Why Do So Many Swedish Last Names End in Son?

MIndor Hellqvist, Esther Bloomqvist Hellqvist and Anne-Marie Hellqvist Hummel

When you are doing Swedish genealogy you will quickly notice that so many last names end in “son.” It can make the Swedish genealogical research seem a bit confusing.

Many Swedish last names have the ending of “son or “sson” as they are patronymic names. When doing your Swedish family history research, one of the most important things you need to understand is how Swedish last names work.

When you are doing your Swedish research it can get confusing if you are do not understand how the Swedish last work. Particularly, how the patronymic names were used in Sweden before the Name Adoption Act of 1901.

The Swedish Names Ending in “Son” or “Sson”

In Sweden, many names end in “son” or “sson” such as Andersson, Johansson, or Karlsson. Before 1901, Sweden, like most of Scandinavia countries, adopted taking on last names that were considered patronymic names. According to the Oxford Dictionary patronymic means:

“A name derived from the name of a father or ancestor, typically by the addition of a prefix or suffix, e.g., Johnson, O’Brien, Ivanovich.”

oxford dictionary

In Sweden, a child would take on their father’s first name, and then the son or sson would be added at the end to form a new last name. For example, someone with the first name Anders who had a son, his son would then take on the last name of Andersson. This would literally mean that he was the son of Anders.

This can be very confusing when doing Swedish genealogical research since when you are doing the research, even in a small village you can find several Andersson’s or Johanssons and it does not mean you are related to all of them. They could each have had a father whose first name was Anders so the son took on the last name Andersson or Johansson.

For example, in the case of a son who had the last name Andersson, you need to be able to verify who his father’s father or his grandfather is to make sure you have the correct Andersson. This can make it challenging when doing your genealogical research.

This patronymic name practice changes in 1901 when Sweden passed the Names Adoption Act. Under the Names Adoption Act of 1901, was also known as the Name Ordinance of 1901. During this time the patronymic name practiced was abolished and Swedish families could not give their children any last names that were reserved for nobility.

From 1901 onward, everyone in Sweden had to have a family last name that could be passed on to the next generation. This no doubt helped give some consistency to the family names in Sweden.

Other Swedish Family Last Names

Even though a majority of the last names in Sweden end in “son”, not every last name has taken on the Swedish father’s first name and then the name
“son” after it. Some Swedish last names took on the names of nature, family origins, or even military.

Generally speaking these kinds of Swedish names are not as popular as the names that end with “son,” But there are still a significant amount of these names being used in Sweden today.

Here are some examples of the Swedish last names that took on names from nature:

  • Lind/Lindberg – meaning linden, lime plus mountain.
  • Berg/Bergkvist – meaning mountain. mountain plus twig.
  • Alström/ Ahlström – meaning alder plus stream
  • Dahl/ Dahlin – meaning valley
  • Blomqvist  – meaning flower branch

Sometimes the names will show the family’s origins or where they were from.

Here are some examples of some Swedish last names who show the family’s origins.

  • Strindberg – That is the family that is originally from Strinne.

Some of the Swedish last names had military orientations. Many of these names were assigned to soldiers who were under the military allotment system that came into effect from the 16th century onward.

Here are some examples of the last names that had some military orientation to them:

  • Skarpsvärd – this means a sharp sword.
  • Sköld – this means a shield
  • Stolt – this means proud.

Other Swedish last names do not seem to have much meaning attached to them.

Here is an example of a Swedish last name (we have this last name in our family) that does not seem to have any specific meaning or orientation:

  • Hellqvist – Just a Swedish last name with no special meaning attached.

Most Common Swedish Last Names

Here is a list of the 20 most common Swedish last names, going in order from number 1 to 20. As you can see from the list almost all the last names are patronymic names. So even today a majority of Swedish last names are patronymic names.

SurnameType of NameEtymology
Anderssonpatronymicson of Anders
Johanssonpatronymicson of Johan
Karlssonpatronymicson of Karl
Nilssonpatronymicson of Nils
Erikssonpatronymicson of Erik
Larssonpatronymicson of Lars
Olssonpatronymicson of Ols
Perssonpatronymicson of Per
Svenssonpatronymicson of Sven
Gustafssonpatronymicson of Gustaf
Petterssonpatronymicson of Petter
Jonssonpatronymicson of Jon
Janssonpatronymicson of Jan
Hanssonpatronymicson of Hans
Bengtssonpatronymicson of Bengts
Jönssonpatronymicson of Jön
Janssonpatronymicson of Jan
LindberglandscapeLinden + Mountain
Jakobssonpatronymicson of Jakob
Magnussonpatronymicson of Magnus
Olofssonpatronymicson of Olof
20 Most Used Swedish Last Names

Understanding the Swedish last names is an important part of understanding how to do Swedish genealogical research. When you understand how and why the Swedish names are the way they are, it will help you efficiently do your Swedish genealogical family research.

Related Questions

What Are Some Things You Learn By Doing Genealogical Research?

By doing your family history you can discover new family members you did not know about. You will learn about the history of the place where your family once lived. You can discover the traditions and culture of the country where your ancestors once lived.

You can discover more about doing genealogical research by reading our blog 3 Things You Discover By Doing Your Family History by clicking here.

Who Was Johann Gottlieb Hummel?

Johann Gottlieb Hummel was born in Erdmannhausen, Württemberg, Germany in 1829. He married Marie (Mary) Magdalene Strecker in 1856 in Poppenweiler, Germany. Mary and Gottlieb had five children.  Their oldest son Christian Gottlieb Hummel was born in Poppenweiler Germany in 1858 but he only survived 5 months.

You can discover more about Mary and Johann Gottlieb Hummel by reading the blog Johann Gottlieb Hummel, His Life, and Story by clicking here.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I live in Hanoi, Vietnam. I love to share with you about my family history and the many parts of the world our ancestors have lived.

Recent Posts