Find the meaning of a persons name

One of the best reference works to consult for a surname origin is The Dictionary of American Family Names , also available via Oxford Reference online. The Dictionary of American Family Names contains more than 70, of the most commonly occurring surnames in the United States, giving their comparative frequencies, linguistic and historical explanations, selected associated forenames, and occasional genealogical notes.

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The product of a ten-year research project gathering the contributions of thirty linguistic consultants led by Editor in Chief Patrick Hanks, it explains the meanings—some intuitive, some amusing, and some quite surprising—of the family names for more than 90 percent of the U. Other surname dictionaries are generally specific to the country of origin or dominant culture. Some of the most popularly requested reference works include:.

In general, landowners tended to take the names of their estates long before working and peasant classes adopted surname usage. In China, surnames amongst nobility date back to circa BCE. In Spain, surnames amongst landowning aristocrats date back to the 10th century.

In the United Kingdom, English surnames date back to the 14th century, yet Wales and the Shetland Islands did not use surnames consistently until the 19th century. In Iceland, surnames are not hereditary , and a child is named after their parent, usually the father, with the suffix -son or -dottir. To understand the origins of a surname, you will need to investigate the distinct history of family names in that culture Bockstruck.

Surnames can also originate independently in different cultures. Lee alternate spelling Li is a popular surname in China, Korea and English speaking countries, having arisen independently in China and England and spreading outward from those places. William Shakespeare signed his name with at least three different spellings Davis. Essentially, corruption of speech, regional accents, translation, and conscientious name changes cause evolution over time.

Some of these are predictable, reflecting differences of pronunciation between one region and another, or between one century and another, others are the result of ignorance, misunderstanding or even deliberate remotivation. An illiterate or semi-literate person may have had no say on how their name was written on documents.


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In addition, spelling was more negotiable in the past and the same name spelled in a variety of ways would have still been considered to be the same name. Another common spelling morph occurs when a non-English name retains its pronunciation in another language, but the spelling is adapted to English phonetics. Bockstruck also recounts this tale of surname morphing involving sound-alikes and translation:.

In addition to descendants who appeared under that name, direct male line descendants also appeared as Cline, Short, Small, and Little, all of which were English equivalents. Newcomers to genealogy research can be fixated on the spelling of names, often dismissing a spelling error to mean that the family found in a document was not the correct one for whom they were searching.

This is roughly equivalent to refusing the drink you already paid for at a coffee shop because the barista misspelled your name on the cup.

For many, translating a name from one language to another is not the same as changing a name since the meaning of the words remains intact. At the time of his arrival in the British colonies he bore the name of Gotlieb Schneider. He eventually translated both his forename and surname into English and became Theophilus Taylor. Making that discovery ought to have allowed a genealogical researcher to bridge the Atlantic Ocean and to locate his baptismal entry in his village of origin in Germany.

The entry in the parish register, however, was actually in Latin, and his name appeared as Amadeus Sartor.

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Bockstruck cites another language name morph in the case of a Scotsman named Ian Ferguson. Ferguson moved to an area of the colony of New York settled by Palatine Germans and amongst those German speakers was known as Johann Feuerstein. Many years later he moved on to Philadelphia and his name was rendered in English as John Flint.

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When moving on to Texas some years later, the name was translated from Fusil to Gunn. In three short generations the surname had morphed four times to fit into the colloquial language of the area where the person was living. This practice is not entirely over.


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Likewise, if you read an American newspaper about a visit from a foreign diplomat of a country that uses a non-Roman alphabet, you will see their names rendered into the Roman alphabet instead of being printed in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Japanese, or Arabic, etc. Although this process is somewhat more standardized now than it has been in the past, you will still find variations in translations.

Some members of this family use the surname Binladen on western paperwork.

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One-Name Studies are the research on all individuals with one particular surname and usually its variant spellings. One-Name studies are not limited to those who are related to each other, and include all individuals with the same name in the past or present, though there are some studies to that limited the study to certain geographic boundaries such as a country or county. Indeed, surname maps can be useful for genealogy research.

The ultimate goal of most one-name studies is to identify the origin of a name, particularly locative-based surnames. The Guild of One-Name Studies , active mostly in in the United Kingdom, is an organization of many of these one-name societies and researchers. Although there is a formal legal procedure to the process, usually anyone can change their name for any reason in the United States.

The process is different in each jurisdiction, but in general, if a person files the correct paperwork in the correct court of law, the name change will be granted. This process is simplified in most states for those who change their name after marriage. According to LegalZoom , common reasons for name changes currently are. Few are denied requests for name changes, though you cannot legally change your name to avoid debts or prosecution, or with the intent of defrauding someone. This has generally been true throughout United States history, and there is a likelihood that you may encounter a relative that has changed his or her name when doing genealogical research.

However, the name was not changed at Ellis Island , but a person may have elected to change their name during the naturalization process. Current applications for naturalization still allow for name changes as part of the process. Some name changes are to avoid certain associations. For example, to bypass infamy of others with the same family name: there are few people with the surname Hitler. Other name changes are related to colloquial terms, perceptions of crudeness, and slang. Submitted by Sherri not verified on June 1, - pm.

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