May 30, 2023

Surveying and First Names

Hans Ringertz, MD, PhD

Map of Europe with Norwegian island of Svalbard highlighted

My grandfather, Nils Conrad — who later became a colonel — began our family line, Ringertz. With his wife Gabrielle Monique, they had to make a living, as the job in the military was regarded, more or less, as an honorary position. He used his civil engineering training in surveying to join expeditions to map the islands of Svalbard, north of Norway, for three summers in 1898, 1899 and 1901.

In those days Sweden and Norway were one country. After they separated peacefully in 1905, Svalbard became part of Norway. Today the United Nations has given Norway the task of governing the islands, including the part with an "oversized" Russian coal mining section.

Suffering with poor economics, Nils Conrad made money by privately printing Svalbard stamps and advertising them in philatelist journals. He returned with a huge number of envelopes during these summers, stamped them on-site and brought them back to collectors. He also named at least five geographical points in the northwestern sector of Svalbard with his own name when mapping the area, such as Cap Ringertz and Mount Ringertz. The area of Svalbard that Nils Conrad mapped is marked with a red rectangle on the above map and represented about 25% of the islands.

In the meantime, Gabrielle first translated books into French or German and then began writing novels. Thirty years later, she became a fairly well-known author on her own. Around 1902, she published her first romantic novel, “Virgines,” which got relatively good reviews. I tried to read it, but it was long and very tedious. The book ends with a young man whose first kiss is with a girl dying of tuberculosis. The second novel, “Offereld” (Fire of Sacrifice), received less appreciation when reviewed.

The family was also growing; besides Gabrielle’s parents, first in 1892, they had a daughter, Maud. She was 15 years older than my father and as the military family moved around between different regiments, she was my father’s teacher during his early years. He thus graduated from high school at the age of 17 with good grades and soon got into medical school. Maud married an Austrian radiologist and aristocrat and served as a nurse on the family ambulance in WW1.

Family photograph from 1898

Family photograph from 1948

The family ultimately had four children, Maud, twin boys and finally my father. Their first names were Maud, Hans, Bo and Nils, respectively. My father Nils had three children, a girl and two boys. I’m sure you can guess that he and my mother named them Maud, Bo and Hans. This lack of imagination, also demonstrated by the other members of the family, led to many small complications.

Personally, for example, my uncle Hans Ringertz, lived at the address: Väringavägen 21, Djursholm, Danderyd … while I, Hans Ringertz, lived at Sätraängsvägen 21, Danderyd, Danderyd.

In addition, my father, Nils Ringertz — a professor and chairman of pathology — retired June 30, 1968, from Karolinska Institutet and the next day my cousin Nils Ringertz became a professor and chairman of cell biology at Karolinska.

Our postal mail in those days had to be frequently exchanged between different branches of the family!