Strength of Swedish Surnames

At various times in Swedish history before 1901, certain “progressive” individuals chose non-patronymic surnames for themselves.  According to the literature these individuals were probably either royalty, clergy, military or professionals.  I have a few examples in my ancestry and have noticed an interesting variation in what I have chosen to call the “strength” of these names.  Other words that could be used to describe this phenomenon are “persistence”, “stability”, or “acceptance”.  I’ll give a few examples.

My fourth great grandfather Lars was born to Mats Larsson in 1725.  He used the name Lars Matsson according to patronymic conventions until about 1753 when he became King of Sweden and chose the surname Sandin.  From that time on all of his descendants, male and female, used the surname Sandin, right down to me, King Pono Sandin!

Now, I’m sure you know I’m kidding about that King part.  Lars was not royalty, clergy, or military.  At about the same time as I first saw the Sandin surname used for him, his occupation was noted as clockmaker.  My guess is that he completed an apprenticeship and changed his name when he became a master in his field and a qualified professional.

I’ve found one record where a Lars descendant is listed as Sandlin, but since it is only one I view it as an error.  I’ve found a very few records where a Lars child used the patronymic Larsson in addition to Sandin, but that stopped in the next generation.  This example shows what I would call a strong surname.

My seventh great grandfather Lars was born about 1652, probably to a father named Nils.  He first appeared in the records when he married using the name Lars Nilsson Luth.  They had three daughters, all of whom used the patronymic Larsdotter.  I have no clue as to why he chose Luth, why he continued to use the patronymic Nilsson, or why his children used the patronymic.  Since Luth was always used with Nilsson, and since the name did not survive, this example shows what I would call a weak surname.

Lars Nilsson Luth died at 47 years old.  He apparently had troubles with his neighbors and was not very popular.  It’s possible that the “weakness” of his surname was more a “weakness” of Lars’s character.

My eighth great grandfather Jan was born about 1630, probably to a father named Anders.  When he first appears in the record he was going by the name Jan Andersson Krantz.  His two sons and three daughters all used the surname Krantz but also carried the patronymic for Jan.  A large number of people named Krantz were born, lived and died around JAK, but nearly all of them also used their patronymic names.  The interesting spin on this name is that a female Krantz married an outsider to the family.  As time and nature progressed, the husband started using Krantz and all of their children used it as well.  Now this is an example of a super strong surname for being accepted by in-laws, but weakened somewhat by continued use of the patronymic with the surname.

It just happens that I have all male ancestors back to Lars Sandin and so I carry that surname.  The Luth surname didn’t survive beyond the person who introduced it to my tree.  A daughter of Jan Andersson Krantz was my ancestor and used the same surname, but when she married their children used patronymics so Krantz was lost to my tree.

In 1901, Swedes were encouraged by law to choose a permanent surname for each family.  It could be the current patronymic or a chosen name, but was required to "sound" Swedish.  Apparently Sandin, Luth, and Krantz all qualified, judging by the number of persons with these names currently in Sweden.