Q: How is a newborn's patronymic resolved when the child's paternity is in dispute?
If Halldór insists: "That's not my son", will the baby be registered as Haukur Halldórsson anyway, if that is what the mother says?
If DNA testing later determines that Halldór's claim is, in fact, true, would the child continue to be known as Haukur Halldórsson or would another patronymic have to be chosen?
Is there any precedence for matronymics in Iceland? Would the son of an Icelandic mother (Íslendingur) and a foreign-born father (útlendingur) ever be known as his mother's son, for example, Gudrúnarson as opposed to Alejandrosson?
Kevin T. Higgins, Chicago, USA
A: At the National Registry I was informed that whenever a child is born outside of wedlock or the parents are not in registered cohabitation, the child is registered under a matronymic unless the parents choose otherwise.
The father always has to agree that his patronymic is used and mothers cannot choose any patronymic they like—a father’s signature is needed.
If a child is registered under a false patronymic and the alleged father finds out it isn’t his child, he can request that its surname be changed.
Matronymics have become increasingly common in Iceland, both because of that and for equality reasons (a child is sometimes given both a matronymic and a patronymic).
However, in the case of lovechildren of the past, mothers would sometimes ‘borrow’ the name of a friend or just choose a patronymic out of the blue to hide the child’s real background. Children with matronymics were often labeled ‘bastards’.
When a child has a foreign-born father (or a mother), parents can choose the surname of the child, whether it will be given a matronymic, be known as Alejandrosson or -dóttir, bear the father’s family name, or a combination of both.