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Surnames in genealogy


On the 9te of February 1923 there was made a law in Norway “Navneloven” (law about names), and after that all people shall have a unique spelling of their name (Given name and Surname) and cannot change it without permission from the Government.

Before the law came (and a time after that), people spelled their names in a lot of ways (and some even changed their given names).


"Norwegian history":

Norway was a part of Denmark (1536 – 1814) and after that in union with Sweden (1814-1905). And the written language will be under the influence of that.

The priest/Clerk who wrote in the church records was educated outside Norway and the language used was mixture/blending of Norwegian and other language (and sometime with Latin).

Norwegian Nynorsk (and Swedish?): - son or -dotter and Norwegian Bokmål (and Danish): - søn or -datter

If the father was Jens and the given name were Einar (male) or Else (female) it will look like this:

Einar Jensson or Else Jensdotter (some use “Jensen” for both male and females).


In older documents you may find (this is the same man):

Born on 1the October 1807:                       Einar Jensen/Jensson/Jenssøn Tytland (Hjelmeland)

Married on 2nd July 1842:                         Einar Jensen/Jensson/Jenssøn Wadla (Årdal)

Died on 27th September 1871:                   Einar Jensen/Jensson/Jenssøn Østerhus (Årdal)

Sometimes they only used the given name and farm like this:

Einar Tytland (born), Einar Wadla (married) and Einar Østerhus (died).


We don't know what name “Einar” himself used.


There is no rule of how to "name" person in the genealogy.

We may split a person’s name up in three parts:

-  Given name

-  patronymic

-  surname

Given name: it may be spelled in a lot of ways (Peder, Peter, Per, Peer). Some use the normalized name as the main name, and all the other as AKA (“also known as”).

Patronymic: Some use “father’s name”- sen/søn/son for males and “father’s name”- sen/datter/dotter/dtr (abbreviation for dotter/datter) for females

Surname: family name (not the same as surname as we know it today) or name of a farm/place where the person was born, lived at or died.


When I started collecting my ancestors in 1990, I only used the given name and patronymic (the father's name ending with “son” for males and “dotter” for females) as surname for all peoples who lived and died before 1900. I was using and old “DOS” program at that time (DOS: disk operating system – based on character before Microsoft Windows came). Now (May 2022) I use the version of Legacy Family Tree Deluxe Edition.

In 2012 I decided to split a person’s name up in three parts, Given name - patronymic - surname


For generation I do not know what they used, I use the Given name as found in the church record when they died, the surname - the name of the farm/place written in the church record (when this is missing, I use the farm/place they lived at when they died)

For male I use "Einer Jenson Østerhus" - Given name "Fathers name"-son and the farm he lived at when he died.

For female I use Given name "father’s name"-dotter (daughter) but for persons who lived and died after 1900 I normally use the same surname as their father.


(There will always be exceptions and I have pr. May 11, 2022 - recorded 153.164 individuals, so there's a long way to go before I get it the way I wish :-)


                                                                                                                                                         Last updated: 28.05.2022

I trust in: 2 Cor.12:9:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


The pages were made by Geir-Arne Helgeland, and remain as a memory of him.

Born: 17.01.1959

Died: 13.08.2023