Let’s Talk About: Scandinavian Research

Sharon Fowler, a dear friend of mine, just completed the FamilyTree course on Finding Your Scandinavian Ancestors and she graciously shared some of her notes with me for you all. (Family Tree University: Find Your Scandinavian Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, $99.00. The text to accompany the course was The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Norway and Sweden by David Fryxell, 2019.)  Anyhoo. A most interesting bit of trivia was the 3-part list of common surnames in each country:

Denmark                                   Norway                                     Sweden

1-Jensen                                   1-Hansen                                   1-Johanson

2-Nielsen                                 2-Johansen                               2-Anderson

3-Hansen                                  3-Olsen                                    3-Karlsson

4-Pederson                               4-Larsen                                   4-Nilsson

5-Andersen                              5-Andersen                              5-Eriksson

6-Christensen                           6-Pedersen                               6-Larsson

7-Larsen                                   7-Nilsen                                   7-Olsson

8-Sorensen                               8-Kristiansen                            8-Persson

9-Rasmussen                                      9-Jensen                                  9-Svensson

10-Jorgensen                            10-Karlsen                                10-Gustafsson

In skimming this list, did it catch your eye that both the Danish and Norwegian surnames end with “EN” and the Swedish names end in “ON?” Interesting, no?

History:  Early Scandinavian immigrants settled in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania but set their sights on the Midwest as early as the 1830s. Why? The region offered opportunities and unclaimed land. Chicago became both a destination and a jumping-off point for the immigrants.  Why did they come? Religious freedom, economic opportunity and simple survival. (The Irish potato blight in 1845 soon spread to Norway; I didn’t realize that fact.)

The Swedes headed to Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota

The Norwegians headed to Minnesota, Wisconsin, North/South Dakota…then on to

      California, Washington, Oregon and Texas

The Danes headed to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas

They were a literate lot; all three groups had official state Lutheran churches. Scandinavian newspapers sprouted and flourished.

When we think of early New York City we think “Dutch” but the borough of the Bronx was actually named for a Scandinavian. Jonas Jonasson Bronck, a Swede, brought 90 immigrants to New Amsterdam in 1639. For this, he received a grant of 680 acres which became known as Bronck’s Farm, then Broncksland and ultimately the Bronx.