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Thread: Swedish Female Surnames - Why the Change to the Male Form?

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    Swedish Female Surnames - Why the Change to the Male Form?

    Hi together,

    I´ve a question that bothers me for quite a time now. As far as I know the former name system in Skandinavian countries was that the surname differs between males and females and is related to the parent´s name.

    Boys got a surname related to father: Sven Olavson = Son of Olav. Other example: Nils Holgerson = Son of Holger

    Girls got a surname either related to the mother...Anna Friddasdottir = Daughter of Fridda...or, sometimes, to the father: Freya Eriksdottir = Daughter of Erik.

    This name system is alive and kicking in Iceland. But it has changed in Sweden and to a lower extend in Norway. Many women wear surnames who don´t go conform with their female gender:

    Anna Olson = "-son" = male system surname. Britta Svenson = "-son" = male system surname. Erica Johansson/Johanssen, etc.

    So my question is simple: Why the change of the surname system? When did it happen? And why? Or do I miss something?

    There´re some exceptions of the rule. A female Swedish Alpine skier wears the name Frida Hansdotter, daughter of Hans. On the other hand, the most famous Swedish Alpine skier is Anja Pärson.

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    I don't know when it changed, but the names don't change any longer from generation to generation. So Anja Pärson's father is also called Pärson, as was probably his father. It doesn't matter what gender the children has, the -sson name is the standard. Some people in Sweden has -dotter names still as you point out, but they are also not based on gender anymore.

    Again, I don't know in what time period or why, all children were given -sson names and why this happend. Norway has -sen names, so the tradition is gone there too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Méldmir View Post
    I don't know when it changed, but the names don't change any longer from generation to generation.

    Again, I don't know in what time period or why, all children were given -sson names and why this happend. Norway has -sen names, so the tradition is gone there too.
    Indeed, that´s my point exactly. Why and when has it changed? And why there´re some exceptions remaining. Never found anything reliable about it.

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Patronymics/Matronymics were abolished in Sweden in 1901. This article may be of some help.

    Also, here to explain why many Swedes, Norwegians and Danes end up with names such as Lindgren, Lundberg, Kierkegaard, Rosdahl etc. pp.

    According to the second source (Wikipedia), Denmark reallowed patronymics as an option in 2006.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Maybe I misunderstodd you Thusnelda, I took it as thatyou thought Anja Pärson's father was called Pär, and Hansdotter's father was called Hans and you wondered why they didn't get the correct gender still in modern times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    Patronymics/Matronymics were abolished in Sweden in 1901. This article may be of some help.
    Thanks Julian, that sheds some light. It´s really kind of a sad thing that this "rural/peasant tradition" was abolished! The question remains why we have so many "-son" and "-sen" then and so less "-dotter" in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Have almost all picked the male patronym as a surname? I can´t imagine that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Méldmir View Post
    Maybe I misunderstodd you Thusnelda, I took it as thatyou thought Anja Pärson's father was called Pär, and Hansdotter's father was called Hans and you wondered why they didn't get the correct gender still in modern times.
    Yes maybe you misunderstood me. But why do you think that Hansdotter´s father in former times wasn´t a Hans?

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thusnelda View Post
    Thanks Julian, that sheds some light. It´s really kind of a sad thing that this "rural/peasant tradition" was abolished!
    Yes, at least a combination would have been fine, especially considering that many of these Northern "surnames" started out as farm names, thus leading back to the old idea of "James, son of Gerald from the Old Church". So that sort of like you'd have Hans Gunnarsson Rosdahl, his son is Erik Hansson Rosdahl, his son again is Anders Eriksson Rosdahl, asf.

    The question remains why we have so many "-son" and "-sen" then and so less "-dotter" in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Have almost all picked the male patronym as a surname? I can´t imagine that.
    I assume that it was tendentially, with time, more customary that the male's name be taken upon marriage rather than the female's name. I would assume that most ending on -dotter could date to something like the father having already passed on, not known, or other odd circumstances which would have made it impossible for the man's name to be used.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thusnelda View Post

    Yes maybe you misunderstood me. But why do you think that Hansdotter´s father in former times wasn´t a Hans?
    You mean like her ancestor before 1901? Yes he may very well have been called Hans

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    I assume that it was tendentially, with time, more customary that the male's name be taken upon marriage rather than the female's name. I would assume that most ending on -dotter could date to something like the father having already passed on, not known, or other odd circumstances which would have made it impossible for the man's name to be used.
    But most -dotter are with a male name, like Hansdotter.

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    Swedish Female Surnames - Why the Change to the Male Form?

    Because they switched over to hereditary surnames. And most people born in wedlock inherit the name of their father, who would of course have had the male form. Before the switch the son of Peder Larson would have been Hans Pedersen & the daughter Hanna Pedersdottir. With the adoption of hereditary surnames they were Hans Larson & Hanna Larson respectively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Méldmir View Post
    But most -dotter are with a male name, like Hansdotter.
    Umm...rethink what I said again. Let me demonstrate :

    Grandfather (before 1901): Hans Larsson
    Mother (before 1901): Anna Hansdotter
    Child (after 1901): Markus Hansdotter.

    Still all perfectly possible.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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