A to Z Challenge: 5 Tips to Research and Discover What Your Family Names Mean

The Joyous Living: 5 Tips to Research Family Names #atozchallenge

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Why do so many generations share the same name?

Do you have a lot of ancestors who go by the same first name? Wonder why there are five generations of the name “Sarah” or “John” among the descendants of your ancestor? Often it is because it is a “family name”.

What is a Patronymic Name?

What is a PATRONYMIC Name? #patronymic #name #child #father #ancestry #genealogy #thejoyousliving #atozchallenge

The use of a “family name” goes back several centuries and involves something called “patronymic” or “matronymic” wherein a personal name is given based on the given name of one’s male or female ancestor.

In Russia, a “patronymic” is an official part of someone’s given name. For instance, a man named Ivan who’s father is Nikolay would be referred to as Ivan Nikolayevich (meaning Ivan, son of Nikolay) and a woman named Ekaterina who’s father is Sergei would be known as Ekaterina Sergeivich (Ekaterina, daughter of Sergei).

What does it mean for my ancestor’s name to include “Fitz”?

What does the prefix FITZ name in my ancestor's name? #fitz #name #ancestry #genealogy #history #thejoyousliving #atozchallenge

In English history, many of your ancestors’ names might include “Fitz”. For example John Fitz Henry.

Fitz is a Norman prefix meaning “son”. The prefix appears in aristocratic family lines starting during the Norman Conquest.

Where does the name “FitzRoy” come from?

Is your ancestors' surname FitzRoy? #fitzroy #ancestor #ancestry #history #names #king #thejoyousliving

Of particular note to genealogists is the name “FitzRoy” which means Son of the King. This name was used for illegitimate children of the Sovereign who were acknowledged by their father.

A famous example would be Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland, who was the illegitimate son of King Charles II and Barbara Villiers.

What do those Biblical names even mean?

Does your ancestor have a Biblical name? Find out the meaning! #atozchallenge #bible #name #baby #ancestry #genealogy #thejoyousliving

Many early American families gave their children names commonly found in the Bible. Part of the reason would be that the Bible was the most common book read by Pilgrims. So you might find your ancestor has named his children:

Ruth – Ruth in The Bible was the young Moabite widow who followed her mother-in-law Naomi into Israel.

Daniel – In The Bible, Daniel was a nobleman who was taken into captivity and served the Kings of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus. Perhaps you best know him as “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”?

Hannah – Hannah is the mother of Samuel in The Bible.

Mary – Mary was the mother of Jesus.

John – John was the beloved disciple of Jesus.

Jerusha – The name is a derivative of the Hebrew named “Yerusha”. The name Jerusha is found 2x in the Bible in 2 Kings 15:33 and 2 Chronicles 27:1.

Bethiah – In The Bible, Bethiah is the name of Pharoah’s daughter in 1 Chronicles 4:18. Often the name is associated with Pharoah’s daughter who raised Moses.

Jonathan – Jonathan was a prince and the best friend of King David (when he was still a servant in Jonathan’s father’s court).

Ebenezer – The name Ebenezer means “Rock of Help”. In 1 Samuel 2:12, Samuel called a stone by the name Eben-ezer because The Lord helped them.

(these are in fact the real names of Daniel Brewster and Hannah Gager‘s children.)


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5 Tips to Research Family Names #atozchallenge #ancestry #family #name #genealogy #thejoyousliving

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  1. I don’t know why my mother choose “Daniel” as my first name, but she always told me about the bible story and that “Daniel” means “God is my judge” I have always wanted to know more about my last name, on the last research I did I traced back to a small town in Spain. It is incredible how much you can learn about your past from doing a little bit of research.

  2. How fascinating! Our family name comes from Belarus, but someone has misspelled it along the way and now we are the only people in the world with this last name – me, my grandparents, my parents and my brothers. Eight people in total.
    My grandfather is actually researching our ancestors intensively and he came up with 2 versions of what our family name could have been in the past. I’m very curious about what he’ll find out and what it means.

  3. This is a really interesting subject and one which I really haven’t given a lot of thought in the past. Most people I know today really didn’t give too much thought behind the choice of name for their children – other than to name the child after a fond relative or because they just liked the sound of the name! However, it is really nice if you have a greater understanding of the origin and meanings of names, as it then becomes a lot more special.

  4. Awesome…I love genealogy!!! I am the ‘family genealogist” in our family. This was great…and YES, I have many people named with the same names in my tree.

    Great info!

  5. Each family has their own little fun secrets. I think searching through family names we can find out some of them. I think I’ll ask around my relative to know what our family name means.

  6. This is the first time I heard about patronymic, and then reading your post makes me realize it comes from the word paternal. So much to learn from your blog about ancestry. Thanks much for this great info!

  7. This is the first I heard about Patronymic Name. I have no idea about it. I’m learning a lot about this A to Z challenge.

  8. This is a great article!Since we are in quarantine, I wanted to do more research on my family and reach out to them since everyone is home and have time. I will save this post and use some of these tips

  9. I have never heard of patronymic names. Very interesting I wonder what mine would be. We do not have a very long family history.

  10. The family name is important. Old folks believe that even we don’t have wealth, having a good family name is better.

  11. I too did find out from my parents how we got our family name and it was so revealing. Something about our family history too helps us to identify how we came into this world. Nice read.

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