Origin of family Names

Many old words are now obsolete or have obsolete meanings. For many years, the spelling of names depended on the discretion of the writer. The same name might be spelled in different ways in the same document Some names appear to come from English words, but they are from another language. Foreign names are often altered into more familiar words. The Dutch Roggenfelder (dweller in or near a rye field) became the American Rockefeller. Family names have come down to us in a variety of ways. They may have developed from a person's sur-roundings or job, or from the name of an ancestor.

Place Names

Place names came from a person's place of residence. For example, if a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, he might be Mr. Maki, if from Finland; Mr. Dumont or Mr. Depew in France; Mr. Zola in Italy; Mr. Jurek in Poland; or Mr. Hill in England. In England, people might be known as Wood, Hill, Forrest, Dale, Lake, Brook, Stone, or Ford because of their location. During the Middle Ages, few people could read. Signboards often exhibited the picture of an animal or object to designate a shop or inn. A person working or living at the place might be called Bell, Star or Swan. A person might also be named after the town he or she came from, such as Middleton or Kronenberg. Many English place names may be recognized by the endings -ham, -thorp, -ton, -wic, and -worth, meaning a homestead or dwelling.


Family names also come from a person's job. Names like Baker Carpenter, Clarke (the British pronunciation of clerk), Cook, Miller and Taylor are quite common, also Brewer and Mason. The most common surname in English is Smith. It is also common in many other countries. It takes the form of Schmidt in Germany, Lefevre in France, Ferraro in Italy, and Kuznetzvo in the Soviet Union.

Ancestor's name

Many people took surnames from their fathe(s given name. Practically every language has a suffix or prefix meaning 'son of.' Some names that include the term 'son of include Irish names beginning with O', German names ending in -sohn or -son, and Scandinavian names ending in -sen or -son. Those describing the bearer of the name as the son ofjohn include Johnson andjackson in England;johns and Jones in Wales; Jensen, Jansen, and Hansen in Denmark; jonsson and Johanson in Sweden; janowicz in Poland; Ivanov in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria; lanosfi in Hungary; and MacEoin in Ireland. Less common names indicating relationships include Brothers, Eames (uncle), and Watmought (Wafs brother-in-law). Robert, the small. Gross and Groth come from the German, and indicate a fat or large person. Names like geid, Reed, and Readare early spellings of 'red' and refer to a man with red hair.

Other family names

may have more than one origin. For example, the common English surname Bell may designate one who lived or worked at the sign of the bell, or it may refer to the bellmaker or beliringer. It may also indicate the descendant of Bel or pet form Of /sabel or it may be a nickname for the handsome one, from the Old French word bel or beautiful.


Carter is an English Occupational name for the transporter of goods by cart or wagon from Anglo-Norman French caretier, a derivative of Old French caret which originally implied 'carrier.' Occasionally it is a form of McArthur . Variants include Charter and cognates include Carreter, Carretier, Cartier, Charretier, Chartier, Chareter, Charater, Carratier, Carratie and Carretero .