Question of the Week: What's the strangest surname you've found in your research?

+20 votes
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imageWhat is the strangest surname you have found in your genealogy research?

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
edited by Eowyn Walker
There is Truelove on my husband's tree.  I have also come across Loveless.  The strangest name on my tree is Gyte.
I have found Snodgrass family members.
I used to know an entire family of Snodgrasses. They are very nice people and also accomplished.
It's an interesting name it possibly comes from Snod meaning neat or tidy and then grass possibly from field or medow. Perhaps the Snodgrass family were land owners?  I can't wait to find out about the Snodgrass members of my family. I'm still working on my family tree. Thank you kindly for your comment.
I have found a family member with the first name love also. Very sweet!

78 Answers

+10 votes

The Swedish farmer Cleophas Larsson, who lived in Skå in the end of the 1700s.

Edit: Oops! That's not a surname. I'll be back.

Easy fix, I select his daughter instead laugh 

Eva Sophia.

by Maria Lundholm G2G6 Pilot (140k points)
+11 votes

Well, how about "Konstig" a Swedish soldier name in use through the 18th century. The Google translation comes up with "weird" and "odd" at the first options, which agrees well with the modern Swedish usage.

However, the original meaning was closer to "artful". The father of the first soldier to carry the name was "Konst-Olof", who was responsible for one of those complicated flatrod-systems used for pumping the water out of the mines.

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (442k points)
+14 votes
One of the strangest surnames I have in my family tree is definitely "Fickbaum", partly the name was also written in Low German as "Fickbohm". In english it means something like ******* tree.

According to what I found, the name means: someone who lives by a (mighty) tree.

I know the name so far only from the area of the Duchy of Lauenburg in Schleswig-Holstein.

Here you find the oldest representative of this name in my family:
https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Fickbaum-2
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+12 votes
Death.  Although I realise it's not uncommon and can be seen in different forms (De'ath, etc), I first ever saw the surname whilst researching my tree.
by Ralph Allison G2G4 (4.1k points)
I experienced your reaction when I came across this surname in one of my direct ancestry lines: I did a mental 'double-take'... then I remembered an old college chum from many decades ago whose name was Margarita Lust. And as a child of the 60's her surname was a stereotype of her personality.    
I went to primary school with a Robert Death, pronounced 'Deeth'. Lovely family with an unusual surname.
+12 votes
Lampris. It has Greek roots but I'm learning that my Lampris ancestors are from Germany. I can't find much information about it. If anyone knows any Lampris, has Lampris ancestors or has heard of it, please let me know. Other possible spellings: Lampri, Lampries, Lamprys, Lamprie, Lampres.
by Mel Taveras G2G3 (3.3k points)
+17 votes
The eyebrow raiser in my family is my 2nd great grandfather George Liar, a German Immigrant. After living in the United States for a while the family started using the spelling "Lear", for obvious reasons.
by Alan Kreutzer G2G1 (1.8k points)
To tell the truth, I think "Liar" is a strange name.
+13 votes
Genetically linked to the surname Strange on my paternal side, probably connected to the Giacalone surname from Italy, though I have yet to find a paper trail. Also on my paternal side is a genetic link to the surname Quirk, probably from Ireland.
by Chris McNeil G2G1 (1.1k points)
Yes, Quirke is a fairly common surname in Ireland.  There used to be a 'famous' singer, bass baritone John Shirley-Quirke in England. I remember him in concerts in the 1960s and '70s.
+15 votes

The most amazing one I've found on WikiTree is Devilbliss, which is a variation of DeVilbiss. 

Devilbliss! Brb, going to the courthouse to legally change my surname right now.

by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (210k points)
+11 votes
my maiden name is Isleman , which was made up by great grandfather , he was born a Iceman, his father was born , Eisaman, originally spelling of surname is Eisenman, which is German or Yiddish name, but my oldest known ancestors, were Lutherans , but the only other Isleman's besides my great grandfather's descendants , I found 2 twin brothers were are no relation to me , but are Jewish ,

