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Re: Swedish naming patterns
Posted by: Ingela Martenius (ID *****6776) Date: July 15, 2008 at 12:10:59
In Reply to: Swedish naming patterns by Pauleta Hicks of 44359

Yes, you've got the part about patronymics right. Patronymics are in no way a Swedish invention; all countries in at least northern Europe have at one time used them - and then at some stage they "stick" and turn into inherited family names (in e.g. Scotland all names starting with "Mc" or ending with "son", in Ireland all names starting with "O'" - and from Wales comes the ubiquitous Jones, which is just short for "John's son"). Some countries, like Russia, still use patronymics, but now as a sort of "middle name" - Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, Boris son of Nikolay Yeltsin. If, in the old days, a Swede had family name, this is exactly how his/her full name would look (e.g. Maria Eriksdotter Stake) too.

Only the rural population and the poorest urban population used patronymics ("only" means some 90-95% of the population). If you moved into a town as something better than a servant - perhaps a clerk or a shop assistant - you would assume a family name (no paperwork before 1901, your name was what you said it was - legally). Family names fall into categories: noble names have their own characteristics, as does clergy names and "town names". A "town name" would typically be made up of two parts, both parts being "something in nature": e.g. Lindgren - linden branch, Ekstrand - oak beach etc. Lundberg is a very, very typical town name, meaning copse mountain.

So, why a town name for an emigrant? Well, Swedes thought of emigration in the same terms as moving into town, it was just a bit further to travel. Another factor was that the American society didn't understand patronymics and thought that children were illegitimate and a couple wasn't properly married if the entire family didn't have the same surname. Some immigrants dealt with this by using the father's (or paternal grandfather's) patronymic as a family name, others preferred to do it the traditional Swedish way: a family "town name" for the whole family.

Oh, and Judy understates the case: Swedes don't love changing names - they LOVE it. Yes, still today; the latest is that a couple when marrying takes a new, common name.


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