If you have ancestors that originated in Scandinavia, you may have thought this was a challenge you couldn’t undertake. In this new series, Scandinavian research expert Torhild Shirley, AG, will share the basics of research in this location and using a case study to illustrate the methodology.
Which Rasmus Gudmundsson is ours? Separating Identity using Swedish Tax and Church Records
Every country and region has its challenges when it comes to genealogical research. Some of the most prevalent challenges for Scandinavia are uniquely identifying individuals despite the patronymic naming system and given name conventions and establishing exact dates based on the feast day calendar. The following is a Swedish case, but the principles and methodology hold true for Denmark, Norway, and Finland. The feast day calendar will be addressed in a later article.
This four-part case study will show how to uniquely identify our research subject, Rasmus Gudmundsson, born around 1719 in Malmöhus, Sweden. But before diving into the research, it is important to understand the patronymic naming system, farm names, and the traditional naming pattern used on most families in Scandinavia until the 1900s.
Patronymic naming system, farm names, and traditional naming patterns
Any research in Scandinavia requires an understanding of patronymics and naming patterns. Instead of a fixed last name, all children would receive their father’s first name followed by -son (son, søn, sen) or daughter (datter/dotter) as their surname. Hence, Rasmus, the son of Gudmund, would be known as Rasmus Gudmundsson. This tradition slowly changed, starting in the mid-1800s in urban areas and lasting as late as into the 1920s in some rural areas.
As fixed surnames became the norm, many chose to take the name of the farm their family lived on as their surname. Such a surname can be a great clue to the last farm the family lived on. However, substituting a farm name for a patronymic was not new. Often, church books, land records, and probate place a person on a farm by naming them “Lars of Böketofta” or simply “Lars Böketofta.” This was especially prevalent in the 1600 and 1700 records.
A child’s given name would usually follow the rules below:
- The oldest son was named for his paternal grandfather
- The second oldest son was named for his maternal grandfather
- The oldest daughter was named for her maternal grandmother
- The second oldest daughter was named for her paternal grandmother
- Other children were named after aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents – especially those who had already passed away.
If a child died, the next child of the same gender often received the sibling’s name. If a parent died and the remaining parent remarried, their first child of the correct gender would usually receive the deceased spouse’s given name. While most families followed the naming pattern, some deviated from it.
During this case study, we will look at solving a case where the sons and the fathers had identical names: Rasmus Gudmundsson, son of Gudmund Rasmusson.
The Research Process
Setting the objective
First, we must study the background information to glean any identifying factors and other information we can use in this case.
Rasmus Gudmundsson died on 7 February 1773 in Kågeröd, Malmöhus, Sweden.1 His death record included many important details that were abstracted as follows:
“Born in Wrams around 1719, married first to spinster Hanna Andersdotter 1744, had 10 children, 4 sons, and 2 daughters are alive. She died on 3 February 1766. Married second spinster Hanna Davidsdotter 31 January 1767, had 3 children with the second wife, son Anders Rasmusson is alive.”
According to the note, Rasmus was born in Norra Vram and still lived there when he married Hanna Andersdotter in 1844.2 He later moved to Kågeröd, where he married Hanna Davidsdotter in 1767.3 This is also where he died in 1773.
Previous research had uncovered two potential candidates for Rasmus Gudmundsson:
- Rasmus, christened on 23 March 1718 in Kågerød to Gudmund Rasmusson and Elsa Thuesdotter.4
- Rasmus, christened on 6 March 1720 in Norra Vram to Gudmund Rasmusson and Karna Larsdotter.5
It might seem obvious that Rasmus, born in 1720, was correct, given that he was born in Norra Vram, the same birth location mentioned in the death record. However, the information in the death record might have been provided by Rasmus’ second spouse or one of his children, who could have confused his birthplace for his first marriage location.
With the background information from Rasmus’ death record in Kågeröd church books, his marriage to Hanna Andersdotter in Norra Vram church books, his marriage to Hanna Davidsdotter in Kågeröd church books, and the discovery of two Rasmus Gudmundsson born in Malmöhus around 1719, two objectives became apparent:
- Did Gudmund Rasmusson marry twice – first to Elsa Thuesdotter and then to Karna Larsdotter, or are these two separate families? Gudmund could have had a son, Rasmus, with Elsa. If both Rasmus and Elsa died and Gudmund married Karna, their oldest son could have been renamed for his deceased half-brother, Rasmus.
- If these are two separate families, which of the two Rasmus married the two Hannas and died in Kågeröd in 1773?
Part two covers locality research, record types, and repositories.
In part three, we will start the research and answer the first question: Did Gudmund Rasmusson marry twice, or are these two separate families?
In part four, we will continue our research of Rasmus and answer the second question: Which of the two Rasmus married the two Hannas and died in Kågeröd in 1773?
- Svenska kyrkan, “Kågeröd parish, (M) CI:3 1773-1790,” page 2, Rasmus Gudmundsson, 27 February 1773; digital images, ArkivDigital (app.arkivdigital.se : accessed 27 April 2023).
- Svenska kyrkan, “Norra Vram parish, (L, M) CI:1 1690-1748,” page 116, Rasmus Gudmundsson and Hanna Andersdotter, 10 June 1744; digital images, ArkivDigital (app.arkivdigital.se : accessed 27 April 2023).
- Svenska kyrkan, “Kågeröd parish, (M) CI:2, 1726-1772,” page 154, Rasmus Gudmundsson and Hanna Davidsdotter, 31 January 1767; digital images, ArkivDigital (app.arkivdigital.se : accessed 27 April 2023).
- Svenska kyrkan, “Kågeröd (M) Cl:1 1689-1726,” p. 126, Rasmus, 23 March 1718, ArkivDigital (app.arkivdigital.se : accessed 28 January 2022).
- Svenska kyrkan, “Norra Vram (L, M) Cl:1 1690-1748,” p. 22, Rasmus, 6 March 1720, ArkivDigital (app.arkivdigital.se : accessed 28 January 2022).