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It is risky for an amateur to give such difficult information about the origins of our early place names. But the undersigned ventured to try. We have many researchers in our country to write books about their search for the origin of place names. One of the hardest working of the Swedish-speaking genealogists is Dr. T. E. Karsten who has published his research entitled "Swedish Countryside in Österbotten, Now and Formerly", through the Swedish Literature Society in Finland in the 1920's. Several other writers have written about the origin of place and village names. When I realized that the majority of these writings have not been read by the people, I thought it would be of interest to read part of it here.

Beside the names, in parentheses, is the name as spoken in the area dialect. Linguists have divided their research by categories, i.e., if the name originated from nature or surroundings, if the name arises from an animal or fish, if someone with a certain occupation lived at the homestead, if the name is of Finnish origin from some immigrating Finn, if the name comes from a person's name, Christian name of an owner several hundred years ago, etc.

It would fill the entire book to read the origin of all the place and homestead names in our villages, therefore I will attempt to interpret only the most difficult. Since this paper will have most of its readers from the Pedersore area, I will begin with those place names. Some of the places or areas have their origin from old Teutonic or old Nordic languages (which at the time were prevalent in Finland). Linguists say it is a blending of Swedish and Norwegian languages. It should help us to clear up these different variations in this article. Furthermore, I think that the home names in their usual dialect form are older than the official written language. In all likelihood, the tax collectors listened to an area juryman speak the home name and with this as a basis, changed the name to a more suitable written language.

In my research I did not keep to any particular village or parish in sequence. If one begins research with an old Nordic person's name, consider P.E. Ohls in his news article "Village Names in 1500's, Karleby and Pedersöre" which was printed in 1912. The parish name Pedersöre which was spoken "Paedese" is derived from the Christianized man's name Peder or Per, and of an island or islet. When the oldest written form was Paedersöre, the place where the church stood must have been an islet, but as the land elevation combined separate islets to build an island, then the name was changed to Pedersö or Persö, as it was written in the 1500's. The center for Pedersöre parish was the church and the neighboring village had the name Kyrkoby (church village).

The above says the church must have been built on an island or islet. But this area has been populated since before the time of Christ. This statement reveals that earlier the church village had an older name of Loglot; that was sometimes still written in the 1500's. In later stages, the name came from the old Nordic (latr) "lying place" and indicates places everywhere (in Norway) where the seals usually go in that country. The name Loglot can also have arisen when the present Pedersöre church village was on a ledge or cliff. (P. E. Ohls)

KIVILÖS, pronounced "Tjivilös" can be regarded as coming from an ancient date. The name formerly Ki(vi) is an alteration of "kvi", cattle pen" and at a later stage "lös", lack of something. The name denotes "a place that lacks (kya, pen) or enclosure for creatures." It should be called Kylös or Kyvlös in the present dialect. (P. E. Ohls) Other researchers consider that the name is composed of a Swedish, Finnish blending of Kivi = stone and lös = meadow. (T. E. Karsten)

PIRILÖ. The name is composed of the man's name Pell or Per which is the former dialect of Peder or Petter. At a later stage, it is an old language and a newer dialect ending (a suffix) that denotes something little or minor. (Pirilö also denotes "Lill Persö" in contrast to Pedersöre.) Lill Persö actually denotes Pirilö; it's clear that this island is low-lying and formerly stood under water whereby one can understand that in the 1500's and earlier it really was an island. (P. E. Ohls)

STARABY. The name is old Nordic, i.e. in the Norwegian dialect the word means contradictory, inflexible person; also the word was used as an adjective in writings of the 1100's meaning "rigid". The place name Stara in Pedersöre was originally used as a surname of a person who lived 1000 years ago, perhaps the first settler. (P. E. Ohls)

PINNONÄS. The former origin of the name is from wood "piece of wood" and at a later stage "näs" = point/cape. Pinnonäs was established 1556 as a fief given to Hans Fordell (Knutsson) in 1561. In 1608 Pinnonäs consisted of 6 mantal (measurement of land).

