Names and their use

The Danish language is one of the Indoeuropean (Northern) Germanic languages, which in my opinion both explains who originally inhabitated Denmark, and also why Danish and German peoples have so much in common. Historically, Danish is a dialect of a common Nordic language ​​which is very sparingly supplied in runic inscriptions from ca. 200-800 AD, spread across Denmark, Norway and Sweden. This is called Old Norse language.

Danish Family Names 
In 1526 a law was decreed requiring noble families in Denmark to have a fixed family name. At the time about 60% had already adopted a family name. This was followed voluntarily by the clergy and citizens in towns. The family name chosen was often the birth place or father’s trade. By 1660 family names had become the rule among the nobles, clergy, and townspeople. 

Patronyms were still being used by the farming population and the majority of Danes about 1850 to 1870. A patronym is a name based on the father’s name. For example — a son of a man named Søren had the patronym “Sørensen” and a daughter of a man named Søren had the patronym “Sørensdatter.” In 1771 a law, valid only in Slesvig, required a family name in addition to or in replacement of the patronym. In 1826 or 1828 this law was introduced in the entire Kingdom of Denmark. It took a long time to change the customs, however, and in 1856 it was decreed that the present name of a person was the future family name. This accounts for the multitude of -sen names in Denmark today. All patronyms in use in 1856 were converted to family names and the -sen family names emerged, but nonetheless, it took several decades before patronymics stopped being used. Regarding any person born in Denmark from about 1826-1870 it is impossible to be sure whether their last name is a patronymic or a family surname unless, of course, you already know the name of that person’s parents.. The equivalent female patronym -datter (-daughter) disappeared at the same time.

Patronymics were legally abolished in 1826 since authorities wanted people to use family surnames instead. Nonetheless, it took several decades before patronymics stopped being used. Regarding any person born in Denmark from about 1826-1870 it is impossible to be sure whether their last name is a patronymic or a family surname unless, of course, you already know the name of that person’s parents.

But depending of whether these individuals lived in the cities or in the rural areas, and also whether these individuals were compliant (mostly in the cities) or not so much so (mostly in the country), the name rule changes didn’t happen overnight, mildly spoken. The ancestor that provided me with my last name, were Peder Madsen (1800-1887), who was the son of Mads Pedersen (1776-1846) and Peder Madsen’s sons and daughters were called Pedersen and Pedersdatter. The male descendants of THESE sons were all called Pedersen, which stuck from then on.

In an effort to diversify family names in Denmark a law was passed in 1904 that made it relatively easy to change your family name within certain limits.
In the earlier days certain peculiarities were not uncommon.

For example:
Sometimes a person’s birthplace was added to their name, as in “Hans Nielsen”, born in Hammelev (Hammeleff), becoming known as “Hans Nielsen Hammeleff”.

A man could have a name, describing his occupation added to his given and/or surname, for instance Hans Jørgen Fuglefænger, Peder Nielsen Hjulmand, Christen Pedersen Muurmand, etc.

Since Denmark was to an extent inhabited by former Germans, many Danish names are in fact German names, or a lot like German names.

Before around 1900 the letter Å was written as Aa, and some names (both first names, surnames, cities and some institutions) are still spelled like this. 

Some old records show names like Hansen, Andersen, Nielsen spelled like Hanssøn, Anderssøn, Nielssøn etc.

The Swedish form of Hansen, Andersen, Nielsen etc., are mostly spelled Hansson, Andersson, Nilsson etc.

Swedish/German name forms with the letters Æ and Ø were written Ä and Ö, as they are to this day.

When a child died as an infant, it was sometimes seen that the next born child of the same sex was given the same name.

In Sønderjylland, which was formerly a part of Schlesvig, the patronyme name rule was seemingly not quite as common as in the rest of Denmark.

How names could be spelled from the 17th Century forward (some are distinctive to certain areas):

Female names:
Anchen = Anneken
Apollone/Appolonia = Abelone
Birret = Birthe
Bodild/Bodel/Boel/Botille = Bodil
Desche/Dedske (usikker måske Gedske)
Dorret/Dorothe = Dorrit/Dorthe
Elsabe = Elsebeth
Gedske (usikker, måske Dedske)
Giertrue/Giertrud = Gertrud
Gunnel/Gunnil/Gondele = Gunhild
Gÿe/Gÿthe = Gyde
Gÿlleborre = Guldborg
Hindericke = Henrikke
Hylleborre = Hyldborg or Hildborg
Ingeborre = Ingeborg
Kiesten/Kjersten = Kirsten
Lispeth/Lisbeth/Lysbeth = Elisabeth
Luce/Lusse = Lucia? (Swedish)
Magdalene = Malene
Magrete = Margrethe
Merret/Meret = Merete
Sidtzel/Sidsilia/Secilia = Cecilia
Tyre = Thyra
Waldbore = Valborg
In the city Roskilde I have noticed a use of nicknames in the church records, I haven’t seen elsewhere: Females named i.e. Jacobine were sometimes written as Bine, and Wilhelmine sometimes as Mine. This is kind of extraordinary to see in the church records.

