Norwegian Government Wanted to Prohibit Surnames

Norwegian Government Wanted to Prohibit SurnamesOlsen or Hansen? At the end of the 1800’s, half of the Norwegian population had -sen names. (Photo: Per Ivar Kvalstad)

Sons of Ole, Hans, Nils and Lars: Olsen, Hansen, Nilsen and Larsen. Many surnames created so much confusion and inconvenience for the Norwegian National Registry that the Ministry of Justice considered banning the names.

In 1964, national identification numbers became mandatory in Norway, which gave the authorities a secure identification of people, but by that time the number of -sen surnames had decreased.

Such -sen names are called patronymics – a family name derived from the father or another male ancestor’s first name with a sen, søn, son or datter/dottir (daughter) suffix. Similarly, the matriname originates from the mother’s name.

New Naming Law

Industrialization and large migration flows to the cities in the 1800s created a need for permanent family names. As the man was usually breadwinner, it was…

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