KISOR. Formerly the term was an abbreviation of kil "narrow" deep intruding bay, and later the term could have come from an ancient sea or harbor. (P. E. Ohls)

PURMO. Dr. Karsten sought to explain that it is a Finnish version of an old Swedish stream name that could have been Brum(m)a. Karsten thought he could not see any Swedish or Nordic in the present form of Purmo because the name begins with p, with which no original Nordic word begins. (P. E. Ohls). The residences in Purmo and Esse are very old, therefore a large number of cairns were found here. (K. V. Åkerblom)

ESSE. The name has had so many phases and interpretations that it is nearly hopeless to find the right one. The oldest known name form of Esse is Jeffzeaa, or Esse stream, and is from the 1400's. The f-sound instead of the s-sound is due to miswriting. In the 1500's it was written as Essvöö, Eidzefåå, Edzveå and a number of other strange language translations. One of the former name versions of Esse was eids or "ed" that denotes a "narrow land that united 2 broader pieces." In former days Esse stream ended where Esse church now stands and a salt lake was nearby, meaning that a sea route was closed (about 200 years after Christ the shoreline of the open sea went by Kungsforsen). In a long analysis Dr. Karsten has sought to explain that the name Esse (Edsveå, etc.) came from old Teutonic era residences in our coastal parish and that it descends from a word "ed" meaning stream closed there. The names of all streams and rivers in Österbotten come from some place name at the lower reaches not far from the upper reach or source. Dr. Karsten positively opposes the statements of some researchers that the name of the stream Esse comes from the Finnish parish name Ätsäri, then changed to Ähtävä stream.

We have many place names in our area that originated from the surrounding nature. Several of them are a blending of Finnish origin. In 1543 the village named Lepplax was Leppelax (from Finnish Leppälaksi = "Alvik"). In Överpurmo Sääksjärvi = Myggsjön"; Haapbacka = "Aspback"; Kylänpää = "Byände", presently Lassfolk in Lillby (the name changed at the 1830 land reform).

In Esse Överlappfors we have the stream name Jukosk, also farm name (Swedish "Hjulfors") in Överesse Nåddjärv (officially Södernäs). Raj and Rajby (the latter is a blending of Finnish and Swedish "byn with rån"), a boundary to Ytteresse village.

In Ytteresse we have a farm name Punsar (from the Finn Punasaari = (Rödö). Within Punsar farm group lies an islet in a stream and in former times logs floating down the stream from Sjöbygden stopped to rest on the islet during their journey. This began to be called Puna-saari, as a saying relates.

A farm name that ends with "water" is found in Överlappfors from the 1700's: Langsjövatten, pronounced "Langvattne"; Kraksjövatten, pronounced "Krokvattne". In Överpurmo Stenvatten is found, pronounced "Steinvattne". In Larsmo the name Fagernäs is found = a beautiful isthmus"; Fagerudd = "a beautiful cape" - this was earlier called "Grels", probably after some early owner with the first name Grels. Sandvik, pronounced "Sandvitse" and Holm, pronounced "Holme" are clear examples of the character of the places. Brask, pronounced "Braska" from former dialect of "Busksnår" (thicket, windfallen tree or collection of seagrass) or from Swedish "buller" (noise).

In Eugmo, Västerby, there is a homestead called Krok. The road makes a sudden bend here and then swings toward Viss. In the 1700's Krok was called Kass (pronounced: "Kassa") but another homestead with the same name was found in the area: Kass in Pedersöre, Katternö village, so perhaps they found it suitable for the other Västerby place to be Krok. The homestead Viss, pronounced: "Vissa" came from the adjective viss, certain person. (T. E. Karsten)

BJÖRNVIK, pronounced: "Vitse" and Bosund refer to the landscape.

In olden times people often moved and took the name from their former place to the new place. Especially those who moved from Finnish areas such as Lappajärvi and Vindala.

STRANG is one of the older homesteads in Pedersöre. In 1645 Anders Strang appeared in Katternö village. Some time later the name Strang appeared in the present Kållby. At the same time a farmer named Per Strang was found in Vindala. It is thought that some of the earlier settlers in the village had moved from Strang in Vindala. In Sjöbygden they used words such as lång, gång, strång, etc. - in Pedersöre dialect = lang, gang, strang. People of Finnish descent who moved to the area left their names at the homes: Finne and Finnäs are found in Lepplax and Forsby, Pedersöre, also in Eugmo, Västerby; Finholm is found in Bosund and Överesse. Finholm in Esse was earlier called Finnol after some Finn whose name was Olle.

In 1830 Pellis in Forsby was called Halt. Early census records used a double name: Halt-Pellinen. An Anders Thomasson Pellinen moved in 1678 from Purmojärvi in Kortesjärvi to Ytterpurmo (now Forsby) where he took over a home. He later took over Halt- a deserted home. (Josef Backlund)

TARVONEN. The name is found at homes in Lappfors and Dalabäck, Pedersöre, also Tarvos in Östensö, and they got the name from Tarvonen in Lappajärvi in the 1600's. (See Släkt och Bygd # 13 & 19).

