Norwegian-American Surnames

                                         by Marjorie M. Kimmerle

               Norwegian-American Historical Association, Online Volume XII


In Norway there were different classes of farmers: the bonder or freeholders; the renters who

were, however, virtually freeholders; and the husmenn or cotters who, in return for the use of a

small patch of land and a hut, worked a number of days a week for the bonder. It was extremely

difficult for the husmenn to win economic independence. Many of the bonder and the renter class

were likewise economically restricted.


By the law of primogeniture the farm fell to the eldest male heir, and the younger sons, therefore,

had to become laborers or obtain land elsewhere. It was particularly the husmenn and the

restricted farmer class who longed to come to America, where farm land seemed unlimited and

where every man was free. When the "America fever" ran high, even the more prosperous

landowners sold their Norwegian farms and emigrated, as did a negligible number of tradesmen

from the coastal cities. But the overwhelming majority of the emigrants were the restricted,

class-conscious farmers.


During the nineteenth century at the period of emigration from Norway all farm names were

classified in the official land evaluation register of Norway in the following categories: the names

of the undivided large family farms (gaard) of the Middle Ages; the names of the sections or

divisions of these farms which have become separate holdings (bruk); and the names of the still

smaller patches, the tenant farmers' allotments (husmannsplass) on the outskirts of the larger

farms. Of these the gaard names are the oldest and the highest in the general social scale. Among

these are the names that go back to prehistoric times. The bruk names were next in importance

socially; the husmannsplass names, the least important...



Husmann med jord: a person who rented a house with small plot of land on a larger farm.


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