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Creativity Required: Surname Spellings & Variations

 
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iminhokis
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 PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2004 10:38 am    Post subject: Creativity Required: Surname Spellings & Variations Reply with quote Back to top

Creativity Required: Surname Spellings & Variations

geneaology.about.com
June 22 2004

When we think of tracing our family tree, we often envision following
our surname back thousands of years to the first bearer of the name.
In our neat and tidy dream, each successive generation bears the same
surname - spelled exactly the same way in each and every record -
until we reach the dawn of man.

The dream comes to an end, however, when confronted with the
cold hard facts of genealogy research. For the majority of human
existence surnames were not even used. According to legends, China
first initiated the custom of using surnames during the reign of
Emperor Fu Xi (2852BC), but their use didn't begin in the European
world until about the eleventh century, with some patronymic surnames
in Scandinavia bestowed as late as the nineteenth century. Surnames,
for the most part, evolved during the past eight hundred years to help
distinguish one person from another as the world's population grew.
The acquisition of surnames has been influenced by many factors,
including social class, naming practices and patterns, and even
unusual events.

Even tracing your ancestors back to the point where they first
acquired surnames can be a challenge as surname spelling and
pronunciation has evolved over centuries, making it unlikely that
your present surname is the same as the original surname bestowed
on your distant ancestor. You may have a slight spelling variation
of the original name, an anglicized version, or even a completely
different surname. This may have occurred for such reasons as:

Illiteracy - the further back you go in your research, the more
you will find cases of ancestors who couldn't read and write. Many
didn't even know how their own names were spelled, only how to
pronounce them. Therefore, when they gave their names to clerks,
census enumerators, clergymen, or other officials, that person wrote
the name the way that it sounded to him. Even if they did have the
spelling memorized, the person recording the information may not have
asked. Example: the German HEYER has become HYER, HIER, HIRE, HIRES,
HIERS, etc.

Simplification - Immigrants, upon arrival in a new country, often
found that their name was difficult for others to spell or pronounce.
Therefore, they often simplified the spelling or altered their names
to relate them more closely to the language and pronunciations of
their new country. Example: the German ALBRECHT becomes ALBRIGHT,
or the Swedish JONSSON becomes JOHNSON

Necessity - Those from countries with alphabets other than Latin had
to transliterate them, producing many variations on the same name.
Example: the Ukranian surname ZHADKOWSKYI became ZADKOWSKI

Mispronunciation - Letters within a surname were often confused due to
verbal miscommunication or heavy accents. Example: depending upon the
accents of both the person speaking the name and the person writing
it down, KROEBER could become GROVER or CROWER

Desire to Fit In - Many foreigners changed their names in some way to
assimilate into their new country and culture. The most usual change
of surname was to translate the meaning of their surname into the
new language. Example: the Irish BREHONY became JUDGE

Desire to Break with the Past - Immigration was sometimes prompted in
one way or another by a desire to break with or escape the past. For
some immigrants this included ridding themselves of anything, including
their name, which reminded them of an unhappy life in the old country.
Example: Mexicans fleeing to America to escape the revolution

Dislike of Surname - People forced by governments to adopt surnames
which were not a part of their culture or were not of their choosing
would often shed themselves of such names at th
e first opportunity.
Example: Armenians forced by the Turkish government to give up their
traditional surnames and adopt new "Turkish" surnames would revert back
to their original surnames, or some variation, upon emigration/escape
from Turkey

Fear of Discrimination - Surname changes and modifications can
sometimes be attributed to a desire to conceal nationality or
religious orientation in fear of reprisal or discrimination. This
motive constantly appears among the Jews, who often faced
anti-Semitism. Example: the Jewish surname COHEN changed to COHN/KAHN
or WOLFSHEIMER shortened to WOLF
 
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