2    Oct 20148 comments

Surname Secrets: What’s in a name?

A surname passes through many generations connecting family members with that common surname. Many people are also named after deceased relatives to honor those who came before.

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.

Women brewsters in the early 1900s in Seattle. Image credit: THE SEATTLE TIMES ARCHIVE

We recently wrote about jobs that no longer exist, and it was common for our ancestors to have surnames based on their occupation such as Cook, Carpenter or Smith. By looking at their surnames, it often leads us to learn more about our relatives’ lives. Yet there are many occupational surnames with hidden meanings. Here are a few of our favorites: Continue reading "Surname Secrets: What’s in a name?" »

16    Apr 20135 comments

Surname of the Week: KELLY

This week marks the anniversary of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier’s wedding on April 18, 1956. In honor of the couple, we'ill look at the surname KELLY and discover its origins.

KELLY is of Irish origin, and is the second most common name in Ireland, and the 69th most popular name in the United States. There are various origins.

It is an Anglicized form of the patronymic Gaelic name O’Ceallaigh, meaning "descendant of Ceallach," from the Gaelic prefix “O” meaning "descendant of" and the ancient Irish personal name, Ceallach .

Originally a byname meaning ‘"right-headed," it was later understood as "frequenting churches" from the Irish ceall. Several early Irish saints bore the name.

It may also be of English origin, from a place in Devonshire recorded as “Kelli” in the 1194 Pipe Rolls. It may also be of Scottish origin, from the lands of Kelly near Arbroath, Angus.

Along with the different Irish, English or Scottish origins, there are also variant spellings that include KELLEY, KELLIE, O’KELLY, O’KELLEY and KELLI. Continue reading "Surname of the Week: KELLY" »

4    Apr 20130 comments

Surname of the week: ANDERSEN

On April 2, we celebrated Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday and International Children’s Book Day.

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.

Continue reading "Surname of the week: ANDERSEN" »

29    Mar 20133 comments

Surname of the week: MURPHY

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day (two weeks ago), we look at Irish heritage for this week's surname, MURPHY, considered the most common surname in Ireland.

Murphy is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Murchadha (descendant of Murchadh’), a personal name composed of muir (sea) + cath (battle or sea-warrior).

Traditionally, Irish surnames are taken from the leaders of tribes or famous warriors, and Murphy may be an example of this from pre-9th-century Ireland, then under Viking rule.

Continue reading "Surname of the week: MURPHY" »

13    Mar 20131 comment

Surname of the Week: Dennis

Welcome back to our weekly edition of the history of English surnames.

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.

Continue reading "Surname of the Week: Dennis" »

6    Mar 20130 comments

Surname of the Week: Churchill

Welcome back to our weekly edition of the history of English surnames.

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.

Continue reading "Surname of the Week: Churchill" »

27    Feb 20133 comments

New section: Surname of the week

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:

Continue reading "New section: Surname of the week" »

30    Jan 20110 comments

The United States of Surnames

Surname distribution in the US (Credit: National Geographic) - use the links below to view the full-size original

A new interactive map, released by National Geographic, shows the distribution of common surnames across the United States – and where those names came on.

Geographers at University College London compiled the data with phone directories, finding the most common surname in each region and then tracing them on the map. British names, displayed in light blue, are by far the most common, although many others can be seen too.

Is your surname in there somewhere? You can view the full interactive map here.

16    Aug 20102 comments

User Story: Irakli Murtskhvaladze uncovers a plethora of family members

For many of us, researching our family history can be a long and slow process. Not so for Irakli Murtskhvaladze, who has uncovered 200 relatives in a short space of time!

Irakli lives in Tbilisi, Georgia and is CEO of TBC TV, a leading television studio in Georgia. Situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Georgia is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, Turkey and Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the East.

Georgia has a population of approximately 5 million people, with 1.2 million living in Tbilisi, the capital. Although Irakli was born and lives in Tbilisi, his family name comes from the Western part of Georgia – Lechkhumi.

Irakli said that it was thanks to MyHeritage.com that he discovered that one of his friends and colleagues was a relative! Continue reading "User Story: Irakli Murtskhvaladze uncovers a plethora of family members" »

5    Aug 20100 comments

The Name Game

According to legends, China first initiated the custom of using surnames during the reign of Emperor Fu Xi (2852BC).

Emperor Fu Xi is said to have invented 100 Chinese family names and declared that marriages could only take place between persons bearing different family names.

The use of surnames didn't begin in the European world until about the eleventh century, with some patronymic surnames in Scandinavia bestowed as late as the nineteenth century. Surnames, for the most part, evolved during the past eight hundred years to help distinguish one person from another as the world's population grew.

The search for ancestors can be quite an adventure and very addictive!  With all the resources now available via the Internet, millions of people spend all hours of the day and night in hot pursuit, following the smallest leads.  One thing that can drive us all crazy though are the challenges associated with name changes.  These can range from variations in spelling, mispronunciation, additions, deletions, modifications, translations, nicknames, shortforms and just basic legal name changes!

Continue reading "The Name Game" »

About us  |  Privacy  |  Tell a friend  |  Support  |  Site map
Copyright © 2014 MyHeritage Ltd., All rights reserved