KANCKOS in Ytteresse got its name from Johan Clemetsson Kankkonen from Kerttuankylä, Evijärvi, who came to the home ca 1660. The name Kankkonen was changed to Kanckos in 1700's. (See Släkt och Bygd #19).

It is interesting to see what researcher Josef Backlund found about Rajby and Hattar in Esse. "Rajby and Hattar earlier had been one homestead called in everyday speech "Raija", from the Finnish Rå. The undivided name of "Raija" was held by Erich Jönsson at the same time Marcus Jönsson held the homestead officially called Raj. Raj was also a family name found earlier at Rajby-Hattar. A person moved to the present Raj in Esse (locally called Lihlbacka, previously Grelsfolk), and a person from Raj in Esse (Simon Marcusson) moved to the Stromsnäs home in Korby, Pedersöre, later called Raj.

Part of Rajby (divided in 1620's) has the name Hattar in the books because an Anders Matzson lived there at the close of the 1600's. At the same time an Olof Matzson was at the present Humla. Probably here it is a matter of two brothers. (per Josef Backlund)

The undersigned ventured his own theory concerning Hattar and "Hattare". At Hatt in Lappfors (in former times it was called Hatt), according to revenue records for years 1581-1602, an Anders Olson owned land. But present official records for the Humla home show an Anders Olson as home owner of 3/4 mantal from 1603-1635. Can it be the same farmer who was owner of Hatt in Lappfors until 1602? Why not? Why couldn't he and his family have begun to call it "Hattare" as Humla is now called in everyday speech. Anders Olson of Humla-"Hattare" was succeeded in 1637 by his son Matz Andersson. According to land records there were two sons Anders and Olof Matzson. In 1662 Anders Matzson took over the home from his father. He was farmer of the homestead to 1672 and was succeeded in 1673 by his brother Olof Matzson as farmer of Humla.

But observe that the farmer at the Hattar home at "Raija" was an Anders Matzson from 1674. Perhaps the same Anders Matzson who was farmer at Humla to 1672? Presently Humla and the Hummelholm homes, the first name is situated on the western side and the other on the eastern side of the stream, were written in the books together as Hummelholmen, pronounced: "Humbelholme", although they have two separate chimneys in two separate homes. At the land reform in 1830 they began to call one Hummelholm No. 10, pronounced: (locally "Bodefolk) and the other home was called Humla No. 20, pronounced (locally "Hattare"). Clearly they decided not to have two homes in the same village (Överesse) with the same name. It is now an interpretation. Those who are interested can search further.

A name that came from a brook or marsh was Mattbäck village, called Mattbäckes village at the beginning of the 1600's - and at the close of the century Mattbäcken. The village name came from the brook that runs through the village. The source is in Entbacka, Empsjön and in its upper reaches the brook runs through Matträsket, pronounced: "Matträstsi", and further through the village and then via "Heimträstsi" to its lower reaches, called "Lihlåge" and then along the farm at "Kulla" before it runs into the river.

The brook and the village probably got their name from Matträsket that probably was a fish-rich marsh and an important contribution of food for the first settlers of the village. The village name changed in the 1700's to Bäckby and of the three homes, only one was left with the old name, Mattbäck No. 4 in Ytteresse village. Mattbäck was called Ehrsfolk before 1740; named after someone named Eric and there are several farmers there. At Lassila No. 5 there are a couple farmers with the first name Lars. Flink No. 12, the third home in the village, probably was named after an adjective "a flink (quick) person." (T. E. Karsten)

DALABÄCKEN (pronounced "Dalabättsi" in Kållby, Pedersöre is from the old Swedish Dal.

FLYNBACKEN ended up in Bredarholm's fjörd. The name is a composit of the old Swedish fly = "waterpool, pond".

A place name that has memories of early historical events is associated with the word "hound". Hundraberget in Purmo and Hundaltarsten - a boundary point between Esse and Kronoby, a short kilometer north from Brännback.

