Norwegian Last Names

My great-grandmother was born Margrethe Christine Teslie (sometimes spelled Tesli). Her last name Teslie (pronounced Tehs-lee) was also the last name of her father Oluf Iversen Teslie. Of course you say! But well... in Norway prior to the mid to late 1800's the naming of children followed the pattern of patronymics where the child took on the father's first name as their last name. Oluf's father was Iver (pronounced ee-vehr not eye-vehr) so he became known as Oluf Iver's son or in Norwegian Oluf Iversen. A daughter born to Iver would have been Iver's daughter or in Norwegian Iversdatter. A second pattern of how a person was referred to was if the person lived on a farm, then the name of the farm was appended to the person's name. Oluf Iversen Teslie would then mean Oluf, Iver's son living on the Teslie farm. Sometimes if the man was the owner of the farm he was referred to by just his first name and the farm name. The Norwegian word for farm is gård (pronounced gourd). Lastly the suffix "en" in Norwegian means "the". So "Teslien gård" would mean "the Tesli farm". Consequently at times "the farm_name" was appended to people's names for example Oluf Iversen Teslien.

In the 1800's these two practices began to change and children began to either take on the last name of their father or the farm name of their father. Margrethe's father Oluf Teslie was born in 1846 right in the middle of this transformation. He was named Oluf Iversen patronymic style after his father Iver Jacobsen (pronounced yahk-uhb-sehn) Teslie. Yet he also had as a last name Teslie from his father, even though all evidence says he never lived on the Tesli farm. In the census in 1865 he is listed as Oluf Teslie, age 19. Margrethe Teslie was born in 1874 and took on as her last name the last name of her father – Teslie.

Margrethe's mother illustrates another permutation of last names that was adopted in the 1800's. Sometimes the child took on a last name in the male patronymic style, regardless of sex. Margrethe's mother was born in 1844 as Anne (pronounced Ahn-eh and often spelled as Anna) the daughter of Lars Christophersen. Yet, in almost all the records of Anna that I have found, and in her own writings, she takes on, not the last name of Larsdatter, but rather that of Larsen.