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

+12 votes
What's the strangest surname you've found in your research?
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
reshown by Eowyn Walker
Thans for this question Eowyn; I was wondering how I could ask the question about the Turk surname in my family and this seems the perfect venue.

My mother's surname was Fludgate. That always was interesting to me as a child for I knew no one else by that surname who was not closely related to me. 

Older, but perhaps not wiser, I became a genealogist and searcher of dead rellies. A Fludgate cousin and I worked together, on tracking people by that surname. 

We now believe that everyone surnamed Fludgate and associated similar spellings is related and descended from the man we believe was its original bearer, one Roger atte Fludgate. He was a 14th century Oxfordshire man who operated, yes, a floodgate on the Thames on land owned by the University of Oxford. 

Fludgates, Floodgates, Fladgates and Flaggetts now live in most English-speaking countries, notably, UK, US, Ireland, Canada and Australia. Most of them are now included on my family tree. 

I well remember the mix of amusement, delight and curioisty I experienced when I discovered that one of my great grandmothers was christened Harriet Spinage!

31 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer

Here's a weird one for trivia night: Buzz Aldrin (of Apollo 11 lunar fame) mother's maiden name is Moon.

by Rob Neff G2G6 Mach 5 (59.0k points)
selected ago by Matt Wells
+15 votes

My 4th g-grandmother was Anne Yelf b 25 Dec 1745 in Damerham, Wiltshire, England. She married William Flemington on the 26th of March 1769 in Edmondsham, Dorset, England.  

In Social Historian Michael Wood's "The Story of England" on PBS he follows the history of the villages of Kibworth Leicestershire, from their ancient Iron Age roots to the modern-day. 

In the segment during which he discusses the Viking invasion, he makes specific reference to the name Eilffe/Illiffe, and says it was originally brought to England with the Vikings as the Viking name "Iyolfe" (wolf), and in Kibworth can be traced back 15 generations. 

The "Parish Registers of Broad Chalke Co Wilts, from 1538 to 1780" printed in 1881, Edited by the Rev Cecil Gulden Moore. M.A. Vicar. In his lengthy preface, Rev Moore explains that he copied the information from vellum sheets, unbound papers, some bound books, and a hodge-podge of records. 

Moore talks about some of the names, this one in particular: "In the Baptismal Register for 1540, there appears the name of John Yellow. Yelow; in the Marriage Register for 1609, Christopher Eilfe marries Jane Randoll. In the Baptisms for 1611, there is the following entry: Jane Eilffe d. Christopher Eilffe, but in the original manuscript the name Yellow is first written, in each case, and then struck through and Eilffe written above. In 1615, 1619, and 1622 this same Christopher has his surname spelt in three different ways, 1st, Yekes; 2nd, Yellowes; and 3rd, Yelf. There must have been something very peculiar in the common pronunciation of this name which could render possible such different versions of it in writing."

In later records, the name is recorded as Yealf, Ayliff, and Iliffe. But it came to England with a Scandinavian warrior who came as an invader in the 10th Century, got as far as the village of  Kibworth Leicestershire, cast away his sword, took up with an Anglo-Saxon girl and became a farmer.   

by Deb Cavel G2G6 Mach 1 (13.4k points)
+9 votes
Lint tops my strangest surname. My ancestors got it from a misspelling of Lent. One branch spelled it Lynt. I have to spell it out every time or say, "You know, dryer lint, belly button lint", because no one spells it right.
by Elizabeth x G2G6 Mach 2 (22.3k points)
+9 votes
The rarest name on my watchlist is Labahn. It sounds good and looks good, but is unusual and the origin is not known.

Other names sounded strange to me when I first discovered them, but they are much more frequent: Wrage, Titus, Dingman, Ladwig.

So strangeness must be subjective, it must depend on where you lived, and the names of the people you have known.
by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 8 (81.3k points)
I would guess Labahn to be a form of the Biblical name Laban (the father of Rachel and Leah).
A biblical name. That sounds plausible. By the way I see you are one of only two Palotay's on WikiTree. :)
My grandfather Hungarianized to Palotay in 1936, so I have very few dead relatives with this name, and I don't enter the living on WT. (I haven't entered my uncle, because I don't have a single source to cite for him beyond "so-and-so said so".) It's not an unusual name in Hungary. (It just means "of/from the palace".)
+10 votes
I have a line of ancestors with the surname Skägg - which means "beard".
by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (401k points)

Szakál "beard" was one of the locally-dead-common names in the Hungarian Protestant villages of the Csallóköz (the region between the branches of the Danube downstream from Pozsony/Bratislava and upstream from Budapest).