SUDD in Kållby surely has its name from Anders Sudde, who was a farmer at the home 1548-93. The surname is thought to belong to the manager of the pagan sacrifical meal. A number of big farmers gathered at a mutual sacrificial place. When divine service was held there, all the area farmers arrived at the spot with a stock of sacrificial food, eg, one or more animals to slaughter. The blood from them was splashed with a broom on all of the "stables" (mooring altar) and on the people. (K. V. Åkerholm)

A farm name that denotes the profession of the person living there: BYGGMÄSTAR (locally Tommasfolk) in Larsmo, probably a building contractor. SÄMSKAR in the same village: it is thought a chamois maker had lived there earlier. 'MURMÄSTAR' in Bosund and Lövö: a good wall builder was found there. PÄRTHÅLLAR in Purmo comes from a torch holder. SLIP in Överpurmo, probably from a Swedish word slipa (grinder). HOVSLAGARE in Lepplax and Lövö, name implies owner's work (blacksmith). BORGMÄSTARS in Esse, some farmer was a master at drilling.

Farm names derived from animals, mammals, birds or fish are:

ABBORS in Lepplax, KATT and KALVHOLM in Katternö, SPARV in Ytteresse, GERS in Ytteresse, KIISK (earlier a Finnish Kiiski) that in Finnish hints of a bird name "Alkiska" a little gray bird; the name can also refer to a fish. The Kiisk sea was formerly full of fish. GÄDDA and BJÖRN home names are about a pike and a bear.

Farm names that refer to abuse or jokes: RÅKATAPP (local name: Pössbacka) in Överesse. Råka in earlier times came from the Swedish dialect Ruke, råka and later tapp "stooge".

In the 1700's another home name was TEIRFOLK, teir thought to have come of the word "teiras" (deras - their). The name should really be called Teirasfolk, but has been shortened for more easy usage. (T. E. Karsten)

Farm names that are a Finnish version of old Swedish name is the name PASS in Esse from 1500's. Pass is a Finnish version of old Swedish Basse. It is not known where so many with the name Pass came from to Esse. What I think is that they moved to Esse some time in the 1400's or beginning of 1500's. Perhaps from Sweden if their surname came from "Basse". They were from a certain family. Generally all had their surname with their father's first name and with -son at the end. This has only been since the beginning of the 1900's.

In tax records of 1548 there are four owners named Pass in Esse: Påhl or Påval, Clemet, Anders and Matz Pass - probably all brothers. At least the first two named because in court records for 1560 brothers Påhl and Clemet Pass quarreled about some property. Påhl or Påval Pass was owner of the entire Påval family home which was named after him, and some descendants of him are still there in our time. Clemet Pass was farmer at the Clemet's home who has left his name on the property and probably has many descendants in our time. An Olof Pass took over Rådmans 1570-73 in tax records, perhaps a family of the above Pass. But none of the Pass sons has left his family name in Esse. There is a Pass home in Purmo, but it appears first in records at the end of 1500's. Perhaps a Pass emigration from Esse? But the Pass family has left the name to posterity in Esse, such as "Passmosan and Passträsket". Dr Karsten thinks the Pass family came from the Baltic states because a Martin Pass is found at Runö (Livland), see Ruswurr, Eibofolke II, page 12.

A farm name that came from Finnish to Swedish is MATTJUS. The name came from an immigrating Finn "Matin Jussi", that became Mattjus. (Karsten)

A name that refers to a route is village name EDSEVÖ. According to Finlands Svenska Folkdiktning, Esse residents previously had to use the winter route to Pedersöre through Edsevö. So people began to call the road Esse-veje (Essevägen) from which came Esseöje, Essevöje, that people began to write as Edsevö. (W.E.V. Wessman) Edsevö name can also have come from the sea at Edet.

Farm names using the first names of two people: there are several in the village of Beerklar in Ytteresse (so written in 1600's), of Per and Lars - first and last name together, with the suffix -son after. A "P" in the first name Pers has been changed to a "B" for easier speaking and a "k" has been inserted between the first names for easier writing. Some researchers think that Berklars (presently Bärklar) comes from Birkar-larna, a commercial people from the middle ages. Birka was an important commercial city by Mälaren during the middle ages and it is thought that this business man was at Berklars for a substantial time. (T. E. Karsten)

MÅRD (pronounced locally "Måsantfolk" in Ytteresse). Officially, this farm name was older than many. The written usage of the name came into use first at 1585-92 with farmer Mårth Andersson. From 1593-1621 with Anders Mattsson. People put together Mårth-Ant of Anders, and -folk, so it was pronounced "Måsantfolk". When writing land records someone wrote only Mård. Mård is also found as a home name in Pedersöre, Forsby, and the source of the word Mård in Forsby can have come from the animal name mard (marten).

