The Alfort name came to Sweden from England, and in the beginning it would naturally have been pronounced more or less as in English, but very soon a Swedish version of the name would have developed. We can trace this development in the varying spellings that the early generations used.
From English to Swedish
We do not know whether the original immigrant’s son Erik was born in England or in Sweden, but having a British father it is likely that he would at least occasionally have used an English pronunciation of his surname in which the A is short, unlike the only Swedish pronunciation of the name used these days. Perhaps it is this version of the name that is reflected in the only signature we have from his hand, Erik Allfortt. The form with two l’s reappears occasionally down the centuries, right up to 1845 in the case of one person, but it is always decidedly rare, and the pronunciation with a short A does not occur today, except in the branches that have established themselves in other countries and consequently have adopted pronunciations adapted to other languages like English, French and Danish. In all of these cases, the A has been shortened again.
When others write Erik’s name, they use a range of different spellings: Ahlfort, Alfort, Allfort, Alfordt, Alhfordt. This is to be expected; it was only relatively late that the idea of having one correct spelling of a name was adopted, and in fact this principle only really established itself in the 20th century, at least as regards other people’s spellings. In earlier times, even people’s own signatures would vary from time to time, depending on their mood and influences from what was popular at the time. Indeed, general trends like the enlightenment and romanticism probably had a noticeable impact on the evolution of our family name.
The commonest form of the name in Erik’s time was Ahlfort, although Alfort was also widely used. The former is clearly a Swedish adaptation where the vowel has already been lengthened, whereas the latter is ambiguous in this regard.
His daughter’s name is likewise represented in a wide variety of forms: Ahlfort, Alfort, Allfort, Ahlfordt, Alfordt, Alhfordt, Alforth. The only signature that we have from her own hand, Maria Catharina Ahlfot, is unfortunately a contemporary copyist’s reproduction, and hence could be a scribal mistake for Ahlfort. On the other hand, one particular clergyman (presumably) uses the form Ahlfot (and Alfot) for a decade (1742-1752) with reference to her brother Gabriel, before he realises his error and corrects himself. Is this similarly to be interpreted as a sign that they also would (occasionally?) pronounce their name in English – in which the r i silent to a Swedish ear? We do not know, but interestingly, this spelling is also used on occasion with his sons as late as 1793, although this is so rare as to be uncertain. On the other hand, even from Erik’s very earliest appearance in the military records from ca. 1688, his name is spelled Ahlfort, so this Swedish form seems at least to have been established from the start as a possible variant if nothing else.
The son Gabriel always writes his own name Ahlfort, but in addition to the forms without the r mentioned above, others use the forms Ahlfort, Alfort, Allfort, and occasionally Ahlforth, Ahlfordt, Ahlfortt or Ahlford, although the form Ahlfort is by far the commonest. Their brother Carl Henric is called Ahlfort, Alfort or Ahlfordt.
To sum up this early fase, then, the form Ahlfort was well established as the main Swedish form, with Alfort and Allfort as regularly occurring variants, however the former should be interpreted as regards pronunciation. In addition, other forms appeared quite regularly.
icon-arrow-right The next section ”Trends and fashions” is about the effects that general trends and fashions in society have had on the way our family name has been spelled over the centuries.