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.
[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.
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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
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