOT take the husband's surname (except in the upper classes). When they emigrated they had to change that practice as well.

I think it was some time in the 1880s that all the patronymic names were "frozen" into surnames (if you didn't prefer to adopt another type of name). That's when suddenly the daughters of Olof get the surname Olofsson (which must have felt pretty weird). And around the turn of the century wives started using their husband's names; the law making this compulsory came in 1920.
by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (490k points)
+5 votes

I too agree that the LNAB is Pedersen. Being Danish I can also confirm that most of the facts that Eva mention about Sweden apply to Danish naming customs as well. Only the change from patronyms to inheritable last names took place a little earlier. In fact there is naming law from 1828 which says that all children in a family should have the same last name, i.e. both boys and girls would have names ending on –sen. Until this time, most children’s last names were not mentioned in the baptismal records, only their first names and the names of their father (and sometimes the mother) would be recorded. In reality, the change was not carried out in real life and you can see girls being named e.g. Pedersdatter as late as in the 1880’ies. You can also see patronyms as well as inherited last names being used in the same parish at the same time. Females that were christened with a name ending on –datter might change this to –sen later in life (I have seen this happening in Sweden as well).  

Also in Denmark, women did not change their name after marriage until late in the 19th century. Today this is gradually changing back, so that more and more married women keep their original last name, and you also see men changing their name to their wife’s name upon marriage.

by Torben Friberg Sørensen G2G6 Mach 1 (12.7k points)
Nodding my head here to the remarks about the gradual transition in practices. Also to the fact about children's last names not really being mentioned in birth records and household records until they move out. Well, I can immediately think of an exception to that, because I have recently been working with household records from Rättvik 1670-1700 where in some households there are two married sons with the children from both marriages listed together in order of birth, then they MAY be provided with their patronymic (if the clergyman has remembered to do that).

Also nodding my head to the naming practices at marriage already changing back or into more varied forms. The uniformity of "wife takes husband's name at marriage" lasted for seventy years or less here.
Greetings to everyone! I am working at getting my Swedish Ancestors added to wikitree, and oh my gosh....... the naming system has me completely intimidated. I have only been able to successfully research family who immigrated to the U.S in 1892. And, I have noticed the different names associated with the records and have no understanding of how and why names changed.
My Danish grandmother, Jensine, born 1881, always used the patronym of Christensen (-sen rather than -datter at this point in time).  However, in one Danish census record, she is listed as Jensine Pedersen, because her father was Christen Pedersen.  The census taker used the inherited family name.  She herself never did, though.  

When coming to the U.S., she called herself Jensine Christensen, until she got married and adopted her husband's surname.

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