+17 votes
Well, the most literal answer has to be the surname "Strange".  It's not in my line, but I've done G2G searches with that word, and it picks up posts on the surname.

On my watchlist are names like "Ding", "Easter" and "Valentine".  My mom's side is "Ungerecht", which in German means "unjust" or "unfair".  Obviously this is a pretty rare name.  One Ungerecht woman married a guy with the last name "Fair" so that was a big step up!
by Rob Neff G2G6 Mach 5 (59.0k points)
edited by Rob Neff
One of my great-grandmothers was born Paula Jane Strange.
One line of my family is the Strang's whose name goes back at least the 1500's in France. It appears to be etymologically to Strong and Strangeways. Strangeways goes back at least to the 1200's.      I have heard stories that various large landowners purposely put people in charge of their properties who who had no relations with anyone in the region, including even not speaking a local language to reduce favoritisms, fraud and theft.
+10 votes
I don't know that the surname by itself was strange - Dooley, but when you add it to her first name, Italy, it just has a ring to it that made me laugh the first time I heard it.

Italy Dooley . . . and you have to say it fast.
by Cheryl Hess G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)

All I can think of is Ned Flanders from the Simpsons... That's a good one. laugh

That's funny. yes

Thank you for the best answer, Constance. I appreciate that.
+7 votes
It's not especially funny, but going by the numbers I'd have to say Verweye, an old spelling variant on the surname of my paternal grandmother, Margarete Van Wye, that was the first profile of that spelling when I created it.  Another alternate spelling of Varway was only the third profile of that name when created.  Yet others of that same grandmother's line are Lämmle-3, Herrlinger-4, and Schmalzreid-6.  Margarete married George Kelts, and I myself am Kelts-7, so that is fairly rare also.
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (334k points)
+10 votes

I have worked on four trees of friends that do not have descendants. One friend, Virginia Lipotich, is 94 and still living. This this the link to her son, George Lipotich Jr. The reason I am using this as a strange name is because spellcheck tries to change her name to Lipstick or Liposuction, and I have accidentally left it. 

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (344k points)
+10 votes

My fifth great grandmother was Hannah Freakes, we believe it might have been spelt as Frakes in the Middle Ages, it is certainly an unusual name, and next to some Cornish names in my tree, one of the funniest.

by Zoe Cochrane G2G6 Mach 1 (10.8k points)
+9 votes
I have a surname that I have found that is supposedly in my tree but I have not yet investigated it yet.  The surname is Turk and I always thought it an odd Colonial name.  I wondered if maybe some migrants from Turkey came to early America?  I've since learned that the name might come from Scotland.  Any Turks in Scotland?

When I did an autosomal DNA test I found that I had trace elements of Turkish (Anatolian) DNA and I wonder if there is some connection?
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

That will be interesting to find out about!  

I see that there are about 820 Turks on WikiTree already!

Oh, I'm having such fun today.  I went to the resources I had previously saved and read over them - found that my ancestory John Carter's mother is Namoi Turk.  Her father, John Turk was an Indian trader with the Cherokess in South Carolina in the early 1700's.  Reading about some of the adventures here: 

The expansion of South Carolina, 1729-1765, by Meriwether, Robert Lee, 1890-1958

very interesting and one of my favorite aspects of genealogy - you never know where the path will take you.

The wars with the Cherokee spawned the creation of the Ninety Six District - I have previously found that later, John Carter and his father-in-Law Lewis Banton fought with the Ninety Six District Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Reaney & Wilson A Dictionary of English Surnames under Turk:

Turch, Turcus 1066 Domesday Book, Turche c1150, Turkus fugitivus 1172, Ricardus filius Torke 1188, Ricardus filius Turk' 1205, Eadwin Turcus (le Turch, Tercus) c1140, William Turc, le Turc 1193, 1196; Robert Turk 1296. The DB Turch is explained by von Feilitzen as Old Norse Thorkell, with Anglo-Norman loss of -el. It seems clear that it was also used as a pet-form of this Scandinavian name. Most of the surnames appear to be nicknames from Old French turc 'Turk', a word which A New English Dictionary suggests was introduced into England during the third crusade (1187-92). It is found as a nickname in London half a century earlier.

