Column: A Glimpse at the History of Surnames

Between today and Wednesday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin (Lunenburg County)

Title: A Glimpse at the History of Surnames

Snippet: People have worn first names, known as given names, for as long as humans can remember. I feel this came about naturally to identify individuals in a tribe or community group. Regardless of the language—or lack of language—it would have been important to know that human #1 was looking for human #2 instead of human #3 when he wanted to go hunting for supper, or that human #4 was lost and a search party was needed to find him.

When populations were small, given names were all that was necessary to distinguish individuals from one another. If two or more people in the same settlement happened to share a name, a description might have been added such as Little Tilly or Red Beard Jos.

When Earth’s population began to grow, those descriptive names became more common and took on different forms in different cultures. Eventually they transformed into surnames, also known as last names and family names. This was the most accurate, but not perfect, way to identify family groups and relatives.

. . . To read more, pick up one of the above noted newspapers.


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