westermarck

i happened to say over on steve sailer’s blog that the “swedish-speaking finn,” edvard westermarck (the westermarck effect guy), should just be known as a swedish guy ’cause, ethnically/genetically, he was prolly just swedish. i mostly based this on the guy’s name — westermarck sounds swedish to me. i mean, his name wasn’t westeralkeapää or something like that. i also thought that a swedish-speaking finn in those days was more likely to be ethnically swedish than not.

jaakkeli responded (this was over two months ago, but i only saw his response yesterday — sorry, jaakeli!):

“Westermarck’s ancestry may or may not be from the small number of ethnic Swedish peasantry that settled in the Finnish coasts and Baltic islands… well, probably not.”

from what i can make out by looking @ geni.com, it seems like a h*ckuva lot of westermarck’s ancestors actually did come from sweden. i think they might have interbred with some finnish-finns, but i’m not as sure about that. the westermarcks did marry people born in finland, but the names are all swedish-sounding again, so i don’t know what that means. and, there’s also some germans in the woodpile, so there you go.

some of westermarck’s swedish (from sweden) ancestors include:

– his paternal great-grandfather, nils wilheim westermarck, originally from lövånger, sweden.
– his paternal grandmother’s father, henrik johan sajander, originally from västerbotten, sweden.

westermarck’s maternal grandmother’s mother, anna harring (nee wagnitz) — well, her father was from germany.

so, there you go. westermarck was ethnically swedish with a smattering of german and, most likely, part finnish-finnish as well.

oh yeah. and, judging by the average appearance of the vast number of finnish-americans with whom i’ve interacted (n=1), i think westermarck actually looks quite finnish. maybe some actual finnish people would know better than me, tho:

does any of this matter? no, not really. i just got curious, that’s all.

(note: comments do not require an email. or a family-tree.)

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9 Comments

  1. The Swedish-speaking population in Finland originates from settlers who came to Finland during the Middle Ages, beginning in the 12th century (if not earlier). Over the centuries, there was some intermarriage with ethnic Finns and some ethnic Finns adopted the Swedish language as did many immigrants from Germany and elsewhere, so obviously the current Swedish-speaking population does not descend only from the original settlers (therefore, nor do Westermarck’s ancestors). Genetically, the Swedish-speakers are somewhere between Swedes and Finns. (These days as many as 50% of Swedish-speakers marry Finnish-speakers in some parts of the country, but most of their children will be registered as Swedish-speakers, perhaps because of perks such as affirmative action for Swedish-speakers.)

    “Swedish-speaking Finn” is a somewhat misleading term used of the people who in Finland are known as finlandssvenskar or suomenruotsalaiset (“Swedes of Finland”). However, I don’t think it’s correct to refer to Westermarck as “a swede who happened to be born and live in the country of finland” anymore than it would make sense to refer to, say, Abraham Lincoln as an ethnic Englishman who happened to be born and live in the Unites States, even if most of his ancestors were Englishmen. By the time of Westermarck’s birth, Finland had not been a part of Sweden for a couple of generations. “Swedish-speaking Finns” do not generally considered themselves to be ethnic Swedes, although some of them do. They have an identity separate from both Swedes proper and Finns proper. I don’t know what sort of national or ethnic identity Westermarck had, though.

    Appearance-wise, Westermarck looks more Finnish than Swedish, but he would certainly not looked out of place in Sweden, either.

    Fun fact: Westermarck was gay and was for many years infamous for always being accompanied by his much younger Moroccan “servant boy”.

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  2. thnx, j!

    “However, I don’t think it’s correct to refer to Westermarck as ‘a swede who happened to be born and live in the country of finland’ anymore than it would make sense to refer to, say, Abraham Lincoln as an ethnic Englishman who happened to be born and live in the Unites States, even if most of his ancestors were Englishmen.”

    i do — particularly if i want to know/be clear about a person’s or group’s genetic make-up — which i usually do. (~_^) altho i’d be happy enough with anglo-american for lincoln (if most of his ancestors were anglo which i don’t actually know one way or the other).

    “swedes of finland” makes more sense to me than “swedish-speaking finns.” then i know we’re talking about someone with partial or full swedish (genetic) ancestry and not a person with finnish (genetic) ancestry who just happens to speak swedish.

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  3. “Swedo-Finns” might be better than “Swedish-speakers Finns”. However, these days intermarriage is so common that language is less informative about genes than it might once have been. Some populations of Swedo-Finns also appear to have lots of more ancient Finnish ancestry — for example, in one study the frequency of Y-haplogroup N1c1 in a Swedish-speaking sample from Ostrobothnia was, IIRC, 40% — N1c1 being the archetypal Finnish haplogroup (that has a low frequency among Swedes proper).

    Reply

  4. @j – “However, these days intermarriage is so common that language is less informative about genes than it might once have been.”

    sure. that’s why i was thinking the language thing might’ve been more informative back in westermarck’s (and his parents’) day. going forward it will probably less and less informative, as you say.

