What’s in a Surname: The History of Surnames and How They Help in Family History Research


Hello and welcome to the MyHeritage webinar series. I’m Marian Pierre-Louis, your host, broadcasting to you live from Massachusetts. Today we have Alejandro T. Rubinstein with us who is live in Mexico City, Mexico for his class, What’s In a Surname: The History of Surnames and How They Help in Family History Research. Thanks to Alejandro and thanks to all of you for registering for today’s live webinar. So wherever and whenever you are, glad to have you with us. Recently announced, MyHeritage Live 2019 will take place in Amsterdam from September sixth through September eighth. For more information or to register, visit live2019.myheritage.com and we hope to see you there. And now I’d like to introduce our speaker, Alejandro T. Rubinstein. Alejandro was born in Mexico City in 1957 and has taught various disciplines related to law, finance, Judaic values, Jewish historical geography and genealogy. A researcher of topics related to Jewish genealogy and onomastics since 1995, he has lectured on the subject in Argentina, Spain, Mexico and the United States. He is a special guest on radio programs. Currently he broadcasts every week under the section, “Your surname is your lineage.” Please put your virtual hands together and let’s give Alejandro T. Rubinstein a nice, warm webinar welcome. Alejandro, how are you? Welcome to the show. How are you Marian? Thank you very much. Oh it’s a pleasure to have you here today. This is my first time broadcasting live to Mexico City so this is very exciting for me. Oh how nice. It’s very exciting for me as well listening to you. Time is all yours Alejandro. Thank you very much Marian. So hello to everyone and it’s a real pleasure for me speaking to you down from Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, which of course may have a lot of surnames. So let’s get down to the subject, what’s in a surname? The history of surnames and how they help in family history research. In it is a very important subject today. Why is it? Because we have to, well the introduction we already saw. Why we are so interested in surnames? It’s because they are the basic way to research any person, not only his first name but his surname. It’s what connects him to his past. So it’s very important for us to know who coined the first ones and as well what are the main sources of historical research on family names. The patronymics which were in fact the first surnames we’re going to delve into that subject as well. What are the toponymics, the place names? The occupational names, the characteristic and artificial surnames and how does history of surnames help in family history research? As well, what are the alternative surname spellings and we’re going to explore a bit on the MyHeritage collection catalog. Okay so going to who coined the first surnames, we have to speak about Fuxi. Who was Fuxi? Fuxi was a cultural hero in the Chinese legend and mythology and he was credited of creating the Changi system of writing with Chinese characters that we all know. They were created by him around two thousand, before the common era and he is credited of the first surnames so we’ll see if it’s correct or not this theory because the first surnames that he coined were Xing and Shi. Xing is of course a Chinese surname but it’s originated from a royal family of the dynasty (mumbles), of course in China. This is more than a patronymic, it’s a patronym. We’re going to explain the difference between one and the other and as well the surname Shi it’s a Chinese surname or a family name which means that the Shi surname it’s more a family name coined by a certain group of persons and the Xing, it’s a patronym or a name coined for a dynasty. In those eras, it was very important to know the differences between the one and the other. Why it’s important? Because different cultures coined their surnames according to their experiences. For instance, Greece tried to have a connection with the Gods. Most of their names that became afterwards surnames become God or are inspired by names of Gods. I will say some names that are included into the Greek tradition that became some of them surnames and most of them were part of their mythology. Antomer, Antiochus, Antigon, Euripedes, (mumbles), Icharus, Nichanor, Nichamenos, or Theodores or as well as Xenom. Many of them became not only surnames but also commercial names that afterwards became what we called the experts in onomastics, we called them ask ecommons or names of brands. Those Greek names are basically first name, they’re not surnames. This thing as well happened in the ancient Rome because there they used a lot of surnames. In fact, the Italians have right now over 350 thousand surnames, it’s one of the largest collections of surnames in the world. They used to establish the name of cognomi c-o-g-n-o-m-I, cognomi as a surname and that surname was coined outside of the aristocracy because the surnames were often patronymic or those (mumbles) or hereditary surnames that just became used after 1450. So the registration of that (mumbles) in marriages became only mandatory in (mumbles) after the Council of (mumbles) in 1564, therefore the cognomi that I was explaining were names of families that were established not in a (mumbles) way, just they were established to identify certain families. Many of them were because they were trying to fill out traditions as being the son of somebody that is a patronym and that’s why one of the most popular surnames in Italy is Leruca which means the son of Luke but also there are other surnames that were established by the region or the city where these people were born or the family came from. So there are surnames like Calibrese, Calibreze, Calabrio, which means they came from Calabria or the Catonese, Catoneze or Catania which as well they came from the province of Catania and other places like the Napoli, the Pisa, (mumbles) which comes from the island of Sardinia, Veniziani, of