Midtlyng - Mitlyng Genealogy
Norwegian Naming Practices
This letter was submitted to the University of Bergen and posted to the census for review by interested genealogists. It is reproduced here for your convenience.
Author: Jan Oldevoll
The traditional Norwegian naming practice is to use patronyms. If a man called Hans Andersen had a son called Anders, he would be called Anders Hansen. A daughter named Brita would be called Brita Hansdatter, often written Hansdtr. or Hansdt. or even Hansd. Very often a child would get her or his first name from one of the grandparents. But this is by far a general rule.
From 1400 onwards the upper classes (civil servants, merchants; Norway had scarcely no nobility) experienced an influx of people from abroad. They were using or adopting would could be called a modern naming practice.
Their farm (most Norwegian priest had a farm, in most cases with the same name as the parish, in this case Os) was farmed by a man called Ole Johannessen, Johannessen because his father was Johannes. His wife was Brithe Knudsdtr., her father was Knut. They had several sons, one was Knut Olsen (first name the same as her father) the second Johannes Olsen (named after his father). One of their daughters was called Brithe Olsdtr. This is traditional naming practices. Iceland is still using this practice. All of them may add Os to their name. But this really not part of the name. It is added to their name because there may be other in the same parish with the same name. Ole Johannessen Os means that he was baptized Ole, was the son of Johannes and was living on Os farm in 1801.You can say that Os is the address. If he moved to Moberg he would be called Ole Johannessen Moberg. He moved to Bergen city, he may still call himself Ole Johannessen Os, to keep him from other Ole Johannesen in the big city.
During the last decades of the 19th Century the patronym practice was abandonned. The grandson of Ole Johannessen may call himself Ole Johannessen in the first part of his life, because he was the son of Johannes Olsen. If he stilled lived at the Os farm he could then start calling himself Ole Os, abandonning the partronym and adopting the addresses as the name. The name of the farm became a family name. If he had moved to Bergen he may start calling himself Ole Olsen, because his father had Olsen as his last name, or at least his son would call himself not Olsen as the last name, but Johannessen as his father. The partronym changed into a family name. The daughters would call tehmselves Johannessen, not Johannesdtr.. The Olsdtr. type of name is completly disappearing. Most of the Norwegians today has a family name of the 'farm'-type, like Os or Oldervoll (my name). A large minority has the 'partronym' type, like my wife, Astri Andresen. But her father is nor Andre, his last name was Andresen as well. A small minory has 'imported' name, like the man who used to live in our house. His last name was Bolmann.
During the last decades we have seen some changes as well. Traditionally marrying did no changes to a woman's name. Brithe Knudsdtr. in the 1801 census was called so all her life. She may have added a diifferent farm's name afteer she married, but that was really not part of the name. In the upper class the wife often took the name of the husbond, but even here it was not a general rule. At the end of the last century this changed. All wives started taking the name of the husband when marrying. This went on for almost a century. I was first married in 1966. My wife was called Jorun Kvernes and she took the name Jorun Oldervoll. Our two boys are called Frode Oldervoll and Thomas Oldervoll. This was the system until the approximately 1980.
My present wife is Astri Andresen. We married in 1991 and she did not change her name. At the time we married we had two children, Johannes Andresen Oldervoll and Sigrid Andresen Oldervoll. But as you can see they are called Andresen not because their father is Andre but because their mother is called Andresen. This is a very common practice today: the wife do not change her name and the children get both last names. Even two patronymic names may be combinded. A friend of my son is called Simon Wilhelmsen Olsen. But this is rather unusual. But this is a system that is very difficult to take into the next generation. Except that the middle name is very often droped in daily life. The children of Johannes and Sigrid may even get Oldervoll from them and something else from their other mother. It should also be added that sometimes the children get the name of only one of the parents. Sometimes the siblings may even get different names. Chaos, in other words.
Hope this is of some help to somebody.
Bergen 13 April 1996