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:
Choosing a name for a child is certainly not easy.
Some families have names that recur every other generation, passing from grandparent to child.
Others parents choose to use an original name, or one that has a special meaning.
Do you know where your name comes from? Let us know in the poll below:
Recently we posted about interesting birth stories. As a follow-up, we've been thinking about our children's names and how we choose them.
There are several reasons why parents select a particular name for a child. Some choose to name after a deceased relative, or to honor a living person. Some simply like a certain name or its meaning.
Other factors are important when selecting a name. What will the child's initials spell? Would a name result in an embarrassing nickname?
Some countries prohibit using certain names and won't allow the registration of such names. Parents may want to avoid names that might get them in trouble with the law!
Many families use recurring names in each generation, as they name children after those in the previous one. This is very helpful in tracing some families, as an unusual given name can provide clues if the surname is common. Of course, in some families, it can offer another challenge as some given names are used so commonly that researchers may have trouble separating each generation from another.
How did your parents select your first name? Who were you named after? Do you have a story about your name? Share your story in the comments below.
Included are the US Securities Exchange Commission’s definition of a family member (who would have thought the SEC was interested in family history?), the 2011 list of the 100 most popular boys’ and girls’ names, a Canadian “living” village, changes to the Social Security Death Index and more.
Defining the family
For those who think that governments are not interested in genealogy, note that the US Securities Exchange Commission has now defined family members, in connection with a new rule requiring hedge funds to register with the SEC if they manage other people’s money.
Read the definition here:
Choosing a name for your child is often a difficult task.
Some countries like Germany make the task easier by restricting the names you can give your child by law.
If you’re a celebrity the task may be a little harder than most as many feel compelled to come up with genuinely “unique” names.
In the video below – David Mitchell, a regular contributor to The Guardian - gets on his soapbox about children’s names. It’s a witty look at the process of naming your child with some unusual perspectives on the whole topic.
And if you have any tips for naming your child I'd love to hear about them in the comments to this post.
If you’ve hit ‘brick walls’ in family history research you might have noticed it; if you’ve got relatives trying to make a fresh start you might have seen it too. This is, of course, name changing: the process of legally altering your first name, last name, or both, so that your official moniker is something other than what was on your birth certificate.
It’s hard to be precise on this, but it does seem that this practice is becoming increasingly common. Statistics on the topic are hard to find for many countries, but for the UK – where data is available – it looks as though many more people are changing their names than in the past.
For the past few years, name changes via deed poll have increased dramatically in the UK. In 2007, they sat at around 40,000; in 2008, that figure rose to 46,000; in 2009, to 50,000; and in 2010, supposedly, to 90,000.
Well BabyCenter.com has a great list of the most popular baby names of each decade during the 20th century.
I've included links to their list below as well as the top 3 boys and girls names for each decade, but click on the year and you'll be taken through to a longer list of names.
For me the most fascinating thing is, despite how much society has changed, how little the most common names have varied.
I'd be keen to hear how many of you had names that made the list every decade, or had names that didn't feature in one.
We all know that names matter in the extreme. If you’re called Moon Unit Zappa, or Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced ‘Albin’), it will almost certainly have a major impact on how you’re treated as you grow up.