course from Venice and the Bolonese from Bologna. Those are surnames that they use but they also use occupational names and we’re going to analyze how they evolved. The occupational surnames are for example in Italian, it’s pastore, which means shepherd, (mumbles) which is a ox coven or pazafume and pazlaqua which means be a waterman. There are other surnames like the descriptive surnames. As for an example, a person who was a redhead, he took the surname or the last name Rosy or if he was short, he took the name Baso or shaved or bald head, he was Cabaraso. And finally if he had a frozen bird, he had a (mumbles) which was a not very common surname but it is important to understand that the way a surname is constructed, it can give us a good idea where to research in certain places, in certain parts of the world. What happened with Byzantium? Well Byzantium was also an era that should be taken care of and many names that were originally Greek became Latin because of that era. So the name of Antonius it became Antonios with an o or the name Christopher it became as Christophoros and also we have other names like Desmina or a Leo, that on the passing of times, they became surnames used by the people. That was in the era of Byzantium. What happens with the Israelites? Well the Israelites are also repeated to have the first surnames, not only the Chinese. And why? Because under book of Genesis, we can find the first surname written on the case of Isaac, the son of Abraham. In fact, that part of the bible, the Genesis, establishes that Isaac was going to be sacrificed in one way to identify his name was written in the bible as Isaac the son of Abraham to know his lineage and that was the first patronym that was written and considered by the bible. So now we have to speak about the possibility of having hereditary and non hereditary surnames. And why? Because in that era, and we’re speaking about thousands of years previous to our common era. The surnames were not necessarily family names. They could be names of war, and they could be also used as a choice of every person. So if that person could choose his own surname, he didn’t necessarily spread it to his sons. But it was very common was to transmit the first name which is a very common practice in many cultures still but in other cultures it is simply the hereditary surname, the practice that prevails. So that we have to look on the surname to see if it was hereditary or non, I mean on the ancient kinds but it will look more on new times, we have to look at if that person was adopted or not. If he took the, he or she took the name of the father or the mother that adopted he or her and as well if he didn’t want to coin a new name, changing his history and then at the time, he broke or she broke the tradition of a hereditary surname and became a non hereditary or a new way of seeing if we have a new name or a new surname to be considered. That’s why I want to speak with you about the main sources of historical research on family names which as you can see are the bible, the Egyptian Book of Death, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Instruction of Amenemope, The Rigveda of Hinduism, and The Zoroastrian texts. Well the bible, as we spoke, it’s a good source of surnames, mostly based on first names. We only find after the second book, Exodus, and on a great part on the third book on Leviticus, we can find a lot of surnames that are not necessarily patronymic or derived from the father’s name and then we can see that the reach culture that developed on the bible also developed new kinds of surnames. That source can give us also an idea of the lineage because Jews have only three kinds of lineage which is the Cohen, the Levites, and the people of Israel. So every Jew knows of what part its lineage he belongs but then if his surname is connected to his lineage, I mean coined as a part of the (mumbles) that he’s been a priest of the people, then he can develop a good line of researching surname if he was also, all the family came from that line, from the priests of the people of Israel. As well, with the Levites, or the ministers and of the people of Israel. But what happens with the other books? The Egyptian Book of Death, it’s an ancient (mumbles) text and it was used from the beginning of the new kingdom. I mean it was around 1550 before the common era and that book was placed in the coffin of our, on the burial chamber of the deceased. In that book, they wrote names. Why? Because the Egyptians believed that knowing the name of something gave power over it. (mumbles) The Book of Death equips its owner with the mystical names of many of the entities he would encounter in the afterlife, giving him power over them. That’s why we can find in that culture the possibility one of our listeners has an Egyptian line in his family, he could find certain possibilities on his surname that would connect with the Egyptian Book of Death and then if they have a lineage with Pharaohs of those eras. Then we have also another book which is The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s one of the older poems written in Sumerien and in that book, a lot of names were written not in Sumerien but in Acadian which is a very similar language of that zone and you can see that certain names were switched on the first letter. I mean Gilgamesh, the name of the book was switched to Bilgamesh with a b as in boy and then we can see that switching certain letters can connect us to our past. Some surnames are not written the same way for over the centuries. This is a way to analyze and to recognize the possibility of switching surnames. In the Instruction of Amenemope, we find that there is a masterpiece of eastern literature that had only one surname in the whole book which is precisely the person of Amenemope who was the son of Kanakht and that was its sole surname that was written in that book. The Rigveda which is a sanscript book, a part of the (mumbles) culture and it is a book written in hymns, in poems and