My name is Mary Ann Whitehead Overson and this blog is dedicated to all the amazing men and women who came before me: my ancestors. I also want to acknowledge my father, Armand Toyn Whitehead, who is the person responsible for a lot of the content in this blog; my dad has spent countless hours collecting and preserving photos and histories, and preserving them on the computer so that they can be handed down for generations. Thank you, Dad!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Patronymic Naming and Other Research Helps

In Denmark, as well as other Scandinavian countries, patronymic naming was the norm.  This means that a child took their father's first name as their last, and added sen - or son - and datter - or daughter.  For example,  Johan Christensen's children would have the last name of Johansen, if it was a boy, or Johansdatter if it was a girl.  This is both helpful, and frustrating!  Because of this, we can infer that Johan Christensen's father had the first name of Christen or Christian, but we have no idea what his last name would have been. 

This is not ALWAYS the case, though.  Sometimes a family will add another last name, but this time it is the name of the area that the family is from.  So, Johan Christensen may have been born in an area called Fautin, so he will add that name after his last name:  Johan Christensen Fautin.  All of his children, though they may have the last name of Johansen/Johansdatter, will aslo have Fautin after their name.  This makes it a little easier to track ancestors.

Another tip that I have learned, though it applies more to people from the Great Britain, is that sometimes you can gather a clue as to the name of a man's father because it was tradition to name the eldest son after the father's father.  So, if I need to find John Smith's father but don't know what it is, I can look at John Smith's children to see if perhaps he named one of them after his father.  It is usually the firstborn, but not always.  So, if John has a son name Michael Snow Smith, then I can look for a Michael Smith who fits the area and time period belonging to John's father.  Here is another clue, though!  Michael's middle name is Snow - this is usually the mother's maiden name.  I have found MANY a ancestor through this technique.

Happy Hunting!

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