I learned a great deal about Norwegian naming while I was working on the information for John Hansen Torgersen. Thanks to some great information sites from the Digital Archives of Norway and Martin Roe Eidhammer’s excellent website, and a little extra tutoring from Martin, I was able to understand how the names worked before 1925 and the mandatory last name began in Norway.
Unlike Sweden, which has a name and a patronym, Norway has three names: a name, a patronym and a identity information (usually the farm name).
This farm name would change when the person moved. So, John was born as John Hansen (his father was Hans) Nykaas (where they lived when he was born). His name then changed to John Hansen Haugen when his family moved to that farm. It also means his oldest brother had a different last name at birth because he was born when they lived at Odegaard.
I have chosen to use the farm names as spelled in the Norwegian Farm Name book for consistency in the last names.
Haugen is the last place they were living before moving to the Americas. When they arrived in the United States, the last name appeared to remain fluid. They sometimes used Torgersen (Hans’ father was Torger), sometimes Haugen, sometimes Hansen. It wasn’t until John gained US Naturalization in 1897 that he can be seen to consistently use Torgersen. His brother and father decided to use Haugen.