those poems address to a God and that God itself has several names and those names are considered as part of the culture of the Indian people who as well take those names and become part of their culture as surnames. Finally, we talk about The Zoroastrianism, we can talk about Zoroaster and Zoroaster and (mumbles) are the same and single Godly figure. That means that a same name can switch depending on the language that is written. In other words, Zaratustra as we all know can be also written as Zatosh or Zadosh in Persian and it can be also written as Zaratosh in another language which is a very, very small possibility that you would know. It’s the Gujarati language and these are names that in all cases became of course first names and on the passing of the time, they could become surnames. So in the ancient times, the using of surnames was only a matter of choice and it was neither compulsory nor a thing was commonly practiced. So as we said, different linguistic customs may result in same surnames because it only refers on the men which that we employ. We have same names of a farmer in different languages which are written and pronounced on a different way. That helps us a lot in researching any page and specifically on MyHeritage we can make comparisons with surnames that were translated if the family moved from one country to another that spoke different languages but what is most important is to deal with a part of the onomastics which is the linguistics. Linguistics contains many information that can give us the traits of the family. Every word, most of them may say has a stem and many of them have a prefix and a suffix and that helps us also with surnames and I’m going to explain myself in what way. So the stem is a basic form to which one affixes either a prefix which is a part of a word that comes prior to the stem or a suffix which has to be written after. Let’s use one word. Let’s say friendship. Friend is the stem and ship is of course a suffix. So if we have the word friend and we affix another particle which is the s-h-I-p, then we know that we, that name has a suffix. This is very helpful mostly on geographical surnames and we’re going to get of course to that part. There’s also the concept of syncope, apocope and apheresis. Syncope is a part of the linguistics, mainly under phonology that means cutting up. It’s losing one or more sounds from the interior of a word. We know the American anthem and a part of that anthem, instead of using the word over, they use the word o’er. So it’s o’er. It means that they’re doing a syncope on the word over, losing a sound or a letter is a syncope. That is also to be considered while you are researching on surnames. As well apocope is another thing. Apocope it’s trying to shorten up a name like if you write what it has to pronounced as Worcester, you have to write it down as w-o-r-c-e-s-t-e-r. So we Mexicans would read it as Worchester because we’re used to read what we write but as you know, English is a language that is full of exceptions and that’s why Worcester or Gloucester or Leicester or Toucester, those are surnames that are written with more letters but pronounce with less. In that part, we have to take note. If we’ll listen to a surname, when we research we have to take considerations or a sound system or to write any multiple ways that we want in order to find the possibilities to encounter oneself with the families and the way they wrote it. There’s also another way of losing letters which is in the case of Italian. When you write in Latin, which is the previous language of Italian, when you write an I, you have to write in the word atrium and in Italian it became okio, so if that person has a surname of a Latin origin, we have to delve into the language of Latin as well as in Italian and see if there is any connection. One way to do it is through the apocope or losing part of the word. And finally we have the apheresis, which is the loss of one or more sounds from the beginning of a word. That case if we take the word knife as we pronounce it, we do not pronounce the k that precedes the sounding of the word. In other words, it’s k-n-I-f-e the way you write it down but you pronounce knife. The same thing goes for Latin languages. The word Hispania, h-I-s-p-a-n-I-a, it’s written in Latin and in Italian became spania, in English became Spain and in Spanish it became Espana. So different ways of writing down a same name can become also a way to trace the different origins of a family through their surname. Okay so let’s get down to different surnames according to their origin. In other words, the patronymic, as we said, it’s one of the or if not, it’s the first way of connecting oneself with the family names and the family names that are connected through the patronymics or the names of the father aren’t as old as the Celtics, the Germans, the Iberians, which precede the Spanish people, the Scandinavians, even the Armenians and all of the Slavic countries, they use patronymics as Wilson, Fernades, Rodriguez, Calcon or the Russian Gregorivich or Stephanovich or the former Yugoslavia as well as we can find in Ireland and in Scotland, certain names like McAllister, or O’Connor, all of them are (mumbles) that considerably the son of, so they’re not written the way we’re used to, to listen that every surname has to end or precede with a prefix of son of, we can try to look at dictionaries and know what is the meaning of the word son or daughter in many cases. In order to find what is the prefix or the suffix of the name, the family name, that will conduct us to the stem which is the nucleus or the most important part in order to translate it and then to know where to find where are those patronymics and where they coined. So in Africa, we have lots of countries that use family names and surnames like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa which use patronymics in case of South Africa since the culture of the Zurus. In the case of Asia, we have very interesting evolution of patronymics