The patronymic naming system was in common use up to the end of the 19th century within Sweden. Between 90 and 95% of the population used the patronymic naming system. A child was the son of or the daughter of the father. Thus if the father’s name is Sven Johansson, his son’s name might be Magnus Svensson or Magnus the son of Sven. Likewise, a daughter might be named Kerstin Svensdotter or Kerstin the daughter of Sven. When a woman married, she did not adopt her husband’s name upon marriage but kept her patronymic.
Surnames or family names were used by the nobility, the clergy and some townspeople. The nobility had special noble names. Less than 1% of the population was nobility.
Many of the clergy adopted names with Greek or Latin endings such as "ander" or "ius". Examples of names used by the clergy are Fallander and Morelius.
Many townspersons adopted family names often called "nature names". These "nature names" usually would consist of two parts of nature such as Dalberg. Dal is valley and berg is mountain.
Soldiers were often given military names while in the military. Military names sometimes represented a personal quality like Rapp (quick), a military term or could be associated with the place where the person served. When leaving the military service, some soldiers did keep their military name while many returned to using their patronymic name.
When the emigrant moved to a new country, he or she often changed their name. If they emigrated to English speaking countries, the name was often Anglicized. Married women would adopt their husband’s surname. Examples of name changes are:
- Andersson Anderson (The double s becomes one s.)
- Bengtsson Benson, Bentson
- Johansson Johnson
- Sjöberg Seaberg or Seeberg
It is very important to understand that the name and spelling of a name for one individual can differ in the various records. It is important to compare birth dates and other family information to verify that you are tracing the correct person.