Naming Conventions

July 7, 2013 by Conrad Family


Heritable family names (surnames) were generally adopted rather late within Scandinavia. Nobility were the first to take names that would be passed on from one generation to the next. Later, clergy, artisans and merchants in cities took heritable names. Family names were still used together with primary patronyms (father’s name plus an affix denoting relationship), which were used by all social classes. This meant that most families until modern times did not have family names. Scandinavian patronyms were generally derived from the father’s given name with the addition of a suffix meaning ‘son’ or ‘daughter’.  For example the son of Hans would have the last name Hanssen, Hansen or Hanson and the daughter of Hans might have the last name Hansdatter or abbreviated you might see it as Hansdtr. Sometimes the family name of the mother would be given to the children if that name carried status or an inheritance came from the mother’s side. The names of family farms or other place names were also used. A nobleman had the right to write himself to (Norwegian: til) the seat farm(s) or the estate(s) on which he resided, for example ‘Hans Kaas til Hastrup’ indicates that he owned Hastrup.  Another naming convention uses the word ‘af’ meaning ‘of’.  That might indicate that they have a title in a certain area, for example hertug af Sachsen, or it might indicate their farm or estate in the same way that til is used or it might indicate the line of a family. For example the Kaas family had two main lines which might be seen as Kaas af Sparre or Kaas af Mur.

From 1526, when Erich Mogensen took the fixed surname Kaas, there were two (close related) noble families of the name Kaas in Denmark. The other oldest Kaas family, who became extinct at the end of 19th century, had a coat of arms with a chevron in its shield. To separate the families from each other the extinct Kaas was therefore called “Sparre-Kaas” – or rather “Kaas (sparre)” – which translated to English should be “Kaas (chevron)”.  The Kaas (mur) family -which translated should be “Kaas (brick)” has a coat of arms holding a brick in it’s arms.


Different Spellings or Characters

Many names throughout the site are spelled differently, for example Bielke/Bjelke. Both are historically acceptable. Other names differ in language characters, for example Drøbak/Drobak. I don’t have international characters on my keyboard, so any international character have been copied and pasted.  Country names may be spelled using the anglicized version or the spelling of that country. For example: Sweden/Sverige.  Some names may have been misspelled in translation. You might also notice that some last names in the Conrad Family Album are capitalized and some are not. That is not intentional. Some genealogy programs capitalize all last  names and some do not, so, often the capitalization or non-capitalization is a result of being copied and pasted in whatever form it was in. The Conrad Family Tree uses capitalization for all last names. As time allows I will try to resolve the differences that should be consistent.


Place Names

I still have a lot of work to do on place names throughout the Family Tree. Sometimes the place field was used for other information and still needs to be corrected.  A farm,  parish, county and country are listed when I have them.  I am slowly going through the place names to correct information, complete information and make names consistent.

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