Here is an article about how I record Norwegian names in my genealogy research
I am often asked how Norwegian names and locations should be recorded. I have been a little hesitant to write this article as there are a lot of different and strong opinions about this matter. This first article is about names.
Let me start by underlining that this article does not tell you how you should or must do it. This is how I do it and I will tell you why I do it this way.
The important thing is to record in a reliable and consistent way that works for you and your readers.
When doing this I think it can be helpful to use what we can call “the three R’s of recording” (if I have “stolen” this from someone else, please tell me so that I can credit the right person)
- Reliability We want our writing to be reliable so that there is absolutely no doubt as to what person we are dealing with, or the location where an event took place.
- Readability We are most likely going to come back to previously recorded information several times. Hopefully someone will want to read what we have written. It is therefore important to use a way of recording that is easy to read and comprehend.
- Relatability I want my genealogy to be recorded in a way that I or my readers can relate to. I want names and locations to be written in a way that is easily recognizable.
If you are not familiar with Norwegian naming, I recommend that you read my article Norwegian naming. Here is a short recap
- Everyone had a first name, -a given name such as Hans, Per, Ole, Lena, Anne etc.
- The next part of the name is their “patronym”. This is their father’s name with the suffix –sen, -son or -søn for males and datter or dotter for females. Hansson; son of Hans. Olsdatter; daughter of Ola/Ole. On very rare occasions you may find a “matronym” meaning their mother’s name with suffix.
- The last part of a person’s “identity information” is not part of his name. It is the address, -an indication of where he/she lived. This could change several times throughout the person’s life.
It should be noted that the use of surnames in Norway didn’t become a legal requirement until 1923. Up until then people were free to do as they liked. There was a small minority that from early on used a (family)name as we use surnames today. This use increased from the middle of the 1850’s. Very often their father’s/grandfather’s patronym was used as family name.
The problem with how to record the identity information arises because most genealogy software are not designed to handle the Norwegian identification pattern. The way I choose to solve this problem is based on how the genealogy software handles the data. To me this is especially important when it comes to the options I have to out-put the data.
In my Legacy software, like in most others. there are two name fields; a “Given name” field and a “Surname field “.
- I record the given name(s) and the patronym in the “given name field”.
The reason I do this is that Ole Hansen is always going to be the son of Hans. Anna Olsdatter, no matter who she marries or where she lives, is always going to be the daughter of Ole. This is my incentive for keeping the given name(s) and the patronym together.
- In the “surname field” I put the name of the farm where the person was born or surname if used.
- If the person moves and are recorded with other farm names, I use the “alternative names” feature in my genealogy software to record this. If I do not know the person’s origin, I leave this field blank.
There are some strong opinions about this so ” I can hear the roar of a thousand keyboards preparing for the comments field below”. The reason I choose to do this relates to “the third R – relatability”. If I am not able to link this additional information to the individual, I am likely to end out with a large number of Ole Hansens and Anne Olsdatters that is hard to pick out from an index. This is directly linked to the options I have to output the information.
I realize that recording farmname at birth in the surname field may cause siblings to be recorded with different “address” , but I don’t see this as a problem. (When the law about names was put in place in 1923, there were many siblings that chose different surnames)
I write names with modern spelling for readability. I use the “alternative name” feature to record the way(s) the name was spelled in the original record(s).
If we look at the picture above, we note that Dordi is listed with an alternative name. The legacy software allows for a large number of alternative names for each person.
In picture 3 below, we see a name index in an “Ancestor book report” produced by the Legacy software. In my opinion is this an index that is clear and easy to use. Here the persons are listed by the name of the farm where they were born. We note that for some of the farms the names are listed in several versions. This is due to the “alternative name” feature. The persons that have alternative names recorded, are marked by a tilde (~).
For some persons we do not know where they originated. These are listed under the heading “No surname”. We know that this is not surnames, but farmnames. When (if) I get to the point where I want to publish my genealogy in print, I will output the information to format that I can edit in a word processor.
Finally, I do not use any kind of substitute in fields where I have no information. I think this messes up the output and decreases readability.
I have written a bit more about how to record patronyms in my article Norwegian patronyms
This ended up as a longer article than I had planned, but I hope I have been able to cover all bases. I will write another article that covers how I record locations. I am happy to receive questions or comments, Please be gentle! 🙂
Prepare for the next installment by reading how to Find placenames in Norway