What’s In A Name?

Have you ever really thought about how important your family name is? A family name is your surname or last name and comes from your father. Your family name can link you to people for good or bad whether you like it or not. What comes to mind when you hear the names Hitler, Bundy, or Manson? We immediately associate these particular names with infamous people in history. Sadly for their families, they were linked forever to these men because they shared the same family name. On the other hand when we hear names like Washington, Edison, and Franklin we think of great accomplishments and men who bettered the world. They made their families and their descendants proud to share their name.

When it comes to family names, I love traditions. Maria Addison is my second great grandmother on my dad’s side. She was married once before she married my second great grandfather. Maria and her first husband used her maiden name (Addison) as the middle name for all three of their children. This was a way for a woman to show the importance of her family name and a tradition that some woman still use today.  The middle name Addison is still being used by my grandmothers first descendants today, and I was able to make connections to my cousins because it made them easier to find. I’m not sure why the tradition wasn’t carried on down my line and to be quite honest I’m a little jealous.

Throughout history it has always been important for a man to have a son to carry on his family name. Without a son the family name ends with that generation. Sadly, in centuries past, this placed great pressure on mothers when they bore a daughter. If she eventually could not produce a son then she was tossed aside for a woman that could.

In the world of genealogy, a family name is like an anchor. It’s what makes it possible to find families. But there are a few problems that will always come up. In the earlier days of our country many people that came to the United States would end up changing their family name to make it sound more American. Usually it would be some form of their family name so keep that in mind when searching for your first ancestors that came to America. The hardest thing to uncover are families from places like Norway. In the past, each time a family moved, they would take on the name of the farm where they lived. So fathers and sons most likely didn’t share the same last name. This has made it extremely hard for me in my search down my husband’s line and one area I really need to work on.

As I have reflected on the importance of my own family name, I am reminded that each family member can contribute in different ways to making our own ancestors proud that they share our family name.

Leave me a comment and tell me about someone in your family that has done the family name proud.

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