Understanding The Meaning of Your American Surname


The development of surnames occurred in the Middle Ages in most of the world. Some places had them slightly earlier, and noble and royal families often had them centuries earlier. Even in ancient times, people were often known by a first name, and then with some other designating name to distinguish them from other people in the community. Distinguishing names included things like physical descriptions of a person, the name of their father or mother, the name of a famous relative or ancestor, their occupation, the area of the community they lived in, or some other identifying feature. However, surnames, as we known them, did not come into common use among the regular people of the world until the Middle Ages in most places.

Your American surname, though it may sound totally American now, has its origins far back in history. In fact, your American surname may be a common surname in another country, just with a slightly different spelling. It was not uncommon for immigrants to the United States in the mid-1800’s to mid-1900’s to “Americanize” their surnames upon arrival in this country, to fit in better with their new community. They would give an Anglicized spelling of their surname to the clerks who entered their names at arrival ports, and this spelling became the name they and subsequent generations of their family used. You may be using one such spelling with your own surname without knowing it...