Nasty Nagging Norwegian Names

If you have a Norwegian in your family tree, I’m sure that you’ve said worse things about hunting up Norwegian ancestors and dealing with all of the name games.

Those Norwegian Names – Tips for the Online Researcher from Norway Heritage will help you understand the alphabet soup of Norwegian names.

Through all times, the old names have been the subject of random changes, and developed along with the phonetics in the spoken language. Many names were shortened, and are hardly recognizable today from their original form. However, many of the old norse names are popular today in some form or another. People also started to use names consisting of only one component, and those are believed to originally have been “nicknames”, as they usually were descriptive of the person. Examples of this are names like KÃ¥re (Kaare), which indicates that the person had curly hair. As the old vikings started to trade and travel more widely in Europe, they also adopted foreign names which were imported in to Norwegian tradition. Up through the centuries there has been great influence from other parts of Europe like Germany, Britain and Denmark.
Those Norwegian Names – Tips for the Online Researcher

We have an Andreas Anderson, father of Hans Anderson, who came over on the British Ship “Alert” in July of 1851. We have information from the Manitowoc County Declarations of Intent (Naturalization), Wisconsin, that states that this is the ship he arrived on and the date. But we can’t find him on the passenger list. Did he have a different first name and his last name, Anderson, got slightly rearranged and made his new first name? Or did he have a totally different name upon arrival in New York. Or did his name change during his lifetime, too?

The article gives examples of the problems and confusion with immigration and names.

From Jeen Spencer on the NORWAY-List I got some very illustrating examples on how names would change, and how differently they can appear in different sources:

On the passenger list for the Harmonie, 1849, you will find #34 “Osmund Halvorsen” with his wife “Ingeborg Lisabet Torbjørbsdotter” and five children. He was listed as “Ã…smund Hallvardsson” at Rygg, Etne, in the Hordaland index. He followed his parents who had emigrated in 1847 on the Kong Sverre, and apparently most of the family began using variations of the name, Osman, Osmandson, Osmanson as surnames. In the 1801 census, Osmund Halvorsens father was listed as “Halvar Usmundsen”, and grandfather as “Usmund Halvarsen”. Osmund Halvorsen eventually used the name Osmon Osmonson, with his son Osmund Osmundsen finally using the name Austin Osman.

Another article worth exploring to help you with your Norweigan family names is Norwegian naming practices by John Føllesdal. He clarifies and muddies the waters of researching Norweigan family names:

This is not to say that surnames (as we know them) were not used in Norway prior to 1900. There were many Norwegian families who used surnames prior to the turn of the century. Most of these families were members of the educated upper class (the clergy, the military, and high ranking civil servants). In addition, people who lived in cities, such as Bergen or Trondheim, used hereditary surnames. These surnames were often very old, and were, in many instances, of foreign origin, be it British, Dutch, or German. (From the 1400’s onward, Norway experienced an influx of immigration from abroad, and these individuals had surnames in the modern meaning of the word). In Nordfjord, where my paternal ancestors lived, we find Frants Blichfeldt (1766 – 1839), a priest in Eid parish from 1809 to 1821. He was the son of tax assessor Henrik Frantson Blichfeldt and his wife Karen Katrine Fleischer. In nearby Innvik parish, Johan Sigfried Cammermeyer (1757 – 1844) served as a priest from 1806 to 1843. His parents were Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer, a priest in Bergen, and his wife Anne Kristine Gude. Blichfeldt and Cammermeyer were surnames in the modern sense of the word in that these names were passed down from generation to generation.

In a nutshell, we can say that prior to about 1900, rural Norwegians did not have surnames, unless they were members of the educated upper class (priests, high ranking civil servants, etc). City dwellers, including members of the educated upper class, did have surnames. The rural Norwegian farmers had a first name, and sometimes a middle name, which they were baptized with. They added a patronym and a farm name to that first name in their everyday interactions with other people.

It’s also cool that he highlights Frants Blichfeldt, who we are currently examining as a potential ancestor through our Anderson family line tracking Helen Blickfeldt in Wisconsin.

Both this and the article, Those Norwegian Names – Tips for the Online Researcher, have helped us with our Norwegian family members research, with good tips and advice on where to look, how to look and how to play Norwegian name detective.

One of the bonuses in the former article is the instructions on how to create the special characters in the Norwegian alphabet so you can type the names with the appropriate characters in your computer records or web page. The character codes or character entities use a combination of holding down the ALT key on your keyboard and typing the following numbers on the keypad, not the numbers along the top row. When you release your hands from the keyboard, the letter will be created.

  • Æ – press Alt while typing 0198
  • æ – press “alt” while typing 0230
  • Ø – press “alt” while typing 0216
  • ø – press “alt” while typing 0248
  • Ã… – press “alt” while typing 0197
  • Ã¥ – press “alt” while typing 0229

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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