(Imagine the previous paragraph as being indented. Unfortunately G2G's block quote function italicizes the entire quote, losing the actually-present distinctions and making it impossible to properly quote things.)

+7 votes

Sometimes the oddity of the name is increased by the marriage partner's name.  My ggg grandparents were John Steer and Elizabeth Hart.  Another Steer married a lady with the last name of Foale.  

Of course Steer probably didn't originally mean a male domestic bovine animal that has been castrated and is raised for beef. 

Research seems to point to it being connected to the Scandinavian name Sture, with an umlaut i think.  But when i first came across it in my family tree as a young person, i was definitely taken aback!

by Shirlea Smith G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+10 votes
In my German Nova Scotia branch I have a 5th great grandmother Mary Bryzelius. She had 3 sisters so the delightful name seems to have died out.

Another great name in that region were the Whynaughts. I've found some modern spellings that embrace the weird as Whynot.
by Eric Eisner G2G Crew (500 points)
Interesting, one Bryzelius shows up in my tree also. An Eric Bryzelius married Elizabeth Margaret Corkum in 1827. She was my 1st cousin 4 times removed. I haven't researched that side of the tree yet so know nothing more about them. A check of a spreadsheet transcript I have of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia church records shows 12 Bryzelius babies recorded in the St. John's Anglican church records in Lunenburg born between 1768 and 1817 and 7 deaths between 1773 and 1849 (one death was the minister of the church).

As for Whynaught/Whynot I have 89 in my tree of both spellings although Whynot seems a little more common here.

And I've got 294 of Eisenhauer/Eisner and other variations  ...  no Eric (yet.)
I've been looking for a good citable source for the Lunenburg church records, as all the ones I've found online have been textual copies of copies. Do you have a good reference?
+7 votes
My mother-in-law’s maiden name of Foat. The FtDna project is very small. Her earliest ancestors were in Kent England in the 1400s to 1600s.
+9 votes
There is one person in my own family tree with surname "Yxkull"... I think it is Swedish language name for capital of Livonia.
by Mika Lindqvist G2G Crew (910 points)
+8 votes

"Spheard" as in the entry [[Spheard-1|Hannah (Spheard) Armstrong]].  I really think this is a mis-spelling of something more common line "Shepard" but her maiden name was spelled that way on her son's death certificate and no one has found records to prove it wrong.    

by L Attebery G2G Crew (610 points)
+10 votes
My paternal grandmother's maiden name was Trcziyulny. The name is difficult to pronounce, difficult to spell, and a bother to type.  People often don't believe the spelling, so they change it, or refer to it as 'T'.  Sometimes the name is omitted. Two of my grandmother's brothers simplified the spelling to Trizulny. Another brother legally changed his surname to Marsh, using his grandmother's maiden name. He did this when his oldest child was 10 years old. That must have been quite an adjustment for his wife and family. In the 1800s, townspeople held spelling contests for the name. Newspaper reports rarely missed an opportunity to make a joke about the name.
+7 votes
Croxon Alias Vnge was a bit odd.
by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (236k points)
+9 votes
Many years ago I looked after an elderly lady  in  a nursing home.  Her surname was
.....Kitkat. When she told me  I asked like the chocolate she said yes and spelt it for me. As a young girl, I think during the war, she was a private in the army. ...Private Kitkat. I think her first name was Katherine...known as Kitty!
+7 votes
I have always thought Banta was a strange name, especially since it is Dutch. Anyone remember Tony Banta ( Tony Danza) on Taxi? He was Italian, not Dutch. Then you have the Star Wars Bantha, a species of large hairy animals with sharp spiraling horns, and the Banta-4, a silver colored single pilot starfighter with room for a passenger, used by the Knights of the Sith. Also I frequently get junk mail offers in Spanish, i.e. from my cable company.
by L A Banta G2G6 (9.1k points)

You might have heard this already, but banta means dieting in Sweden, it comes from William Banting who wrote Letter on Corpulence where he talks about his diet.

It is also a species of butterflies wink

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