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25th Apr 2017

This is the easiest way to determine you may have VIKING heritage

Katie Mythen-Lynch

It’s more than nine hundred years since the Viking Age, so it’s no surprise we’ve forgotten which of us are descendants of the Scandinavians.

However, there is a rather straightforward way to check (and it doesn’t involve growing a beard or pillaging a village).

Thousands of us could be descendants of Vikings – especially if your surname ends in ‘son’, according to experts.

TV channel HISTORY (which you can find on on Sky) worked with Alexandra Sanmark, from the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands to mark the launch of series four of Vikings.

Their survey of 2,000 people found 56 per cent admit they would like to discover they have Viking heritage.

And experts say surnames can give you an indication of a possible Viking heritage in your family, with anything ending in ‘son’ or ‘sen’ likely to be a sign.

Other surnames which could signal a Viking family history include ‘Roger/s’ and ‘Rogerson’ and ‘Rendall’.

Names which refer to a personal characteristic were also common among Vikings, such as ‘Long’, ‘Short’, ‘Wise’, ‘Lover’ and ‘Good.’

Alexandra Sanmark explained:

“The people of the Viking Age did not have family names, but instead used the system of patronymics, where the children were named after their father, or occasionally their mother.

“So, for example the son of Ivar would be given their own first name and then in addition ‘Ivar’s son’. A daughter would be Ivar’s daughter.

“A famous example from a 13th-century Icelandic saga, describing the Viking Age, is Egil Skallagrimsson, who was the son of a man named Skalla-Grim.

“This naming pattern still remains in use in Iceland today but has been abandoned in Scandinavia in favour of family names.”

Apparently, the Irish surnames Doyle and McDowell come from Ó Dubh-ghail, meaning ‘son/grandson of the dark or evil one’, while MacAuliffe is derived from ‘Son of Olaf’.

Orkney and Shetland, where the Viking heritage is very strong, is home to many names which can be traced back to the period including ‘Linklater’, ‘Flett’, ‘Scarth’, ‘Heddle’ and ‘Halcro.’

Scottish names such as ‘McIvor’, ‘MacAulay’ and ‘McLeod’ could also signal a Viking family history.