Male names:
Aagge = Åge
Arfve = Arve
Byrre/Børre = Børge
Iwer/Iver = Ivar
Jep = Jeppe
Jost/Joost = Just
Kæsten = Karsten
Las/Lasse = Lars
Laue/Lave = Lauge
Laurs/Laurids = Lauritz
Matz = Mads = Matthias
Michel = Mikkel
Mons/Maans = Mogens
Nels = Niels
Oge = Ove
Poffwel/Povel = Povl/Poul
Predbjörn = Preben
Søfren/Søvren/Severin = Søren
Thagge = Tage
Thames = Thomas
Trauels/Trouels/Truels = Troels
Tøge/Thøgge/Tyge/Thyche = Thøger

Peersen = Pedersen
Sadolin = Sadelmager

It was not unusual to see in the church records someone called Niels Kudsk (Coachman), Lauritz Skoemager (Shoemaker), Peter Slagter (Butcher), Christopher Handskemager (Glovemaker) or Just Broligger (Street Paver). Likewise, Jens Møenboe (from Møn), Christian Tydsk (German) and Hans Finlænder (Finnish), plus several other uses of the person’s origin or occupation.
Names like Lindberg could be spelled Lindberre, Creiberg could be spelled Creibere, Kreyberg, Kreiberre a.s.o.
The Dutch name rules are vastly different from the Danish. When going deeper into the names of the Dutch immigrants of Amager, it becomes obvious that some Dutchmen stayed strictly to both the Dutch spelling and name rules (Neel Teunis Isbrandts). Other adapted Danish spelling, but stayed with the Dutch name rules (Nele Tønnes Isbrandtsen, or Nele Tønnes Isbrandts). Others again went a step further with the Danish name rules (Nele Tønnes Isbrandtsdatter or Nille Tønnes Isbrandtsdatter). 
Dutch name rules may be confusing, such as: A son of Cornelis Isbrandtsen could be baptized Dirch Cornelisen, Dirch Isbrandt, Dirch Cornelis Isbrandtsen or Dirch Cornelis Isbrandt, while a daughter could be baptized Marchen Cornelisdatter Isbrandts, Marchen Cornelis Isbrandts, Martjen Cornels, etc. Other combinations, even more confusing may easily be found.
A fairly simple Dutch surname like Theisen, can also be spelled Theijsen, Thisen, Thijsen, Thysen, Thuysen etc.

Dutch female names:
Aff, Aght, AveAnnaBirthe, BirtheDiver, DijverEhm, Em, Emma, EmmeGerde, GerdteGrete, Grethe, Griet, GrithLeisbeth, Lisbeth, LijsbethLoydouwMarchen, MartjenMaritjeNeel, Niel, NilleSassSidselThrijn, Trein, Trejn, Trine

Dutch male names:
CornelisDirch, Dirck, DirkEibertFreck, Frech, Frederich, FrederickGeert, GertIsbrand, IsbrandtRayer, RaijerSibrand, SibrandtTeis, Theis, Thijs, ThysTeunis, TønnesWibrandt, Wybrandt

Dutch surnames:
Alberts/AlbertsenBacher/Bachers/Backer/BackersClaus/ClausenCornelis/Cornelisen/Cornelissen/CorneliussenCrillesenCuyper (Cooper/Bødker)Dirch/Dirchs/Dirchsen/Dirck/Dircks/DircksenEiberts/EibertsenFines/Finis (all of which names I have called Fines because they are not always spelled in a consistent manner)Friis/VriesGeerts/Geertsen/Gerts/Gertsen/Gerrids/Gerridsen/Gerrits/GerritsenHans/HansenHenrichs/HenrichsenHoeck/Hoecks/Huck/Hucks/Huek/Hueks (all of which names I have called Huck/Hucks because they are not always spelled in a consistent manner)Jacob/Jacobs/Jacobsen/JacobsensJans/JansenJens/JensenKnuds/KnudsenKurvemagerLars/LarsenNiels/NielsenOls/OlsenPeders/Pedersen/Peters/Petersen/Peiters/Peitersen/Pieters/Pietersen/PittersenRaagaard (After their farm)Schout (Bailiff/Foged)Schuit/Schuits/Schuyt/Schuyts (Skytte)Schulties (Bailiff/Foged)Sibrandt/Sibrandts/Sibrandtsen/Siebrandt/Siebrandts/Siebrandtsen/Zibrandt/Zibrandts/Zibrandtsen/Ziebrandt/Ziebrandts/ZiebrandtsenSmed/SchmidtSnedkerSvends/Svendsen/Svens/SvensenTheisen/Theijsen/Thisen/Thijsen/Thysen/ThuysenTeunisen/Tønnes/TønnesenWibrandt/Wibrandts/Wibrandtsen/Wybrandt/Wybrandts/WybrandtsenWillums/Willumsen

Se også:
Bøndernes navne i Ribe Amt i det 16. århundrede

The Adam Brouwer story provides interesting insight into Dutch names. Please take note that nothing and nobody in that story are in any way related to any persons on this website.