Origin Of Surnames Essay, Research Paper
Origins of Surnames
In today’s society we all want to know who we are and where are names originated from.
Our names are what give us our style and individuality. Our ancestors came from all over the
world all having names that are a true mystery to us. Surnames or better known as last names
are a very interesting topic, they are like our first names but give us identity through our family.
Looking back into history our names have changed drastically keeping some from knowing what
their surnames really originated. We can all find where our names originated from or what they
represent, by doing some research. There are many ways to do this whether you call a relative,
research in a library or, play on the Internet. If you are curious about what your surname means
or where it originated then I suggest you look into it.
Curious about where my surname 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 of 1100. The surname had
many nobles, castles, estates and manors. The Richardson surname spread throughout Europe 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. Never thinking
about what my surname was until now, I wondered how surnames originated.
The use of surnames originated in Europe in the eleventh and fifteenth century. Also in
Scandinavia around the same time surnames were introduced. The reason there was not
surnames 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
right, because there lives where lived off the land. They did not need surnames to signify who
they we’re or what they did. They just went by their first names in these villages because people
of the same name did not occur. But when the population of the villages grew it became
important to have surnames to identify between two people with the same name. In the times of
the Bible people used names that went by geography, for example “ Corey of Carlisle.” 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”, this being the a mothers name became her son or daughters surname. Jimmy Paige,
from the band Led Zeppelin, could say this of his name. Other origins of surnames came from
places and geographical names. The surname “England” or “Penn” have 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. Surname are also known to originate from description of a particular family. The surname
“Stern” would mean that they family was strong, this being something for them to owner. Alot
of surnames came from nature or their social status. Surnames like Byrd, Foxx, Winters, Spring
are names commonly objects found in nature. And surnames like Bachelor, Knight or, Squire
are based on their social standings. Many of theses surnames have changed over the centuries do
to the spread of the families.
Our current society is often unaware of their true original surnames. When coming to
America the individuals had no choice but to keep the surnames that the clerks at Ellis Island
had given them because of error. Almost all names changed for these people entering America.
“Bauch became Baugh”, “Siminowicz became Simmons.” Then there was the people who
wanted to be Americanized and they changed their own names. In this case their names
generally became shorter or totally different names. In this case “Mlynar became Miller”, and
“Shwarz became Black”…etc. Names are something that is important to people for many reason.
It is important to us to know what our surnames are so we can identify our past. Our past
is something, just like surnames, that say what we represent and what significance we have.
Many of you will find that particular surnames have cultural importance. Presidents or people
with high class social standing and their surnames are remembered because these people
changed our society. Famous surnames will always be remembered, but so will those surnames
that have no significant because each one of our past has something that has changed our culture.
The spellings of your surname, and the pronunciation of it 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. The topic of surnames and there origins are very interesting. We can find many
things out from studying our names, who we really are or where our names came from. If this all
interests you the resources are out there to be found, I am sure you will enjoy it!