Origins of Surnames
In today’s society we all want to know who we are and where our names originated from. Our names are what give each of us our own style and individuality, the importance of style and individuality can be related back to our original surnames. Our surnames have come from all areas of the world, each with specific meanings to our family. Surnames or last names
have an important meaning to all of us, they give us identity through our family’s history. Looking back into history our names have changed drastically, keeping some people from knowing how their surnames really originated. Surnames originated early in history and did so for many reasons.
The first knowledge of surnames was in the biblical times, they used names that went by geography, for example “ Corey of Carlisle.” The actual use of surnames originated in Europe, and in some Scandinavian areas, in the eleventh and fifteenth
century by small villages. The reason that no surnames were used before this time was the fact that most people were illiterate, living in small villages in a country atmosphere. Living out in the country these people had no reason to learn to read or write, because their lives were lived off the land. They did not need surnames to signify who they we’re or what they did. In these small villages they went by their first names, people all had different first names, so they did not need surnames to tell people apart. But when the population of the villages grew, it became important to have surnames to identify two people with the same name. The use of surnames showed social class, culture, tradition and, the jobs they worked.
The forming of surnames first came from other names by which someone was called. The name “Johnson” originated from “the son of John,” and the same goes with my last name “Richardson.” In some countries they would use their mothers first name for a surname, such as “Paige.” Jimmy Paige, from the band Led Zeppelin, could say his surname originated this way. Other origins of surnames came from places and geographical names. The surname “England” or “Penn” show this quality. Obviously England is a country and Penn is shortened from Pennsylvania. Surnames like “Smith” ( as in blacksmith ) and “Carpenter” ( one who works with wood ) come from the jobs that these people held. Surnames are also known to originate from description of a particular family. The surname “Stern” would mean that they family was strong. People with descriptive surnames wanted others to know what family standards they had. Nature and social status also played a major role in surnames. Surnames like Byrd, Foxx, Winters and, Spring are names commonly found in nature. And surnames like Bachelor, Knight or, Squire are based on a person’s social standing. The changing of these original surnames, cause many problems for people in today’s society.
Our current society is often unaware of their true original surnames. In the search for freedom our ancestors decided to come to America. By coming to America our ancestor’s surnames changed, the clerks at Ellis Island either misspelled or shortened their names. Almost all names changed for these people entering America. “Bauch became Baugh”, “Siminowicz became Simmons.” In some cases our ancestor’s themselves changed the family name, so they could have the full feeling of being Americanized. In this case their names generally became shorter or totally different names. Some of the names that changed were; “Mlynar became Miller”, and “Shwarz became Black.” Mlynar changed but also kept a similar background, but Shwarz changed to Black making it easier for pronunciation. The origin
of surnames have kept our minds wondering who we are or where our ancestor’s came from.
Curious about where my surname, Richardson, originated, I began to research it. I started out on the Internet and then I headed to the library. I found many things that did not pertain to my current search, but I kept on plugging away to find what I wanted. I found that my surname was from an old Cheshire family traced from a Norman origin before the year 1100 AD. The surname had belonged to nobles, castles, estates and manors. The Richardson surname spread throughout Europe, by the way of offspring, in the eleventh and twelfth century. The first settlers to the states by this name settled in New England in 1637 and then the name branched off towards Virginia in 1640. The research of my surname helped me to identify my past and what significance my surname has.
It is important for us to know what our surnames are so we can identify our past. Our past is something, just like surnames, which explains what we represent and what significance
we have. Many of us will find that particular surnames have cultural importance. Presidents or people with high social standing and their surnames are remembered because these people changed our society. Remembering what our surnames are is not as easy. The spellings of our
surname, and the pronunciation of them has changed over centuries. In many cases the change occurred so long ago that people in today’s society are not aware of what it used to be. For our own specific reasons, the origin of our surnames and the importance of it means a great deal.
Surnames give each of us our own style and individuality, and this is all important to us in today’s society.