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Author Topic: What are the origins of surnames?  (Read 5580 times)

Brad Holtshausen

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What are the origins of surnames?
« on: 22/03/2009 15:30:02 »
Brad Holtshausen  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hi Chris

I listen to you on Radio 702 in South Africa.

I find it a tremendous show and have been trying to get through to ask you a question for some time now.

So if you don't mind I would like to ask you this question via email
What I would like to know is,
 
how or where did we get our surnames?
How did our surnames originate?
 
Regards
Brad

What do you think?


 

Offline Karen W.

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #1 on: 22/03/2009 21:12:56 »
Thats  a good question as I would like to know where all these originate:
COOK

McQUISTON

DIXON
 
MORGAN

JOHNSON

MY FAMILIES SIR NAMES?

I would imagine we have them because of the first name duplication and huge populations...Like phone numbers yo need to eventually have more then a prefix....due to the inordinant amount of the same numbers...I imagine but am no expet it probably helped peope to distinquish their lineage from those of the fore fathers especially whe a first time father starts procreating his line must have definitive lineage to designate and assure his family name is carried on into the future....and the line continues so to speak....
 

Offline LeeE

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #2 on: 22/03/2009 21:41:43 »
I believe that initially, last names came from the clan/tribe leader; you belonged to them and your 'sur' name said that you were one of your clan/tribe leader's people e.g. McQuiston, Dixon & Morgan.  As societies became larger and individual clan/tribal chiefs became more distant to the individuals, the last name could reflect your lineage e.g. Johnson, being the son of John.  Even later, it could also reflect a trade or skill e.g. Cook.
 

Offline Karen W.

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #3 on: 22/03/2009 22:24:46 »

That makes sense. DO Last names actually denote origin of country lineage or at least past far back?
 

Offline MonikaS

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #4 on: 22/03/2009 23:37:19 »
Surnames are fun. Basically there are 4 types:

  • the name of the person's father (patronymic)
    Peterson - son of Peter
    Peterdaughter - daughter of Peter
    MacDonalds - son of Donald
    OBrian - Grandson of Brian
    FitzGerald - son of Gerald
  • the person's locality
    Londoner - From London - well duh...
  • the person's occupation
    Smith, Miller, Carpenter etc
  • a descriptive nickname for the person
    The guy with the long nose might have been called Conk, not really flattering most of the time ;D

Surnames weren't fixed at first, they changed with change of occupations, with generations etc. Once when bureaucracy started those names started to become fixed.

Here's a nice site to research surnames: http://www.last-names.net/
 

Offline Mazurka

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #5 on: 23/03/2009 10:22:28 »
The welsh did not use surnames as such (tending to use occupation instead)

However, in order to impose taxes the English insisted that the welsh adopted  surnames.  This was done by simply adding 's' on the end of a name.  - John becomes Jones, David becomes Davis, Hugh became Hughes etc. 

It has been suggested that the limted number of welsh surnames, was a ploy to frustrate the tax collectors...
 

Offline dentstudent

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #6 on: 23/03/2009 10:46:09 »
There are also surnames that were given to slaves during the slave-trade - I believe that many slaves were given the same surname as their "owner" or the farm/town in which they worked. I suspect therefore that geneology for anyone whose ancestors were slaves is very difficult.
 

Offline dentstudent

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #7 on: 24/03/2009 08:51:28 »
Here's another surname search

http://www.mapyourname.com/en/index.html

 

Offline Chemistry4me

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #8 on: 24/03/2009 09:07:07 »
Why can't I get it to work?
 

Offline Karen W.

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #9 on: 26/03/2009 13:29:38 »
Here's another surname search

http://www.mapyourname.com/en/index.html



According to that my Johnson originates England as does Dixon, as does Cook ..
Morgan from wales and McQuiston from Scotland!
 

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What are the origins of surnames?
« Reply #9 on: 26/03/2009 13:29:38 »

 

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