In many villages near the Pedersöre area, are villages with names ending in -folk, many in Forsby and Kållby. But mostly in Esse where there were 24 people. According to an old saying, most of the names before -folk are of some earlier owner of the farm. A number of them have been forgotten when they have not been used in the written language. Old Esse residents can still add up nearly 20 examples of them. Some were two names before 1608, eg., Lassfolk in Ytteresse. In 1608 both names were united and a Lars Hansson became farmer of 1 mantal. It is widely thought that Lassfolk got its name from Lars Hansson.

A Jöran Hansson was at Jörasfolk (now Smeds) after land reform of 1608. It is noted that before 1608 there was no one with the first name Hans at Lassfolk, but there was a Hans Andersson at Jörasfolk. In 1627 Jöran Hansson was 65 and Lars Hansson was 63. Were they brothers? Lars Hansson could have been a son-in-law who also bought the Lassfolk home.

KUNG in Överesse in 1705 was divided so that one part was called Storkung and the other part Lillkung. According to Dr. Karsten, Kung may have come from the old Norwegian first name Koni. Very possible, because the dialect form "Konasfolk" can have been called "Konisfolk" in olden times. Compare "Gunilsfolk" at Rådmans home. Land record writers thought it read best with Kung.

MAANS in Överesse (pronounced "Maansfolk") probably had as originator a Mons Nilsson who was farmer at the home 1548-58. The first name Mons was easy to change to Maans. Today 14 generations of Mons Nilssons have lived at Maans.

PETTIL (pronounced "Petilfolk") in Kållby. Name comes from Finnish Petilä, from Pietilä.

KITTEL (pronounced "Tsitilfolk") in Kållby. From old Swedish person's name Kaetil (Lundgren).

LILLKÅLL (pronounced "Ålkafålk"). Census 1693: Erik Ohlsson Olkoinen.

NISS (pronounced "Nissfålk") in Forsby, comes from former name of owner who was Nils.

GRÄGG (pronounced "Graitsfålk") in Forsby, from a person named Gregorius.

We can accept as a fact that most names found in our villages are thought to have come from names of owners several hundred years ago. In Forsby, Pedersöre, there are both Stormåns and Lillmåns. Perhaps one has been slower to grow than the other Måns. Many similar conditions have been found in other farm names.

In Bennäs, 1600-1700, only 3 homes were found: CHRISTOLA, comes from a farmer in 1600's named Christoffer Hansson. GUNNILA, from an owner named Gunnar Swensson, while SKRUFVILA (now Skruv) was owned by a Major Skruff in 1600's.

FILPUS. In 1580 a Philpus Andersson lived at the farm in Purmo.

KLÅVOS. In 1635 a Claes Larsson was owner of the farm in Purmo that was called Klåvos.

JÅSKIT in Forsby is from people named Josse and Kaetit.

STORKÅLL (pronounced "Kålla") comes from a person named Kol or Kolle (Lundgren).

FRANS in Katternö. The name is thought to have descended from Franz Clemetzson.

JOFS (pronounced "Jossa") in Ytteresse. Name comes from Josse or Jön.

JOSSGÅRK in Överesse. From a person's name Jöns and gårk = boy.

ISAKAS in Östensö. In 1710 there was an Isach Isakas there.

Farms named after women who were owners: GERTRUDS in Eugmo. In 1699 owner was Gertrud Enkia, 1710 of Gertrud Enkia's home. (Enkia = widow). (T. E. Karsten). SISBACKA in Purmo comes from a woman's name Sisla, according to Karsten. INGERS (locally "Joupare") in Ytteresse. Officially from a woman's name Inger and locally from a man's name Jakob (according to Karsten).

This is a gleaning of our place and village names and their origin. No one can know for certain how all these and other forms of our place names have arisen. This was an attempt. Those who are interested can continue with area research and perhaps come to entirely different results.

Edvin Brännbacka


  • T. E. Karsten: Swensk Bygd i Österbotten, Nu och Fordom, I & II
  • P. E. Ohls: Bynamnen i 1500-talets Karleby och Pedersöre socknar
  • K. V. Åkerblom: Pedersöre Storsockens Historia I & II, Släkt och Bygd
  • W.E.V. Wessman: Finlands Svenska Folkdiktning, Sägner II
  • Släkt och Bygd #22, pgs 38-48

Translated by June Pelo

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