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A question about Swedish surnames

A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 4:21AM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Öhman
I am tracing my Swedish ancestors using Church records. My great-grandmother was Christina Öhman, born January 1, 1873 in Ön, Nordingrå, Västernorrland, Sweden. Her father is listed as Nils Erik Öhman, and the Household Examination Record lists his birth date as January 9, 1828.

Now, when I looked for the birth records for Nils Erik Öhman, I find a Nils Erik, born on the exact date, in the exact place, but his father is listed as Erik Olaf Hallgren.

I found it odd that his father would have a different surname, but then I read that Sweden didn't have fixed last names until after 1901, although I thought the Names Adoption Act only applied to patronymic names.

But then I looked deeper and came up with a theory:

Nils Erik Öhman lived in Ön. The name Öhman means: "ornamental name from Swedish ö ‘island’ + man ‘man’, in some cases adopted as a topographic name by someone who lived on an island." In Google Translate, Ön means "The Island".

Is it possible therefore that Nils Erik took the surname Öhman later in life (Instead of Hallgren or Eriksson) because he lived on an island? Did this happen in the 1800's? Thank you to anyone who could provide some historical insight.

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 5:26AM GMT
Classification: Query
Hi,

Looks like Öhman was a common military name. I didn't see any matches for the parish name you provided, but you might play around with the database:

http://soldat.dis.se/soldater.php

Good luck,

Wade

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 5:37AM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 30 Apr 2011 5:42AM GMT
Surnames: Öhman
Nils Erik's occupation is listed as "Båtsman" which I am not sure if it refers to a commercial or military occupation on a boat.

Regardless I guess my interest boils down to this:

Is it normal in the 1800's for a son to take a different surname than his father? I am mostly concerned with whether a Nils Erik Öhman could be the son of a Erik Olaf Hallgren?

Also, whether living at Ön (The Island) played in an influence in his name, since Öhman means "Island Man"

Thanks.

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 7:54AM GMT
Classification: Query
Hello,

It wasn't uncommon to change names so your guess is as good as any other when it comes to the etymology of the name(s).

If you're unsure about if you've actually found the right match your best bet might be to follow the "father" until he dies and read the estate inventory/probate. It should list the heirs.

As for Båtsman, it's a military title. He served in the navy.

/Roger

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 7:55AM GMT
Classification: Query
One more thing: You could of course follow the son from where he was born and onwards and ccheck if he changes his surname somewhere along the way...

/Roger

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 3:10PM GMT
Classification: Query
There is no "normal" about Swedish surnames until 1901. Until then your surname was what you said it was, at any given moment. At the yearly household examination, or at your wedding or your child's baptism, you just told the vicar that from now on you wanted to be known as ... and that's what he wrote in the record.

The 1901 Name Ordinance (it wasn't an Act) didn't differentiate between patronymics and other kinds of surnames. It just stated how a family name was acquired; unique names were basically patented while non-unique names (like patronymics but also town names and soldier names) could still be used by anyone - but you couldn't change around as freely as before.

In 1921 women were obliged to change to the husband's name on marrying. But it was only in 1963 that it was made mandatory to have a family name (before that you could use patronymics that still changed for every generation - my maternal grandfather's family still does it).
More about Swedish naming customs:
http://web.comhem.se/~u31263678/genealogy/Names.pdf

In this case the man was in the Navy ("båtsman") and was thus, like any military man (bar officers naturally) given a new surname.
"Öhman" would of course refer to the part of the parish he lived in; many military names were construed like that. But you shouldn't read too much "meaning" into Swedish names - a name like e.g. "Bergqvist" meaning "mountain twig" is quite common... The first part of these so-called "town names" (yes, Öhman is a town name although it was used by a military man) quite often (not always!) had "meaning" in the sense that it referred to something tangible, like e.g. the village you came from, while the second part of the name followed a traditional pattern and was chosen more because it "sounded" nice than that it gave meaning to the name (mountain twig?!).

In any case, it wasn't unheard of that a son assumed a different surname than the one his father had. I've seen a case where four brothers all changed from their father's name - into four different names. So when it comes to surnames in Sweden until 1901, most things could happen - and there was no "normal".

However, first names followed norms and while it is possible, I think it quite unlikely that Nils Erik's father was Erik OlAf; OlAf is the Norwegian form while the Swedish form is OlOf.

Ingela

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 3:22PM GMT
Classification: Query
Thanks to everyone for your helpful replies.

I double checked the record, it is indeed Olof, my error. I find it interesting that he was in the Navy. All this information helps. Thanks again!

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 9:38PM GMT
Classification: Query
Nils Erik became a båtsman in the navy largely because of where he happened to live. Sweden had at that time a unique system for acquiring the soldiers and sailors it needed. Basically, certain farms and their owners were under contract to provide a soldier or sailor in return for other benefits (foremost being freedom from conscription, that is, being drafted). The system generally was set up so soldiers for the army were enlisted from certain areas, while sailors were enlisted in other regions (and a few areas providing both). It happens that farms in Västernorrland county were designated to provide sailors for the båtsman companies. Had Nils Erik lived further north in Västerbotten or Norrbotten or south in Gävleborg, he likely would have served in the army instead.

The båtsman rote (district) that included Ön was number 17 (including farms Mjällom, Ön and Omne) in the Second Norrland's 2nd Båtsman Company.

Jeff

Re: A question about Swedish surnames

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 10:15PM GMT
Classification: Query
It can also be noted that while it was considered important that all the men - and officers - in a company, in the army, were from the same parish since this was thought to build a unique sense of loyalty (this was proven in practice), all the sailors serving on the same ship were by design from as many different parishes as was possible - since if the ship sank, and all the men were from the same parish that parish would suffer too terrible a loss.

Prior to 1814 Sweden was a country more or less continuously at war (hence the allotment system described by Jeff). After 1814 we have never (officially) been at war though we have taken part in a lot of UN peace-keeping missions. And until about 15 years ago, we could muster 700,000 soldier in less than 72 hrs. Also, we're a great exporter of war materiel, e.g. weapons systems.

Ingela
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