Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Thorvald

God of Thunder, Lightening, Storms, Strength & Fertility
a name to grow into

There are several given names in my family file that begin with a T - there is Teresa/Theresa and its variations (awfully partial to that one!), Theodore, Theophilus, Thomas, Timothy, Tobias and Tracy. However the only Scandinavian given name that starts with a T in my family file is Thorvald - oh yes!

We have one family member whose name derives from Thor, the god of thunder, and how fitting is it since today is Thursday (named after, say it with me - Thor!). Yes indeed Thorvald (and its variant Torvald) is found in Sweden, Norway and Denmark because Scandinavians are found of giving their children strong names! Thorvald is made up of the elements Thor (the Norse god) + valdr (ruler) so the name actually means Thor's ruler (that seems a bit gutsy) this information comes from Behind the Name. Thorvald's name day is June 17th. Thorvald remains a popular name in Denmark, Norway and Sweden today (see a listing of famous men named Thorvald).

Do you have anyone in your family file with the name of a Norse god? Do you have any names that, while popular in Scandinavian countries, might be considered unusual in the United States? I wonder how Thorvald's name went over in North Dakota in the early 1900s.

See you back here tomorrow for the letter U.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Sigrid

another family that needs a bit more work 

There are lots of given names that begin with S in my family file. We have individuals named Samuel, Sarah, Simon, Stephen/Steven and Susan/Susanna. Since I am focusing on Scandinavian names in this A-Z Challenge, I selected one of the more unusual names - so today it is all about Sigrid. We have 5 women named Sigrid in my family, all Norwegian.

Sigrid comes from the Old Norse name Sigior. This is a compound name and the elements are sigr (victory) + frior (beautiful, fair). Variations on Sigrid appear as Siri and Sigfrid in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Sigrid is ranked in the top 50 names in both Norway and Sweden, however it is rarely used in the United States (no surprise there!). To learn more about the name Sigrid check out Behind the Name (and be sure to check those links to the right-hand side of the page for additional information). September 15th is the name day for Sigrid in Sweden.

The most famous Scandinavian Sigrid (and my personal favorite) is Sigrid Undset (born in Denmark but raised in Norway), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Her best known work was Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy about life in Scandinavia (from a female point of view) in the Middle Ages. Sigrid had a fascinating life - including her family's early migration, her early failed attempts at publication, her world travels and marriage, her successful career as a novelist, her conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism (a scandal at the time!), her flight from Norway during WWII (for opposing Hitler and speaking up for the plight of Jews), and her subsequent return to Norway after the war. Sigrid Undset is depicted on a Norwegian 500 kroner note and a two-kroner postage stamp from 1982. Sweden put her on a stamp in 1998 (this information comes from Wikipedia article on Sigrid Undset). A list of her published works is included in the Wikipedia article. If you want to learn more about her published works, check out her entry on Worldcat (a great way to find out more about authors!). I am a huge fan of historical fiction that is clever, well-researched, detailed, accurate and well-written.

Sigrid Undset ranks right up there with my favorite historical fiction author, Dorothy Dunnett. These women had an phenomenal ability to transport and immerse their readers into fascinating times in history to experience the life and culture of a distant past. If you have Scandinavian ancestors, be sure to check out the translated works of Sigrid Undset.

See you back here tomorrow for the letter T!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Ragnilda

Today we are back to Old Norse names. My family file has 7 instances (all from Sweden) of variations of the theme of Ragnilda: 2 females are named Ragna (the diminutive and more common form used today); 2 are named Ragnhild; 2 are named Ragnilla; and 1 is named Ragnilda.

All people have certain naming traditions and reasons for them. The idea behind the Scandinavian tradition of "calling up" an ancestor by giving the ancestor's name to a child was to honor the ancestor, imbue the child with that person's virtues, and provide for the rebirth of that ancestor's spirit (the belief that something of that person would live on in the child so named). A knowledge of Norse mythology is useful in "decoding" Scandinavian names. These names are based on single or compound elements and based on qualities or the good fortune of the gods that the parents wanted the child to have. An excellent discussion of Old Norse names and naming patters is found at The Viking Answer Lady (I have only mentioned a few points here. This is a great site if you have Scandinavian heritage and want to learn more about it.)

life is a never-ending circle
"calling up" our ancestors - a Scandinavian tradition
Ragnilda means "all knowing power" and the Old Norse form of the name is Ragnhildr which is made up of compound elements (2 elements) Ragn (council/advice) + hild (fight/battle).  To see the meaning of Viking given names and their use in Scandinavia today check out Viking Given Names.  Ragnilda and its variations is found in a limited number of countries, including Denmark, Norway and Sweden (Ragnhild), Iceland (Ragnhildur), Ireland (Raghnailt), and Scotland (Raghnaid). In the Gaelic speaking countries, Raghnailt is mostly found between the 12th and 16th centuries.

Do you have any Old Norse names in your family file? Why not see what qualities or ancestors their parents wanted to "call up."

See you back here tomorrow for the letter S.