What’s in a Name? — My Family Name, Pederstuen – The North Star Reports – by Karn Pederstuen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

What’s in a Name? — My Family Name, Pederstuen – The North Star Reports – by Karn Pederstuen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal


[Photo 1: Although I did not have a picture of Paul, this is a picture of his son Torger’s family. Names in order from left to right: Ingman, Torger, Palmer, Guri, Morris (my grandfather), and Jalmer.]

Every time I sit in class while the teacher takes attendance, am next in line for a ceremony, or any other time I am waiting for my name to be called, I try to predict if the speaker will be able to say my name correctly. Most of the time, the answer is no. While I am proud of my last name, “Pederstuen” is not a very common name, nor is it easy to pronounce. After the first botched attempt at pronouncing my last name, it takes some people two or even three more tries to get it right. After finally mastering how to properly pronounce Pederstuen, people often inquire to its origin. I quickly reply that it is a Norwegian name and most of the time the questions stop there. However, I did have one professor this year that asked what my last name meant. Sadly, I had to answer that I didn’t know. A quick Google search did not clarify the meaning or origin of my name, and I did not look any further. However, I recently looked into my family history, and I was able to find out how the Pederstuen name began.

Karn name 2

[Photo 2: This is a picture of my great-great grandfather’s farm near present day Skabu.]

My research was quite simple. I asked my parents to bring me a binder that is full of typewritten pages about my family history which trace my family lineage on the paternal side. The Pederstuen family name began with my great-great grandfather, Paul Syverhuset. The book about my family history explained that it was customary for someone to change their family name and take on the name of the farm they lived on. Later, my great-great grandfather moved to Perstuggu (near present day Skabu) and took that on as the new family name. In the spring of 1906, Paul and some of his children came to America, the rest joining them that summer. When Paul moved to America, he went to live on the farm where his sister, Anna, was already living. It was then that Paul changed his last name to Pederstuen. I discovered the Pederstuen means Peder’s house or living place. Although I do not know where the Pederstuen came from before that, this is the point it first came into my family lineage, eventually being passed on to me.

I am glad that my family has such a detailed record of our history and that I had to opportunity to learn from it. I now have a better understanding of how my family name came to be, and I am grateful for this stronger connection with my family history.

[From Professor Liang’s Spring 2015 World History II class.]

What’s in a Name? World History students at our host institution, The College of St. Scholastica, were assigned the task of researching the name of a person or place with a personal connection to their lives, looking into the history of the name, the motives behind its use, and the significance of the name in the past and present. Students selected a variety of names including hometowns near and far and family names. Whether it was a name they’d always wondered about or one long taken for granted, their findings were often unexpected. Even when the name itself was not found to be especially meaningful a recurring theme emerged of increased awareness and respect for those who came before and the value of knowing their stories. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:


The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu



Filed under History, Karn Pederstuen, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

8 responses to “What’s in a Name? — My Family Name, Pederstuen – The North Star Reports – by Karn Pederstuen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Rebecca Smith

    This is so interesting! I don’t know much about my family’s name (Smith), but I do believe that my ancestors chose it when they immigrated to the U.S. This has inspired me to do a little more digging into my family history to see what the name used to mean. My grandparents rarely (and don’t like to) talk about their family history, or even their experience growing up, which makes it difficult to do research.

  2. Carley Nadeau

    I am so glad you have been looking into your family history! I have looking into mine, and have found so many different cool things about both sides. I also loved how you included how your last name is difficult to pronounce. It was something I could relate and made me want to read the post more.

  3. Roman Schnobrich

    After reading your essay, I’ll admit, it isn’t likely I would correctly pronounce your last name given only a few tries. While my last name isn’t quite as difficult to say, I like to think my name belongs in the same tricky category. I feel that you’re quite lucky to have that much information that is over a century old, and is very valuable to researching your family’s past, especially the photos! Your essay shows your audience how personal and unique a name can be. It also makes me wonder what the story is behind the original “Johnson”, or any other popular last name.

  4. Eleni Birhane

    Knowing the origins of our name is kind of like knowing where we came from. Names usually have some kind of meaning behind them that can explain something about us or our families. With the decline in cultural knowledge in our generation, I think it is very important for us to be learning more about our past and where we came from; understanding our family names is a great start. I can also relate to your problem with people pronouncing your name correctly. I have yet to meet a person in the United States that has pronounced my name correctly.

  5. James Fuerniss

    The mispronunciation is all to familiar for me as well! I had a similar experience, in which I actually found out that my name used to have umlauts! It’s amazing how much you can find about not just the origin of your name but also the origin of your family because of the name. I’m surprised how many people really don’t know much about where they come from.

  6. My family name is Siefferman. I come from predominantly Swedish German background. When my ancestors came over to America the family story is that they changed it from Siefferman to Siefferman to be more Americanized to better fit into their new culture. The name Siefferman means soap maker which makes me wonder if generations back that was our family occupation or they changed the name for other reason. I think thats so interesting about changing the name to the farm, i had never heard of that customer before

  7. Breena Alfredson

    It is so fascinating to connection with your ancestors through name! My last name is also Scandinavian (Alfredson), but know very little about that side of my family’s traditions. I’m glad that you were able to explore the story behind your name and that it can give you a strong sense of identity.

    • Kathy B Rush

      Karn, all of that family have passed on now – Jalmer died a few weeks ago. He was very much like an uncle to us, although he was a 2nd cousin. I am Kathy Lillevold – my paternal grandmother was Anna Pederstuen, Torger’s oldest sister. Anna was the first of that family to emigrate. If you do get this and are interested, I have a lot of history and pictures of Paul (we called him Betta) and lots of other pictures. I have been doing genealogy research since 1991 or so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.