Origin of the name Elg
The name "Elg" is the same word as "elk", however in Swedish it refers to the animal which I believe americans would call a moose. Until a century ago most Swedes would simply be named after their father: "Johanson" - son of Johan or "Johansdotter" - daughter of Johan, etc. This created problems in the conscript army, so in order to keep apart ten different Sven Johanson the officers arbitrarily assigned family names to the soldiers, often short monosyllabic names based on animals or plants.
However, I have not been able to find any such background in our family, so I believe the same problem may have occured in the iron works which grew up in central Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries. These were the first large work organizations outside the army. It is also possible that the blacksmiths, who were skilled laborers with fairly high status, simply took names like this to set themselves apart from the ordinary day laborer. My friend Erik Norrhem gives added support to this theory:
"I have noted that when a blacksmith´s apprentice advances to blacksmith he regularly changes his name from the patronymic "-son" to a family name, often indicating the family´s origins. Most likely this is a way to mark a step up the social ladder: The blacksmith was a an independent contractor who worked on contract with the ironwork´s owner. If he was a skilled blacksmith he could recieve extra payment for quality which exceeded what was considered standard given the raw materials he was supplied with. It is also possible that this naming tradition was isnpired by family names used by German and later Belgian (walloon) experts imported to get the iron industry started in Sweden."
In our case, the family had lived for more than a century at Älgsjöhöjden, which means "the hill at Moose Lake" ("Älg" and "Elg" are different spellings of the same word), so this is most likely where the name came from.
The first ancestor to carry this name was Petter Jansson Elg, who was born Petter Jansson in 1753 on the homestead at Älgsjöhöjden, but who apparently moved to Gravendal (his wife died there in 1794).
Note that we are not the only family with this name. I have identified at least five unrelated families carrying this name in Sweden. The name "Elg" also appears in Finland, and in 17th century England. A search of the Swedish phone directory showed 250+ Elgs today, and a similar search in the US turns up even more, so not every "Elg" you might come across is related to us.
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Last updated 02-10-27, 09.01