Question of the Week: What do you know about the origins of your surname?

+13 votes
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What do you know about the origins of your surname(s)?

Fun fact: According to Wikipedia the most common surnames in the world are  Lee( Li), Zhang, Wang, Chang, Nguyen, Garcia, Gonzalez, Hernandez, Smith, Smirnov and Muller.

P.S. If you go to "Surnames" under your MyWikiTree drop down menu you can find a lot of different links to help you explore your surnames on WikiTree. 

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asked in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
reshown by Eowyn Langholf

26 Answers

+9 votes
Eowyn:  My last name is Morgan,My family is from Wales.The Morgan

name is verified way back.around 1200.
answered by Wayne Morgan G2G6 Pilot (754k points)
Morgan means "By the sea" my cousin.
+9 votes

Well, there's a whole Weddington Name Study that describes some of it.

Short answer: It's (nominally) English as there is a town in England called that.

However, my branch is likely (but unproven) German that probably anglicized their name to fit in, as many did.

answered by Eric Weddington G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
+11 votes

If you go by my bio name of McCombs, it is Irish/Scots. I am not sure about this line. My father said he was adopted as a child. This is a complicated situation. My family search DNA test only shows 18% DNA match to the British Islands.

If you go by my adopted name of Keener. Is is German, Kuhner. My uncle tried to research the name from and English standpoint and was not able to get more then 5 or 6 generations back. He gave me a copy of the tree he made and I traced the name back to Casper Kuhner from Germany.

Now my mom's surname is Geiselman. That is German. We have traced it back to a small section of Southern Germany. Further research shows a city state of Silecia (may have spelled this wrong).

answered by Chris McCombs G2G6 Mach 2 (23.2k points)
if your adopted name (Keener) was transcribed to English the way it was, I suspect it is originally written Kühner (u with the two points on it) and not with the normal u. Maybe you'd find more if you look for the Kühners with the points.
That is correct. Thing is I don't have have that on my keyboard.
Internationally the letters with the points (ä, ö and ü) are transcribed with ae, oe and ue respectively
I have gone back as far as I can with the Kuhner and Geiselman names. In order for me to go back further I have to pay to see the information. I live in the USA and all further information is in Germany.
+10 votes
Used to be Schaffer before it morphed into Jungschaffer during the early 18th century when the villagers had to make a distinction between branches which became Altschaffer and Jungschaffer. A Schaffer used to be the person running an estate or a bailiff in a village belonging to a dominion in Southern German speaking areas, what was called a Meyer in other German speaking lands.
answered by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (434k points)

Very interesting, Helmut. I have Shaffer in my family, which was derived from Schaffer, which can be traced back to Jacob Shaffer who arrived in America in 1748.

Eric, I noticed the different spellings on the profile you mentioned which raises an issue particular to the Anglicization of this German name: both Schäfer (shepherd) and Schaffer (bailiff) ended up the same in the US making it harder to find the German ancestry of these immigrants.
+8 votes
I love this question! Maiden name: Batman, my line can be traced back to Bitton, Gloucester, England to around 1600. (So in 400 years we've travelled less than 200 miles, less than 1/2 a mile per year on average!!). The name likely comes from around the time of the Norman conquest and is associated with St Bartholomew, shortened to Bart... Became Batt, became Battman (or servant of Batt) so believed to be anglo-saxon in origin.

Every time I find a new ancestor its my favorite thing to do, look up the possible origins of their birth name! Its fascinating stuff! I've not done my DNA yet but most surnames in my family seem to be Anglo-saxon in origin, or Celtic on my Cornish and Welsh lines.
answered by Lizzie Griffiths G2G6 Mach 5 (56.5k points)
+11 votes
What an interesting question! Especially for a geographer.

Light skinned (Whiting) from a headland (Cornish) by a patch of sandy soil (Sands) near a fortress on a hill (Burk) near a sandy ford over some water (Sanford) near a clearing in woodland (Reed) somewhere near Salisbury (Salisbury) married to a warrior (Knight)
answered by Kay Sands G2G6 Pilot (153k points)
Sounds like a treasure hunt :)
+8 votes
I have recently found (speculation, Ancestry's Pedigree data) that back in the 16th century the Bredehoft name morphed from Hövet to Bredehöft. This was done by adding the Brede (Brede in Neiderlandish is "Broad") to Hövet. Of course there's no data on this, it's all my speculation. Note the umlout o, this would be pronounced almost like er, without the sharpness of the r. And the v would be pronounced as the English f. Written in English it might have been Hoefet or Hoeft. Recent hunting has come up with the "translation" of Bredehöft to be derived from "wide head." Any Dumkopf knows, though, that head is Kopf, not Hoeft. Höeft in German doesn't translate to anything in English, however, not a German word..... Well, what is it then?. Bouncing around the languages of the North Sea, we come up with Swedish, Höeft means "court."

 The family tradition of the meaning was from a conversation my father had with a German speaking passenger on a railroad trip, On hearing the name he became excited, said something to the effect "That means a countryman's courtyard." Well, Hof does translates to court. I'm becoming convinced that Hövet became Höft and that was Swedish to begin with, an immigrant from Sweden started the whole thing.
answered by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (183k points)
I'm dutch and in Dutch the word Hove or Hoeve means Farm, quite a posh one.

The word Hoofd means Head.

Brede translates as Wide.
and in German there is the word "Gehöft" which is a farm with the belonging farm buildings and housing buildings
And in Danish Hove is HOF,
that means the people in service for the royal family.
But too the place they had to stay, the houses or buildings,
where they live.

Also we have the surname in Denmark: Hoff.
+8 votes
Thompson = Tom's son

A simple name - and very boring IMO

Which is why I married a Frenchman - their names are so much better!!

