Sweden Soldier Names
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When a man entered into military service in Sweden, it was often the case that he would take on a new surname. This was necessary to avoid the confusion of having multiple men serving together by the exact same name. For example, how would a man named Olof Olofsson know when his name was called when there are 5 others by the same name?
"Most often it was the company commander who “christened” the soldiers and it was his preference that ruled in the name selection. Some names were passed on for generations while other company commanders came up with new names."
Often these "soldier names" were reflective of military life such as: Modig (courageous), Tapper (brave), Frimodig (fearless, frank), and Stark (strong). Sometimes, references were made to weaponry such as: Svärd (sword), Skjöld (shield), Spjut (spear), and Lans (lance)or military equipment such as: the soldier named Krut, (Gunpowder), and Lod (Cannonball) while the sailor could get a name as Ankare (anchor).
In other cases you will find the soldier name is associated to the name of the soldier farm. Many names were formed from place names in the area, such as a soldier from the parish Tillberga, could easily get the name Tillberg or the soldier from Sundby named Sundin.
Some soldier names were taken from nature such as: such as Ek (oak), Gren (branch) or Granqvist (spruce branch) and others from animal life such as: Björn (bear), Lo (lynx), or Järv (wolverine).
“It is easy to believe that soldier names deal with relationship, where a son succeeds his father in the same service or “rote”. But soldier names are never proof of relationship. The name belonged to the “rote” and was often given to the next soldier regardless of whether or not he was related to the previous soldier. On the other hand, however, it was not uncommon that soldier dynasties were built where the son followed the father for several generations. But the name itself is no indication of such a relationship because it requires further verification."
The soldier would use the name of the soldier farm as his last name for the duration of his service at that farm. When he was discharged, he would move off the soldier farm. In many cases they kept using the soldier name. Then when a new recruit took over the soldier farm, the cycle would begin again.
Children of a soldier may or may not have taken their father’s military surname. For example, the children of a soldier named Anders Ljungström may have used either the Ljungström surname or chosen instead to be known as Andersson or Andersdotter. Many chose to use their patronymic surname, based upon their father’s given name instead. It was more common for children to use the patronymic surname rather than the military surname before the mid 1800's. .
- When a soldier was discharged, the new soldier of the ward (rote) could be assigned the same soldier’s name as his predecessor.
- When a soldier was discharged, he often went back to his patronymic name.
- Having the same soldier surname is not proof of relationship.
- It was common that the children of a soldier kept their patronymic name.
- It became more common in the 1800’s that the children adopted their father’s soldier name.
- In the 1800’s it became more common for the soldiers to keep their soldier name when they were discharged from the military.
Here are some examples of Swedish soldier names:
- Wolke, Lars Ericson, "Begrepp och namn i soldatforskningen," SLÄKT Historiskt Forum 4 (2010):37.
- Wolke, Lars Ericson, "Den Svenska Soldaten, Fallgropar for soldatforskaren," SLÄKT Historiskt Forum 4 (2010):33.
Hans Högman, Hans Högmans Släkforskning (http://www.hhogman.se/military.htm: accessed 8 February 2011), "Militaria".