Keep this quick reference sheet handy when tracing ancestors in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The at-a-glance tips, facts and resources on this will help you sort out patronymic names, find church records and more.
Peak Scandinavian Immigration to the United States
• Denmark: 1870-1905
• Norway: 1836-1920
• Sweden: 1850-1920 [
Patronymic Surname Suffixes
||Before 1814 (Danish rule): -sen
1814-1905 (Swedish rule): -son
After 1905 (independence): -søn
| Before 1814: -datter
After 1905: -dotter
Each Scandinavian country’s residents used different suffixes to form their patronymic surnames. Norway followed the pattern of the ruling country. After gaining independence from Sweden in 1905, Norwegians usually used the Norwegian suffixes -søn and –dotter.
This chart of patronymic surname suffixes holds true through most of the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as countries began requiring fixed surnames, families slowly began adopting them. Late in the 19th century, many families, especially in Denmark, began using the male extension for both sons and daughters.
Sometimes a record will show a female’s surname ending with -dtr. That’s just an abbreviation for the full extension, not the actual surname.
Scandinavian Parish Records Language Terms
| vaccination (for smallpox)
||vaccination (from 1816)
| vaccination (from 1810)
|| vaksinasjon (from 1810)
|| vigda or förbindelse
|| copulerede, viede or ægteskab
|| copulerede or viede or vigde
|| lysning or trolovning
|| lysning or forlovelse
|| lysingen or forlovelse
| incoming list
|| tilganglister or innflyttede
| outgoing list
|| afgangslister or uttflyttdede
| index (when available)
| clerical survey (or household examination roll)
|| not used
We’ve given you each Scandinavian language’s terms for the sections in church record books. Most Scandinavian countries’ parishes keep records for the events listed in this chart, though not all church books include records for marriages, banns and betrothals.
Note that ministers may have recorded when an event happened by the religious feast day, based on the liturgical calendar rather than the fixed Julian or Gregorian calendar. See the resources box for calendars that will help you translate the feast day into a date.
||PC Keyboatd Shortcut
||Mac Keyboard Shortcut
| Danish and Norwegian
Ctl + & then
Ctl + & then Shift + A
|Opt + ’
Opt + Shift + ’
| Danish and Norwegian
|| Ctl + / then O
||Opt + / then Shift + O
Opt + Shift + O
| Danish, Norwegian and Swedish
||Ctl + @ then A
Ctl + @ then Shift + A
Opt + A
Opt + Shift + A
||Ctl + : then A
Ctl + : then Shift + A
|Opt + U then Shift + A
Opt + U then A
||Ctl + : then O
Ctl + : then Shift + O
|Opt + U then Shift + O
Opt + U then O
Scandinavian languages use the Latin alphabet with additional letters that follow Z. Danish and Norwegian use the same additional letters, alphabetized æ, ø, å. Swedish uses the å plus two other letters, alphabetized å, ä, ö.
Before about 1814, the letter Å/å may be written as AA/aa, and alphabetized either before A or after all the other letters. Check both places in alphabetized lists.
This chart shows PC and Mac keyboard shortcuts for typing these letters. Some shortcuts are two-step: For Å on a PC, you’d first press the Control key and the @ key simultaneously, then Shift and A simultaneously. If these shortcuts don’t work on your computer, look for the Character Map or Insert Symbol menu item and then choose the character you need.
1526 | Danish law requires fixed surnames for nobility
1771 | Law requires fixed surnames in Duchy of Schleswig (part of Denmark)
1828 | Law requiring fixed surnames for all of Denmark is largely ignored, especially in rural areas
1856 | Danish law “freezes” family names
1900 | Most Danes use fixed surnames
1901 | Swedish Name Adoption Act requires children to take a fixed surname
1904 | Danish law again requires fixed family names, establishing practices for selecting surnames
1923 | Norway requires all families to have a single, heritable surname
1966 | Sweden abolishes the patronymic system
2006 | Denmark reintroduces patronymics as an optional method of selecting a child’s surname
From the September 2013 Family Tree Magazine