History & Meaning
of the Name Pensgard / Pensgård
Pensgard is a family name. It is my last name. It is a farm
name that can be translated into a geographical meaning. In
what follows I give an in-depth description of every facet
of the name.
What stands out first to most readers of the name is the
ring over the "a." This is simply a unique letter form in
Norwegian. It is a full-fledged letter in Norwegian, like a
dotted "i" in English. Its pronunciation varies depending on
the other elements of the word it is found within. I will
return to pronunciation in a moment, but for now, let me
consider the meaning and the type of name it is.
The name "Pensgard" translates
roughly as "beautiful land" and refers to a specific plot of
land in Norway (see map below). It is not very old, it was
created to fill a specific need in the 1800s.
In Norway, in the days of yor, folks were given a last name
that indicated who their fathers were. For
example, Leif Ericson, the most famous Norwegian, was the son of
Eric the Red... thus he was called "Eric's Son" =
At some point this
became impractical and the Norwegians began giving their children
a permanent family name following the paternal line.
But, this is a fairly recent practice. As a result, many family names only go back a few generations.
This transition occurred for most families during the 1800s.
Parents were faced with a tough choice during
this period. They had to invent names that would stick not only
with their children, but with every child afterward. Many
parents struggled to come up with a name. Some just kept the
name they had, like "Ericson," others invented totally new
names. These creative folks commonly chose to
take the name of their city or farm.
However, it seems that none of this was done with
strict regularity. Sometimes brothers and
sisters were given different last names within the same
family! In addition, both naming systems were used
simultaneously for a few
not only was the new family name used
as a last name only for some children, but the father's name was often retained
in the form of a middle name. For example, the earliest
known Pensgard was Jens Johnsen Pensgard, born in 1814/15.
His father's name was John, so he was given a middle name
according to the old naming system . . . John's
son = Johnsen. Jens (pronounced like "Yence") had 5 siblings, but none of them bore the last name of Pensgard.
He was the first Pensgard! And, even though he had siblings, he was the only Pensgard of his generation.
A Farm Name
The name "Pensgard,"
a farm name. Thus, the Pensgard heritage is not only genetic and
familial, but also geographical. The farm is located in the
small peninsula shown in the picture below. The location of the farm
is approximately N 59.386372 by E 5.400272. It is on the eastern
shore of the Forresfjorden only a few miles southeast of the port city of
"Pensgard" means "Beautiful
Land"; "Pens" means beautiful and "Gard"
means land, farm, or yard. "Gard" is related to the English term "yard," but
denotes a homestead, field, or some contiguous piece of land. Thus,
the English term "yard" seems to have a size-limiting connotation that
"gard" does not have.
"Gard" is also found in other Germanic languages with the same
meaning. For example, the last name of Soren Kierkegaard, a famous philosopher from Denmark, means "Church Yard."
"Kierke" means "church" and you know the rest. Incidentally, a
Church Yard is also synonymous with "Graveyard."
So, "Kierkegaard" is a very foreboding name to have! In
contrast, "nice land" or "pretty field" is a much more welcoming
Where in Norway?
My friend and relative (second cousin once
removed) Torgrim Pensgard Eide has
done some research into the family name and has translated some of
the public records for me. The following is a commentary on this
information regarding the name
and its origins:
The first that settled at one of the five
cotter´s farms that was pioneered at the south oriented part of the
farm at Sørvågen [Sorvagen] was probably John Baarsen [and his wife]
Karen Jensdotter. They probably came before 1815 from Vikedal,
Prestesogn. The cotter´s farm they pioneered was called 'Pensgard'.
There is some doubt about the name. A few think it was 'Pinskar'
and that the name is due to a narrow gap between two hills close to
where the houses were raised, and that the southeast wind was forced
between ('pine'), and thereby called 'Pinskar'. However, most
Pensgards, including Daniel Kallevik (Gardshistorie
for Stegabergkrinsen) thinks that it is very reasonable that John
and Kari [nickname for Karen] gave the place the name 'Pensgard'
because it was actually very nice ("pens") here. Their relatives in
Haugesund write the name either 'Pensgård' [Pensgard] or
'Pensgaard'. [Note: I have edited this comment slightly for readability.]
Before moving to the Pensgard farm, the family of
the paternal line came from the areas shown on the following map.
You can visit the genealogy page for a moveable map of the same
Pronunciation of the name
Meaning of the name "David"