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Patronymic Naming System[edit | edit source]
The patronymic naming system was used in all of Scandinavia. That means a person's family name was formed by taking the first name of the natural father and adding a suffix identifying their gender to it. This allows you to identify a person's father. This was you could know a man named Johannes Augustsen was the son of August, and Maria Pedersdatter was the daughter of Peder. Because of this system, there could be many people living in the same place at the same time with the same surnames who were completely unrelated. Because of this knowing where a person was born or where they were living becomes very important to establish correct identity.
For most of us, the patromymic naming system is different from what we're used to. However, it was the best system for the time and the culture, since just a few names, among them Jens, Lars, Peder, Ole, Anders, and their derivations, were used 90 percent of the time. With the patronymic system, at least the first name of the previous generation was known. Historically, Danish and Norwegian patronymic surnames often ended with the suffix -sen for males and -datter for females, while Swedish patronymic surnames were more likely to end with -sson for males and -dotter for females.
Scandinavian females did not assume their husband's surname when they married. They carried their maiden surname throughout their life. Record keepers recorded what their ears heard, and spelled what they heard the way they thought it should be spelled. You have to think phonetically when doing any kind of search in any country's records.
For more information about the practice in a specific country see Denmark Personal Names, Finland Personal Names, Iceland Personal Names, Norway Personal Names, or Sweden Personal Names. For more information about given names, see the Scandinavian Given Names.