When it comes to your name, most people are typically interested in the meaning of their first name. If you have a traditional name, there is usually a meaning for it that can be traced back to the name’s origin. Some parents even use the meaning of the name to determine what their child’s name will be. If you have an unusual first name, the meaning is usually something that your parents have created, such as the reason why you were given that name.

But when it comes to the meaning of names, your first name is not the only one that is considered special. Your surname also has a special meaning, and learning the meaning of your surname can help you to determine information about your ancestry and heritage.

Where did surnames come from?

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when surnames were given and where the process started, but it’s been found that Ireland may have been the first country to provide surnames to their people.

Other countries provided surnames to their people based on certain needs. For example, it’s been found that Emperor Fu Xi started the use of surnames in China as a way to calculate the country’s census. In England and in France, surnames were only given to those individuals who were considered royalty, and eventually the use of surnames started to spread to common folk.

What is the purpose of surnames?

It’s been proven that surnames were given for the sole purpose of identifying individuals. For example, if certain populations started to grow and individuals in that community shared the same first name, surnames were usually given to describe the specific individual.

Most surnames were typically given as a way to describe the individual’s profession. This includes surnames such as Baker, Miller, Farmer and Blacksmith. Other surnames could have been given based on a person’s location, their personality traits or their family. For example, the last name Goodman typically was used to describe someone who was a good man. Last names such as Johnson were given to describe John’s son.

How can I find out the meaning of my surname?

There are plenty of websites that can help you determine the meaning of your surname, including Search for Ancestors. However, it’s important to remember that these databases may not provide you with the most accurate history.

Because the use of surnames started at different times in different countries and for different reasons, it’s often hard to trace back a name to its initial meaning, especially if the name is not considered common. Plus, in the Middle Ages, if a common man married a woman of a higher status, the man would often take the name of the wife instead of vice versa.

The meaning of surnames is also hard to determine because they’re not used consistently around the world. For example, while western countries tend to use family names (surnames) as the last name, other countries typically use surnames as the first name. Depending on your family’s history, your surname may have changed over the years.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brown is a freelance writer who enjoys blogging about genealogies and the history of surnames.