Surnames or family names are the part of a person’s name that is passed down through families, or given according to law or custom. Many cultures have different customs for how names are passed from generation to generation.
Surnames originate from the relatively "recent" medieval custom of bynames, or names given to differentiate people.
Ever faced an obstacle in your family research as you look for an ancestors’ name?
When viewing census records, for example, it’s not uncommon to find a relative listed with their formal birth name in one record, and then listed under a nickname in another.
Nicknames are usually familiar or humorous and used as an appropriate replacement or addition to a given name. They can be a form of endearment, refer to a personal character trait or just be a shortened version.
When you stumble upon these new listings, you might think your family research has hit a brick wall. Searching for records can be difficult if you don’t have all the information, but don’t despair, here are some tips below to help in your family history research.
Today we look at CHURCHILL, in honor of Sir Winston Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech made on March 5, 1956.
Churchill, an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman conquest of 1066, derives from the town Curcelle, which became confused with the English name “Churchill.”
This geographical surname comes from various towns named Churchill (in Oxfordshire, Somerset and Worcestershire). The name goes back to pre-7th century Old English for cyrice (church) and hyll (hill). The surname means “the church on the hill.”
There is one known case where the name's translation is different.
MyHeritage welcomes you to a new weekly blog post, "Surname of the week." We'll discuss the origin, history and other information of one surname in each post.
Surnames first appeared in the Middle Ages as a way to record and document people and for tax purposes. Details included given names, nicknames, parents’ names, occupation and residence. This personal information later became an important part of the history of surnames.
English surnames, as we know them today, began in England as early as the 11th century. However, it was not until the late-17th-century that many families adopted permanent surnames.
Generally speaking, family names fall into the following categories with some examples given:
- Occupation: Smith, Taylor or Miller
- Personal characteristics: Young, Black or White
- Geographic or locations: Hamilton, Bush, Hill, Windsor or Murray
- Patronymics, Matronymics or Ancestral: Stephenson, Richardson or Harris
In honor of American-British Actress Elizabeth Taylor's birthday, we look at TAYLOR this week:
Surnames (or family names) are a meaningful inheritance bequeathed to us by our ancestors. Our family trees are a rich melting pot of family names covering diverse cultures and ethnicities.
Have you ever counted how many different surnames are on your tree? We invite you to answer the following poll: