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.
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.
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?
Michael Pugh and Rebecca Griffin, who married nearly three years ago, are an example of this latest trend in the UK called "meshing,” where married couples fuse their surnames.
The couple took part of Michael’s surname “Pu” with part of Rebecca’s surname “Ffin.” Now they are the Puffins.
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:
The writer spoke to Michelle A'a about the pros and cons of being the first person in the phone book.
There was obviously the novelty of being able to tell people you’re the first person in the phone book, but then there was the downside of constant calls from people looking for Alcoholics Anonymous.
This got me thinking. What’s the first surname in other countries around the world?
Do people have trouble saying or spelling it?
If so, you might enjoy this post that appeared earlier this month in the MyHeritage Genealogy Blog.
They look at your name, stammer, and ask "how do you say that?" What do you do?
Do you patiently spell it several times? Will you, as I often do, spell it out as in "D as in David, A as in Apple, R as in Robert".........
Do you break the name down into syllables for the other person? Do you give up and say, "Call me by my first name!"
People look at DARDASHTI and their eyes glaze over. "Is that two Ds and two As?" asks the person on the phone or in a store. I usually break it into three syllables: Dar-dash-ti. For TALALAY, strangers usually put the accent on the wrong syllable, and say Tah-LAY-lee, instead of TAH-lah-lie. To confuse matters, one family branch uses TALALAY in English, but pronounces it Tah-la-lay.
We recently ran a blog post, here on the MyHeritage Blog, about the top ten Australian surnames.
That blogpost got me thinking - would those top ten surnames be the same if we revisited the list in 10 years?
The question kept bothering me so I decided to see if I could answer it. Rather than do the same old research, though, I thought I'd do something a little more fun (and interesting) and see what the top ten Australian surnames on Twitter were.