November 4, 2020
If you have Norwegian, Danish, or Swedish ancestors, there is a wealth of information online and published. Immigration from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to the United States peaked from the middle to late 1800s until the early 1900s. One of the most unique aspect of researching your Scandinavian ancestors is the patronymic naming convention.
A patronym is a suffix attached to a surname based on the given name of one's father or earlier male ancestor (as opposed to a matronym which is based on one’s mother or earlier female ancestor). Each is a means of showing lineage. Each country had their own suffix to attach to surnames.
For a son, Denmark had –sen (daughter, -datter). In Sweden, a son’s surname would include –son (daughter, -dotter). Norway had different suffixes at different times. When they were ruled by Norway, the Norwegian suffix was used. When they were ruled by Sweden, the Swedish suffix was used. When they gained independence, a son’s surname would include the suffix –sen (daughter, –dotter). The late 19th century showed a change in the naming conventions when most countries required fixed surnames.
Books the Midwest Genealogy Center has on the topic include From America to Norway by Orm Overland (3-volume set), Scandinavian Genealogical Research by Finn A. Thomsen, and Norden: A Guide to Scandinavian Genealogical Research in a Digital World by Art Jura. Check our online catalog for more.
Online resources include FamilySearch, National Danish-American Genealogical Society, Norway-Heritage, Norwegian National Archives, Arkiv Digital, and the Swedish State Archives. (Note: some of these websites are in a foreign language). Mid-Continent Public Library branches also have Ancestry Library Edition.
Have Scandinavian ancestors? Resources are available, so happy researching!
Man lär så länge man lever (One learns as long as one lives)!
Midwest Genealogy Center
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