Have no idea what Lozier or Lausier (the original spelling) means.
answered by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (380k points)
+10 votes
Well, the name McCallum is Scottish/Irish and would mean son of Callum. The name goes back further and, according to clan information, means "follower of Columba".  Supposedly some of his followers settled in Loch Crinan (Argyll) and took the name. Iona isn't all that far from Loch Crinan.  The Chief of Clan Malcolm lives in a castle overlooking the Loch.

For my own line, my earliest ancestor appears in New Brunswick about the time of the American Revolution and may have been from northern Ireland. My Y DNA test matches with the O'Neills and not with other McCallum lines.  When the O'Neill line became McCallum appears to be before the mid-1700s.
answered by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
+9 votes
The surname Akins comes from the English/Scottish form of Aiken which was derived from the Old Norse name Haakon.  Haakon is the Norse name for the name Hakon from Denmark and Sweden.  

Aiken/Eakin became variant forms for families emigrating from Scotland/England to the Ulster Plantation in Ireland in the 1700's.  

The first Akin/Eakin/Aiken.Aekin to emigrate to America in my family arrived in Warwick, Virginian Colony in 1645.  

This is very basic and overly simplified as I have just started researching the details of emigrants with similar last names from Scotland/Ireland.
answered by Janet Akins G2G5 (5.5k points)
+9 votes
Well my paternal side both Rish which is my surname and Boatner are supposedly German although no records have been found since they came to American during the Palantine Migration. Some have thought that they both may have been Dutch.

My maternal side is Greer and Dyess. Greer is from Grier/Grierson/MacGregor of the Grierson Clan in Scotland. Dyess we thing is Scotish or Irish, but no proof has been found.

My married name is Musco originally Mosca from Italy. It means pest, fly, annoyance. Lol I couldn't agree more.

Needless to say it seems my paternal family is German/European and my maternal side is mostly Irish and Scotish

My husbands family is Italian, French and Canary Islander
answered by Misty Musco G2G6 Mach 1 (18.3k points)
+9 votes
Lockwood is of Norse origin meaning dense woods.
answered by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
+8 votes

My surname, originally spelled de la Voye, is generally understood to mean someone who lived by the road.  Although the name is quite common in Québec (8th in popularity, the last time it was tabulated), it is actually very uncommon in France.

Two Lavoie families founded the population in Québec, with Pierre coming from La Rochelle and René (my paternal ancestor) coming from Rouen.  The former had many descendants, though most came from his daughters and so his overall surname contribution is quite modest.  It seems that most surname bearers are descendants of René.

answered by Greg Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (125k points)
edited by Greg Lavoie

Those interested in learning more about surname distribution in Québec may find this link to Institut de la statistique Québec helpful.  The annexes include geographic distribution maps of many common surnames, including Lavoie.

+7 votes

The origin of my surname Woodhouse, is said to have evolved from Anglo-Saxon. More likely name acquires from the Olde English before 7th Century word “wudu,” which means wood, and the word “hus,” which means house. So, the whole meaning is “house of the wood or forest.” It may also be of geographical origin, meaning a “resident in the house near the forest”.

The surname was possibly first listed at the end of 12th Century, as Richard del Wodehus coming in the 1275 Hundred Rolls of Suffolk, England

answered by R W G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
+7 votes

Jewett Name Meaning

English: from the Middle English personal name Juwet, Jowet (feminine Juwette, Jowette). These originated as pet forms (with the Anglo-Norman French suffix -et(te)) of Juwe, Jowe, variants of Jull, a short form of Julian, which were borne by both men and women.

answered by Bob Jewett G2G Astronaut (1m points)
+7 votes
The Hughey One Name Study Page has two origins of the Hughey name.  The Irish name there might be related to the coat of arms displayed there as coats of arms were related to specific persons, not families.  That name was not originally Hughey though.

The other family tie in was creation of the Hughey (Huie) family name in Scotland from the Brythonic word for "fire."  According to legend, the name was chosen by the four surviving sons of the assassinated king of Mercia.They had fled to Scotland and lived in exile there.

There are other Hughey lines as well.  Some Hughey's ha ve neither Irish nor Scotish ancestors, but only German.
answered by David Hughey G2G6 Pilot (202k points)
+8 votes
My last name is MOSSON. I haven't been able to find out any difinitive origin of the name. The closest is a guess that its a derivation of MASON, and seeing as for generations back, they were stone masons, its the one that makes the most sense to me!
answered by Linda Hockley G2G4 (4.1k points)
+8 votes

The origin of my surname is somewhat speculative.  There are four clans that claim MacBeath as a sept of their clan:  Clan M(a)cBean/M(a)cBain/M(a)cBayne, Clan M(a)cBeth, Clan M(a)cLean, and Clan (M(a)c)Donald.

The original spelling is thought to be some version of M(a)cB(h)eathan--coming from the Gaelic for son of the lively one.

Some believe the MacBeath surname came from MacBeth as in King MacBeth.

We do not have our own tartan so must chose one of the clans mentioned above to side with. My family has always worn the MacBeth tartan.

answered by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (512k points)
+5 votes
Gunn is a Scottish clan, of Norse origin.  The  name, which was spelled Gun until firearms became common. is said to come from the Norse personal name Guni, but this is not confirmed.

My mother's name was Pilcher. It is said to mean "maker of Pilches", which are an obsolete kind of hat.
answered by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 5 (53.3k points)
+5 votes
LNAB - Voorhees, earlier - Van Voorhees.

My Dad traveled to The Netherlands and found the sign for Hees, where the original immigrant once lived. At least that is the story we always heard.

Married name Adams........boring, except our John Adams arrived on the Fortune, just after the Mayflower.
answered by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (132k points)

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