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Genealogy Can Be Fun: 2 Family Names
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In part 1 we described how to get started in genealogy. Now let's look at family names. Family names often have simple origins. Johnson means John's son. Fox may refer to a person who was sly or clever. Redd or White are colors. An originator my have had red hair. Maybe White was a pale fellow. Stout is a strong fellow. How about Manly?

Names often come from vocations. Do you know a person named Farmer, Smith (black smith), Shoemaker, Carpenter, Hammer, Cooper (barrel maker), Baker, Cook, Porter, Potter, Herald or Lackey (servant)?

Names can also come from a place or locality. The place may be the name of a town or an areas such as a grove of trees. Names like Meadow, Glen or Glenn, Dale or Dell, Elm, Oak, Pine, KirkPatrick (church), Ashley, Grass, Wood, Pickle (my neighbor), Robin, Bird, Wolf, etc., may refer to an area of interest. How about London, Paris, Roman (Ruth was on the Andre Doria) and Scarborough?

Sometimes the name itself will lead you to genealogical sources. Some names are common to one or more countries. Abigail is a first name common in Germany and England. Well, my granddaughter has that name and she is of both English and German decent. Some first names like Alexander or Albert can come from a number of countries but if you have an English name like Jones, Thomas or Smith, you probably won't be looking for ancestors in Italy.

Names and locations can lead you to public records. Do you remember in the Bible that it says that Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be taxed. That was Joseph's place of origin so he had to return there. He probably would have not bothered if there was not both a law and a record of his existence. Such records are long lost but more recent records are in existence. Surnames themselves were not used in Europe until relatively recent times. People went by their first names but we know of Simon surname Peter back in the time of Jesus Christ. Simon Barjona means Simon son of Jonah or son of John.

Knowing something of a foreign language can help understand the meaning of names. A Chinese researcher would already know that Bai means White in Mandarin and that Chu in Chinese is Scarlet-red, a names by Chinese Kings. Du means Pear Tree and Guo means Town Wall. Surnames were used in China long before Europe.

A Rose is still a rose by any other name. But a name can lead you to genealogy resources to be covered in the next article.

Fly Old Glory!


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