The word Boyum is actually a farm name and is therefore toponymic – derived from a place near which the recipient lived. A Norwegian source told me that the Balestrand bygdebok (Laberg) defined the name Boyum as ‘bær’ (Old Norse), plural of ‘gard’. It would, therefore, mean a cluster of gards (farms). However, others have said that ‘boy’ means bend and signifies the bend in the Fjord that runs up to Boyum. My Aunt Jane tells me she always heard that it meant ‘bend two’.
Historically, Norwegian names were constructed by combining the name of the child, the name of the father and the current address as part of the name. The basic naming pattern was:
- A given name based on relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles or the commemorative use of the name of a sibling that had passed away)
- A middle name based on the name of the father and a gender specification
- A surname of the farm or address of where you resided.
Hence, a boy named Sevath who was the son of Ellend and lived at Boyum was called Sevath Ellendson Boyum. A daughter named Brita would be Brita Ellendsdatter Boyum.
This means that what appear to be the common surname does not imply relation at all and, further, that what appears to be several different people can be the same person who moved several times.
Because of the common use of patronymic names (names with ‘son’ as part of the surname – i.e. Johnson, Thorson, Erikson) when people migrated to the United States, many families decided to officially take on their toponymic/address name as a final last name and so it is with all those named Boyum.
According to the US census of 1990, Boyum is very rare indeed. It is ranked 27949 in the US with only 18.943%
of the population having less frequently used names. Johnson, on the other hand, which many of the Norwegian’s became and many exist in our line, is second only to Smith in commonality. If Sevath and his brothers would have remained Ellingson, we would all be ranked 6084.
According to the graph included below from the GENS project, there is less than 2000 families with the surname Boyum in the US. Despite the fact that Dr. Melvin Johnson learned that the name was a “dime-a-dozen” in Norway, I suspect his sources were speaking of it in terms of their region much the way the name is far more common in Minnesota than anywhere else in the US. And by the way, it is common is a fairly small area of Minnesota too. One source from Norway told me that there were only 329 Boyum’s in Norway.