    @j – “Some populations of Swedo-Finns also appear to have lots of more ancient Finnish ancestry….”

    oops! finns in the woodpile, eh? (~_^) (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

    Reply

  5. Note that a very large proportion of ethnic Finns with no Swedish ancestry have Swedish last names. Actually, before the nationalist era, most Finns had Swedish last names. Christian style “last names” didn’t exist among Finns until the originally Swedish clergy educated the locals that they need ones and of course the Swedish priests slapped most people with names that they could actually spell. Eg as far as I know none of my ancestors were Swedes or would speak Swedish at home but most of the really old ones that I can trace had Swedish last names. They all changed from a Swedish to a Finnish name in the 19th century or early 20th century. (It’s even stranger than that if you want to go to the details, eg my father and his father identified with two names, a Swedish and a Finnish one, and both have existed for a very long time, the only thing that changed was which one was the official one…)

    The reason language isn’t very indicative of ethnic ancestry in Finland is that until the 19th century is that Finland was in advanced stages of language shift from Finnish to Swedish. Everyone who could afford education for their children changed to Swedish as it was the way to advance in class. At the time of the Russian conquest Finnish was a disappearing language that was sure to disappear the same way as Irish if Finland had remained in Sweden. So, for comparison, imagine that France would’ve somehow taken Ireland in the 19th century and aborted the language shift, leaving Ireland with Irish-speaking Irishmen, English-speaking Irishmen who definitely wouldn’t want you to call them English, some migrated English-speaking Englishmen and a whole bunch of mixed people who may identify with anything or nothing.

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  6. @jaakkeli – man, you guys have a complicated history! (~_^)

    so, i was sorta right that westermarck was ethnically swedish ’cause it seems like some of his ancestors did come from sweden (so they were prolly swedes), but my correct-ish conclusion was just luck! i thought westermarck was swedish based on his name and the language he spoke, but neither of those are indicative. well, learn something new every day!

    so, lemme just ask — when finnish folks adopted swedish names (or had them adopted onto them by church officials), did they just get swedish names from sweden? or did they get some sort-of swedish-sounding finnish name? i guess what i’m asking is, is there any way to tell that certain swedish-sounding finnish surnames are actually finnish as opposed to swedish? like, if a surname was based on a placename in finland, for instance?

    also, just out of curiosity, what was the finnish naming system like before the swedish surname system was introduced? was it a sort-of “son of” system? or something else altogether? just curious.

    thnx! (^_^)

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  7. The vast majority of Finnish last names are simple references to geography like “river”, “lake” or “hill” or profession names like “smith”. So, basically, when the crown declared that people should be identified with a last name they just slapped something based on the dude’s house or profession.

    The Swedes too have gone through a bunch of reforms and fashions in their names so there’s certainly both patterns that let you intuit something and reforms happening to both populations at the same time that wiped out patterns. I have intuitions about that stuff (like Westermarck not sounding like a Finland-Swedish peasant name) but I have no idea where they come from since I haven’t studied history of names. Just noticing patterns.

    The “son-of-whoever” naming system is a spontaneous Christian thing. Preliterate pagans named their children without the limited set of names and didn’t have problems with uniqueness but when you introduce Christianity and people start naming their kids after the few Bible stories they know you suddenly have dozens of kids named Peter or John running around so you need extra identifiers.

    This stuff is still a lot more complicated if you get into social class and etc like for example my paternal ancestors were fairly wealthy landowners and they would identify with their holdings so my last name is not at all like most, it’s just my great-great-grandfather swapping a generic Swedish name for the name of his house that he would normally use anyway… but mostly its all generic

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  8. Jaakkeli, people have “always” had last names in Eastern Finland (the archetypical Eastern Finnish names ending with -nen). In Western Finland, most people used patronyms until the late 19th century. Priests in Finland were generally Finnish-speakers at least since the Reformation, so the reason the church records use Swedish names is not that they could not speak Swedish. Rather, the reason is that names were often translated to Swedish back then, so if someone was called Matti Juhonpoika (“Matti Son-of-Juho”) the church would record his name as, say, Mats Johansson. (Similarly, Swedish and other foreign names were often translated into Finnish.)

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  9. @jaakkeli – “The ‘son-of-whoever’ naming system is a spontaneous Christian thing. [P]eople start naming their kids after the few Bible stories they know you suddenly have dozens of kids named Peter or John running around so you need extra identifiers.”

    could be, could be. the pattern in many parts of europe was that pre-christianity you had, of course, clan or family names (the julian family, for example) or the son-of-son-of-son-of sort of name (macdonald, for example, which means “son of donald”), which is not unlike what you have in the arab world today. so, i wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘son-of-whoever’ naming system in finland is also rather old — but i could be wrong.

    getting named after a place (john derbyshire) or one’s trade (john smith) was a turn that happened in the medieval period — you know, after tribes and clans weren’t so important anymore.

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