Monday, March 21, 2016

Hovick: The Adoption of a Name

In Norway, family surnames passed from one generation to the next was something that, until quite recently, was solely reserved for the upper classes. It was not until 1923 that a law was in place making this practice universal.

Before then, most Norwegian surnames were patronymic, meaning that they were derived from the first name of the child's father, ending with a suffix: "sen," "son," "sdatter," or "sdotter." So besides making invisible the mother, you can image what a headache this creates for genealogical research. 

My grandfather was born to parents Torbjørn Anderson (son of Anders) and Inger Nilsdatter (daughter of Nils). So at his birth, he was named Tjerand Torbjørnson. (In some places, his first name is Tjeran, and his last is Torbjørnsen.)

Since most 19th century immigrants were anything but upper class, they had to adopt a surname when they immigrated to the United States. These new-found surnames were often derived from place names, sometimes from the farm from which they came. That was the case for my family. As we had lived on the Håvik farm, along the fjords of western Norway, our surname became Hovick. (The Norwegian "å" is also written as "aa," so the name sometimes appears as Haavik.)

My Grandfather and His Siblings

 Hilda, Nels, Andrew, Esther
Tom, Ida, Charles
ca. 1904
Here is the list of the children of Torbjørn and Inger, first as they were originally christened, and then as they became known in the United States:

Brønla Torbjørnsdatter became Hilda T. Hovick (1863–1950)
Astrid Torbjørnsdatter became Esther Hovick (1866–1945)
Nils Andreas Torbjørnson became Nels Torbjorn Hovick (1868–1942)
Andreas Torbjørnson became Andrew Torbjorn Hovick (1870–1957)
Tjerand Torbjørnson became Charles Torbjorn Hovick (1873–1948)
Torger Torbjørnson became Tom Torbjorn Hovick (1875–1967)
Inga Serina Torbjørnsdatter became Ida Hovick (1878–1956)

The fact that Nils and Inga had middle names in Norway makes me wonder whether they didn't all have them. And if that is the case, what were they?!

With every mystery solved, another two are revealed. 

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