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Now reading . . .

"Journey into the Whirlwind"
by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg

"The Wind in the Willows"
by Kenneth Grahame

"The Kite Runner"
by Khaled Hosseini

"The Seven Daughters of Eve"
by Bryan Sykes

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Brick Wall

Well, I have hit the proverbial brick wall when it comes to researching Mmmm’s mother’s family. The family was Swedish and I can imagine people saying, “So?”

That means that the naming conventions of other countries don’t apply to Sweden or the other Scandinavian countries. I read an interesting article last night about Swedish Naming Patterns. The author is Barbara Peterson Price, who starts the article by saying, “When I set out to trace my Swedish ancestors, I progressed no further back than my grandparents before running into problems with names.”

I know just how she feels. I could go back no further than my mother-in-law’s grandparents and then – the brick wall. Mrs. Price goes on to say:

Soldiers were assigned names such as Rask (Swift) or Lind (Linden tree) to eliminate confusion in an army full of similar surnames, while their children at home used the patronymic naming system that was becoming customary in rural areas. Men in towns, the nobility, clergy, and tradesmen often adopted their place of origin as a family name. A gamekeeper ancestor named Sven, born to Peter Nilsson in 1731, took Sjöt;berg (lake and mountain) as his name. His daughter was recorded as Anna Stina Sjöberg, rather than Anna Stina Svensdotter.

In the patronymic system, a child was known as the son or daughter of the father, using the father's first name. This could be made more complicated by the fact that some first names were interchangeable, such as the names Johan-Johannes-John, Per-Peter-Pehr, and Helena-Helen-Elin-Ellen. Anders Persson in one record might be recorded elsewhere as Andres Pehrsson. Women usually retained the patronymic after marriage; an exception was in the province of Skåne, where the wife's last name was dropped. My great-grandmother Dortha Nilsdotter became Dortha Ola Pers (Ola Persson's wife, Dortha).

Not until after 1860 did use of a permanent family name become widespread; however, the children of the same family didn't necessarily all adopt a fixed surname at the same time or choose the same name. The father of my emigrant grandfather, Anders, was Ola Persson; Anders's brother, Per, retained his father's surname but in an Americanized version, becoming Peter Peterson; the three brothers who stayed in Sweden continued in the patronymic system and used Olasson, sometimes also spelled Ohlsson or Olsson. Anders Ohlsson/Persson came to Minneapolis in the 1880s, took notice of all the Olsons and Petersons, and changed his name to Andrew Pommer. The descendants of these brothers are Pommers, Petersons, and Olssons.

There – I hope that clears things up. Unless some relative out there can come up with a name, a location or some other information – I am afraid it is the brick wall. Don’t we all wish we could have an hour or two with our grandparents again?

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