When I was a child, the thinking of my relatives was that “…son” was the Norwegian spelling, and “…sen” was Swedish. Then I met some “Larson’s” of Swedish descent, who quite naturally believed the exact opposite. Once I began examining the churchbooks (of Norway), I found that for almost every word, place-name, even Christian name, spelling varied from one document to another. Our ancestral farm of Skurdal, for example, is spelled “Skordal,” “Schurdal,” “Schurdahl,” and others. The first name of the same person could also vary: “Anne” vs. “Ane,” “Niels” vs. “Nels,” etc. etc.
The one consistent spelling, ironically, is the ending of the male patronym: Throughout the period I have studied (1800-1900), it is always “…sen,” never “…son!” In our family, and all others. So how the heck did we get to be Larsons?
My current theory — open to argument — points toward immigration officials. Immigrants were interviewed, and it was the officials who wrote down the names. Indeed, many, perhaps most, of the immigrants themselves were illiterate. The clerks knew, of course, the meaning of the name, and used the English spelling, i.e. the son of Lars was most naturally spelled “Larson.” Anyway, that is my thinking. I welcome your comments.
3 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Dec 8, 2008
Just testing the comment function. No idea if anyine has read this blog yet.
Dec 9, 2008
Hey there bro. Just want you to know that I’m lookin’ at the blog from time to time. That’s interesting about the “…sen” Are you saying that you’re seeing NO “…son”s in the Norwegian documents? Is “sen” the Norwegian word for son?
The captions on the pictures are difficult to read because they go off the screen. When I scroll down to them, I lose some of the picture.
Hope all is well!
Dec 10, 2008
Hi Sis! That’s right, in the 19th-century documents (and I have looked at a lot of them) I have seen not a single “…son.” It is often abbreviated, e.g. “Peders.” or “Knuds.” but is spelled out at least half the time, and is “…sen” exclusively, 100%. Now, in modern-day Norway, “…son” is used at least sometimes, including a genealogist I am corresponding with, Terje Gudbrandson. And in my Norwegian dictionary, the word for “son” is “sønn.” But it may have been different in the 1800’s. There was no official, written Norwegian language then, it was Danish (which isn’t vastly different; they say Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian are mostly mutually intelligible). Plus, there were no dictionaries 🙂 and the common word for “son,” whatever it was, may have been spelled several different ways.
When viewing the pictures, try scrolling down first, until the top row of thumbnails is at the top of the screen, then the captions should show, if the window is adjusted to full screen height. I’ll try adding that instruction to the page.
All is well.