also on my mother's side , my 5th great grandparents were Abraham Denton lll and Mourning Hogg , Mourning's father was Gideon Hogg,
by Janine Isleman G2G6 Mach 5 (50.6k points)
+20 votes
The Shufflebottom surname is certainly a strange one.
by Roger Stong G2G6 Pilot (263k points)
+13 votes
Picklesimer. I don't have any Picklesimers in my family tree but that one has always struck me as funny/strange (even my father once mentioned that name long ago). No offense to anyone with that name. I always thought my last name was funny/strange as well.
by Mary Leachman G2G6 (8.7k points)
I had a Mr Picklesimer as my HS guidance counselor in the 1980's have never seen it since then.
There are several Pickesimor(e) and Pickleheimer families in Botetourt Co., VA in the 1750s.  Also associated with Stapletons who migrated to Ohio.
I have a Pickleseimer great greats!  Johnson County, Kentucky.
I used to work with a Cathy Picklesimer in Pasadena, Texas.  That was her married name of course.  I think her husband worked for Orkin pest control.
What a fabulous name!
I agree with you. It is.
On behalf of my great greats, Thank you!  Windever Bellman is a pretty cool name too!
When I first read the question, Picklesimer was the first name which popped into my mind so it is quite a coincidence that it is the first response in the thread. I don't have any Picklesimers in my ancestry that I know of. But I used to work in a field which involved keeping a large database of individuals and that, to me, was the most unusual surname I had ever heard.
+12 votes
John Robert PORTWINE b. c1809 Kent, UK, who married       Mary Ann DONISTHORPE b. c1824, Calais, Fr.
by Ellen McDonald G2G2 (2.5k points)
edited by Ellen McDonald
I've just consulted my trusty "The Origin of English Surnames" and they suggest Old French Poitevin 'man from Poitou' normally becomes Poidevin, but has undergone a variety of corruptions: Podevin, Patvine, Potvin, Potwin, PORTWINE, Putwain, Puddifin, Puddifant and Puttifent. Who knew?
+11 votes
There is a Scottish name I have encountered which strikes me as a bit odd - BAIRNSFATHER.
by Ellen McDonald G2G2 (2.5k points)
Yes, that's odd. Can we be sure it isn't Scottish for "father unknown"?
No, if you go to Scotland's People - baptisms between 1700 and 1800 there are dozens of Bairnsfathers.
Sounds like the inverse of the English name Widowson/Widdowson; the original "Bairnsfather" was probably someone left a widower with a half-dozen children...which would've been a salient personal characteristic, in a Scots village back in the 14th century or so when surnames were being established.
I came across a similar issue in my family history research - the purported surname "inconnu", which definitely means "unknown" from the French language. It turned out that both parents were under age and with a little digging, the surnames of both parties were revealed in the English birth records of the 18th century.
Sorry for stating the obvious, but it wasn't listed above: Since Bairn is Scotts Gaelic for child, where I heard it often, but apparently also used in England, where I never heard it, and father is definitely only English, this name must have been an Anglicised version.  What we also don't know is if the 's' is for plural 'children' or possessive 'child's'.  There are only 19 here in WT, with the oldest being the father of Bairnsfather-1, circa 1690.  Ancestry.com tells me there are 1.7 million related entries, which of course would include many duplicates.

Happy hunting!
I just had another quick look at Scotland's People baptisms between 1553 and 1855. There are 209 baptisms for Bairnsfather, the earliest being 1619. Again I consulted my trusty "The Origin of English Surnames" and they state that Bairnsfather is a "Surname of Relationship" (formerly Patronymic).
An elderly great aunt, now deceased, would quote her mother as saying, "Honey Bairn, you can always..."  She was Scottish and could roll her "r's"; honey bairn was a term of endearment.
+12 votes
During the Source-a-thon, the married surname I found for an unsourced female profile was Dumbell.

The source was a divorce record, so I guess this surname did not work out for this bride.
by LG Price G2G6 Mach 3 (39.9k points)
Or, the last name was supplied by the (ex) husband...
+9 votes
Quattlebaum. It is my half-brother and sisters' Greatgrandmothers surname on their fathers' mother's side of the family.
by Donald Moore G2G Crew (810 points)
I was  in  college  with  a  Jeanette  Quatlebaum
Quattlebaum was an old German name for a type of plum tree, used regionally, but not used in current German
+8 votes
Mary and Fanny Guinna, born mid 1700's in central PA.  I cannot find any other people with this name except for a much more recent family buried in Columbus, Ohio.
by Amy Maurer G2G Crew (630 points)
+10 votes
Strangest surname?

Well, STRANGE, of course.

My 2nd great grandfather's middle given name. John Strange Lower.

 I am fairly certain it's a family name and believe there must have been someone with that surname but haven't found them yet.
by Frances Carner G2G2 (2.5k points)
My grandmother was a Strange - it was shortened from Alloway-Strange.
If only his name was Stephen.....

;)
Check out the family in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, with many acres growing hay. It took several trips past the sign “Strange Hay” to realize that was a surname belonging to a hay-growing family.
Good point. I forgot about the surname "Strange". I know I have seen that before.
I just now added my comment at the top of the list. Sometimes I do a Who's on First routine when I meet someone new: "Well, I have a strange last name....."
+7 votes

I found "Bombardier" in Quebec centuries before that would be used as a term for a bomber. 

That still holds the record for strangest name ever. I don't think there was a mistranslation and the name couldn't have been changed at Ellis Island. 

Still a cool last name. I wonder what they'd think of the name's use in today's world....

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (480k points)
That is a strange last name.
Bombardier Recreational Products is a Canadian company known for producing Ski Doo snow mobiles, Sea Doo jet skis, and Can Am ATVs and motorcycles (including a three wheeler).

It was founded, in Quebec, by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier .

BTW it is pronounced Bom-bar-dee-ay
Good to know. Thanks, Janet!
According to the OED, "bombardier", as an English word, dates back to 1560. It referred to an artillery gunner.
+8 votes

Kicklighter is another odd name. I don't have anyone with that name in my family tree, but I knew a girl in school who had that surname. We were quite young at the time, and I thought to myself in my young mind "how do you kick a lighter?" My father told me that the name meant "chicken farmer" and now I wonder how he could have known that, as he was not fluent in German (though he did live there for a few years while serving in the armed forces). I looked it up and "Kückleiter" is the way it's spelled in German. As it turns out, my dad was probably right about the meaning.

by Mary Leachman G2G6 (8.7k points)
+9 votes
The oddest in my family tree is Slaughter. When I mentioned this to my wife she told of her school biology book "Living Things" the author was called Slaughter. The writing on the spine read "Slaughter - Living Things". You couldn't make it up!
by Martin Honor G2G6 Mach 2 (20.8k points)
edited by Martin Honor
There is the present-day author Karin Slaughter who writes crime novels. And that IS her Real family name! : )
There is also a medical physics textbook by Hart and Armes.

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