Friday, April 8, 2011

Dear Randy: How do you enter Scandinavian farm names in your database?

Reader Mark contacted me via email several weeks ago with this question.  He noted:

"All [Norwegian] names in the past consisted of baptized given name (and possible a middle name too) and a patronymic (xxx-sen or xxx-datter, where xxx was the father’s given name).  A third “label” was often associated with a person, namely the name of the farm where they lived.  This helped reduce confusion when there was more than one person with the same given name and patronymic.  An excellent article on this whole practice is found at

"My question: How do you enter the various “name” info in your FTM database?  Given & middle names are obvious, but what goes in the surname field – the patronymic only or the name of the farm too? 

"My practice to date: I put both the patronymic & name of farm in the Surname field, separated only by a space.  However, it gets messy when various records for an individual reference different Farm Names – since folks moved around. 

"My work-around: I create another (non-preferred) NAME fact, and associate the appropriate record (that references that other farm) as a source citation for that alternate name.

"My nagging doubt: The article in the URL I reference above states that the Farm’s name is a location, not a part of an individual’s own identity.  That makes me think I should capture names of farm(s) as RESIDENCE fact(s) instead, which then allows me to show a time period associated with that farm.

"I would love to see a “best practice” so it’s easier to compare Public Member Trees for possible matches.  (And how will New Family Tree want to handle this, I wonder?!)"

This is a great question that is important to anyone with Scandinavian ancestry where the families used Patronymic names - see the Scandinavia: Names article in the FamilySearch Research Wiki for information about the patronymic naming system.

I responded to Mark with:

"My practice for the Norwegian research I did on my wife's line was to use the patronymic only, and then to add any other name to the Alternate Name field and in my Notes.  The exception being the immigrants that changed their names in the USA after about 1870 - I used given name, patronymic name and chosen surname for them because they were known by both names and the chosen surname 'stuck.' 

"I had not seen the article on the subject on the Norway site!   I tend to agree with the article about the Farm name being a location, and therefore a Residence fact, but if they were known by that name then it would be appropriate to add it to the Alternate Name field in software and certainly in the Notes."

In reviewing for this blog post, I noted that these issues were well discussed by John Follesdal in his Norwegian naming practices article, saying:

"... we, as genealogists, are faced with a difficult question: "What name do I enter in my database for my ancestor's 'First name' and what name do I enter for his or her 'Surname'?" This question becomes especially difficult if your ancestor moved around to various farms. In addition, your database of Norwegian ancestors may wind up containing three, four or maybe five persons named Ola Anderson. The only way to tell them apart will be the farm name or their dates of birth. Since genealogy software programs can search for any given individual in your database by name, you may want to list both the patronymic name and the farm name as alternate surnames in order to distinguish your Ole Anderson Myrold from your Ole Anderson Ødegaard. While the use of these names as "surnames" is not historically accurate, it is a method that will allow you to find the correct Ola Anderson in your database when you need to. (If you use this approach you will need to note the time periods that your ancestor used a particular farm name, since the ancestor may have used different farm names in the course of his or her life)."

So - Mark asked me if I would ask my readers the question at the end of his email:

"Is there a current “best practice” so it’s easier to compare Public Member Trees for possible matches.  (And how will New Family Tree want to handle this?"

What say you, readers and Scandinavian genealogy experts?  What practices do you use, and is there an agreed  "best practice?"

Thank you, Mark, for the interesting question.  I learned something, and I hope my readers did too.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I use Rootsmagic. When entering names in RM4 there are additional fields for name prefixes and suffixes. The normal use for a suffix is Jr. or Sr.

However, I put the patronymic suffix in that field. The names sort on the patronymic as that is entered in the programs "surname" field.

As an example Christian Mikel Pedersen Saarup is what I read on the persons data entry page and in family group sheets and narrative reports.

In an index, sorted on surnames, he is Pedersen, Christen Mikel Saarup.

It might not be everybodies cup of tea, but it works for me.

My Danes were not usually very consistant with using the added names.