Contributing author Schelly Talalay Dardashti is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com
Your family name has evolved since it was adopted. It may represent your family's sojourns in different countries; its spelling and pronunciation may have changed, and it may have been changed following a recent immigration (although not at Ellis Island).
Other factors are easy to understand. Spelling wasn't engraved in stone, people were illiterate or not literate in the language of a specific area. Our ancestors didn't know how to spell their names and government officials were responsible for recording the names in registers or in important documents.
WHY IS IT SO HARD?
The official wrote the name the way he heard it. Perhaps the official was elderly and deaf in one ear, or your ancestor had a speech impediment or an accent. When your ancestor's cousin came in to record a later birth, however, a new younger official sat behind the desk, one whose hearing was excellent and the cousin spoke clearly.
When immigrants moved to a new country, they often changed their names. They wanted to make it easier for themselves, their neighbors and employers to spell or pronounce their names, and for official documents. If the original names were written in other alphabets - such as Cyrillic (Russian, Bulgarian etc.) - they were phonetically transliterated into English, providing many new spelling possibilities. Accents or dialects further complicated the choices.
Imagine a boy named Emma or a girl named Joshua. Sounds strange? Sounds normal? In Finland, these gender-switching names may become a reality.
The current Finish naming law, dating from 1985, is about to be obsolete. Until now, the law banned giving a female child a male name, and a male child a female name, but a new proposal may change that.
The law, considered controversial by some, would allow parents to give their children names regardless of the gender to which they might be associated. However, chosen names may not be offensive, inappropriate or incite harm to children.
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.
Names - surname and given - are essential to family history research.
A surname passes through many generations connecting family members with that common surname. Many people are also named after deceased relatives to honor those individuals.
Generally, names are given to us, but people are beginning to adopt new names, both given and surnames.
What does this mean for family history?
Will it be more difficult to trace name changes and links to ancestors, or will it make research more exciting?
What do you think? If you could change your name easily, would you?
For many expecting parents, it can be difficult to think of the perfect name for an unborn baby.
Many people turn to baby name books or choose an ancestor's name, but one US couple decided to take their name search to a vote, at their local Starbucks.
The New Haven, Connecticut couple asked customers to vote for two names: Logan and Jackson. With over 1,800 votes and many other name suggestions, they decided to combine the two names and will call their son, due in September, Logan Jackson.
Some might say the controversial idea of asking strangers to name a baby lacks that personal element of naming a child after a relative. Others may find this a relief and a unique way to choose a name.
We recently wrote about names banned in New Zealand and have asked about rare names in your family tree.
What do you think of crowd sourcing for baby names? Do you have a similar story in your family where relatives were named by strangers? Would you ask others to choose your child's name?
Congratulations to Will and Kate on the arrival of their prince, a new addition to the Royal family tree.
The royal baby was born today at Lindo wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, where his father Prince William and his uncle, Prince Harry were also born.
The baby will be known officially as the Prince of Cambridge. Although not the only Prince in the royal family tree, he is now third in line to the throne. It is also the first time in more than a century when the next three generations of monarchy will be alive at the same time.
In early May, New Zealand’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages released an updated list of banned baby names.
Do you have a Lucifer, Queen V, King, V8, Prime Minister or Justice in your family tree? Those are all (as well as others) on the list that are unacceptable.
The banned list is not static, and grows over time. According to the registrar, acceptable names may not cause offense, be unreasonably long or resemble any official title and rank.
In honor of the Danish author and poet, we look at the surname ANDERSEN this week.
It is a patronymic surname from the personal name Anders, a vernacular form of Andreas. From the New Testament, the Greek name Andreas derives from andreios, meaning “manly” and aner, meaning, “man” or “male.”
Andreas was the first of Christ’s disciples. Various forms for this personal name throughout Europe are André (France) and Andrea (Italy).
It also gave rise to the northern Middle English name Andrew, which was absorbed in the surname ANDERSON. St. Andrew was also the patron saint of Scotland, making the surname popular in Scotland, under the spelling ANDERSON.
Today we look at DENNIS, in honor of the debut of the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip on March 12, 1951.
DENNIS comes from the medieval personal name Den(n)is (Latin Dionysius, Greek Dionysios’ - follower) in reference to an early Eastern god believed to be the protector of the vine.
St. Denis, the 3rd-century martyred Bishop of Paris, was one of the first mentions. However, the modern popularity of the name in England came in the 12th-century, via a French influence. The first recording of the name was believed to be Walter Denys in 1272. Throughout the centuries, the surname developed with DENNIS being a variant.
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: