Surname Saturday: Tolf

Surname Saturday - TolfI come from a long line of Tolfs. And that’s quite an accomplishment for a Swede!

You see, genealogists researching in Scandinavian countries generally encounter the patronymic naming practice early on. Since Tolf was the first name I added to my family tree, I was fortunate not to have the extra challenge of ever-changing surnames.

According to, Tolf was not a common name in America in 1920:

2014 12-13 Tolf on Ancestry Map

There are 12 generations of Tolf ancestors in my family tree beginning with:

  • My maternal grandmother Harriette Kathlyn TOLF born 1909 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois to
  • Harry Willhelm TOLF (and Julia Christine THOMPSON) born 1884 in Batavia, Kane, Illinois to
  • Peter August TOLF* (and Augusta Sophia LANDSTROM) born 1858 in Svenarum, Jönköping, Sweden to
  • Carl TOLF* (and Helena Christina ÅMAN*) born 1824 in Svenarum, Jönköping, Sweden to
  • Carl Jonas TOLF (and Maja Lisa LIDSTROM) born 1795 in Lindefors bruk, Svenarum, Jönköping, Sweden to
  • Carl TOLF (and Helena Jonasdotter WIDERBERG) born 1767 in Svenarum, Jönköping, Sweden to
  • Johan Carlsson TOLF (and Ingrid CARLSDOTTER) born 1744 in Byarum, Sweden to
  • Carl Carlsson TOLF (and Sara Lisa JACOBSDOTTER) born 1713/14 in Sweden to
  • Carl Persson TOLF (and Karin BENGTSDOTTER) born 1676/7 Svennevad parish, Narke, Sweden to
  • Per Larsson TOLFEN (and Karin NILSDOTTER) born about 1640 in Sweden to
  • Lars TOLFSSON (and Karin) born about 1600 in Sweden to
  • Kolare TOLF (and Sigrid) born about 1575 in Sweden.

*my immigrant ancestors settled in Batavia, Kane, Illinois in 1878

Does the surname TOLF appear in your family tree? Perhaps we’re related!
Please email me at where2look4ancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Surname Saturday is a blog prompt suggested by Geneabloggers.

4 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: Tolf

  1. Laura,

    The Norwegian church records are fairly intact back to the early 17th c and in some cases the late 16th c, in some places, and are held centrally in Oslo. The problem is that not all of them have been put online yet. But the indexes are mostly there. The line I spoke of were mostly farmers in Verdal, Nor-Trondelag, near Trondheim. Since they were near the Trondheim Fjord, some were fisherfolk. I haven’t run into many who were at all well to do. In other words, they were poor! My g grandfather, who emigrated around 1865 but whose records I can’t find yet, was one of 12 people on a small farm in the 1865 census. He and one of his two brothers were listed as “day laborers.” I gather from that that there wasn’t enough work on the farm to keep them busy. In the end, everyone but the father emigrated. He was badly disabled, and presumably didn’t think he’d survive the passage. In addition, he believed the sermons mandated by the king on the evils of emigration. The sons and daughters emigrated, one by one. His loyal wife and youngest daughter stayed with him, but the year after he died, they went too. And changed their names to Johnson, ya betcha ya. My other Norwegian names are Hanson and Harrison. Another long story!



  2. Laura,

    It looks like your Tolfs in Sweden used a modified patronymic, which some of my Norwegians did too. That is, Carl Carlsson Tolf was the son of Carl Persson Tolf, who was the son of Per Larsson Tolfen. So I am guessing, based on the Norwegian model, that the Tolfs lived for generations on the Tolf farm. Is that correct? They needed both names, the patronymic AND the farm name, for others to determine which Carl, or Per, or Lars, was being mentioned, whether verbally or in a legal document. I think you are very lucky to have the Tolf name go back so far! Did you get these from church records? In Norway, when a family moved from one farm to another, they typically took the name of the new farm. So am I guessing right that your Tolfs were also very geographically stable, living on the same farm for all these generations? In one of my Norwegian lines, some families, the one who inherited the family farm and stuck around, kept the farm name, which happened to be Jermstad. Unfortunately for me as a researcher, the generation that emigrated happened to have the patronymic of Johannessen, which my branch Americanized to Johnson. I do wish they’d kept it Jermstad, as another branch did. That crew is much easier to research when they move around the US!


    • Hi Doris,

      From Jermstad to Johnson. Poor you! I have a few Johnsons myself. And Petersons. Boy, those common names make the hunt challenging, don’t they? 🙂

      My Tolfs generally stayed in Småland, primarily in Svenarum, but not as farmers. They were blacksmiths. My direct line includes many master blacksmiths.

      Those church books are invaluable resources, aren’t they? I am so fortunate; many of the books from the area are still extant. That’s what makes genealogy fun!



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