because many use the people name or the family name followed by the name of the father and I mean not only the sons would be the lineage if we take the patrolineal line or the daughters as well they use the name of the fathers. That thing happens as well in India and many surnames which are patronymics, they do not pass through generations because as we said, different cultures establish the possibility to make hereditary or non hereditary surnames. In the case of Asian patronymics, we have to make a stop and speak about the Arabic and the Aramaic and Syrian surnames because they’re one of the oldest. They’re used always with a word that connects the first name of the user and the first name of the father. So if it’s Mohammed Ismail, then even it’s the formula that would connect the name of Mohammed and Ismail and then we know that it’s the equivalent of the son. Same formula it’s used in Aramaic but then we have to switch the word even or bin as in bin Laden gosh and we use the word bar, b-a-r. In many cases you will find that there are surnames during research that start with a word bin or bar or are connected to the stem. This is a way to know that that surname came from that part from the Middle East and the same thing goes for the Asyrian that afterwards became Syrian or north Arabic with the formula bits or bit that also means coming from the house of. It’s not only being the son of, but coming from the house of. The Jews also given that they live in that area, they use the formula bar and bat as well as the Hebrew bet which is also ben, sorry I said bet, it’s ben which means in Hebrew, the son of. A lot of surnames were switched during the passing of times and many of the names were switched also to what we called mythologisms which means new wordings for surnames. Why? Because it was some not very nice surnames that were switched to nice sounding surnames or they were shortened to the new language of adoption. As it happened in many times in the whole world and specifically in Israel we have a lot of that in this new era where we, when we speak about the person of Benjamin Milakofsky, nobody knows that it’s the actual prime minister of the state of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu which in fact it’s a surname, a patronymic surname. There’s also another patronymic that we should also consider in that area of that world which is the Persian. The Persian patronymics are ending with the suffix of pur, p-u-r in the case of men and dokhe or d-o-k-h-e in the case of women. So we hear the surname of Shapur, it means it’s the son of the king. Okay let’s go to Europe and then we’re going to talk about the patronymics in Europe. A lot of them are of course son, in the case of English and in the case of the French would be using the form fis, f-I-s, or fis, pronouncing the word son and it’s also a prefix that can be used in German with the prefix of f-I-t-z, fitz. Then we hear the surname Fitzmorris, then we know it’s the son of Morris. The ancient Scottish use the form Mac and that is a very good way to know what’s the origin of the surname. In fact, the Welch, they didn’t use surnames only until 1536 with the act of union. So therefore they would never employ surnames. So if you’re planning to make a research way before the 16th century, you’re going to have kind of a difficult experience going through the surnames because many documents if can be found, could be bearing only a first name. The Dutch use patronymics, the French do not use any more patronymics. They prefer to use family names and the Spanish people, most of the surnames of the Spanish are basically, in as well Latin America, but that part of the continent where I live, use the Castilian patronymics which means most of the first names end with e-z. So if the father was named Alvaro, then the patronymic would be Alvarez with a z. But if you find the same surname with a s at the ending of the surname, then you have a nice thing to consider. That patronymic or family name can come from either Galicia in Spain or another part of that Iberian Peninsula which is Portugal. So the surnames that end with s are basically non-Spanish. Those will end with a z are Spanish. That is to be considered once you are doing your research. Other countries like the Scandinavian use the word son as a way of to find the surname or the case of of or eve in case of men and in case of women, aba or eva on Bulgaric surnames. So it’s very important for you to look always in (mumbles), look for the ending of the surname in order to know if it’s a patronymic or not. It might be also a geographic depending on the way it’s written. So prefixes and suffixes are always to be taken care of. If we are going to continue with patronymics, we can not forget on matronymics. So if patronymics become part of the lineage of the person because the line of family comes from the man, there are certain cultures that the line of the mother is to be considered. Why? Because customs of the people which are not many cultures that consider the mother as the first or the most important part of the family, but we have to consider as well that there are certain situations in your life which is a single mother who does not want to give the father’s name and neither the surname as part of the name of the child and that child gets his name from the mother and the surname as well from the mother. Then we have matronymic surnames. We also have the case of what happened during the 18th century which is the Catonese tourist that are doing those wars on the Russian map. You heard of young boys who were taken to the war and they stayed with those armies for a long period of time. The mothers were very worried of that situation and they tried to avoid that. So when they came for the boys, the mothers announced that the surname that they were looking for was not correct for that boy because they were hiding that surname of the father and then they started to use the name of the mother as the part of a surname of a new formula. I’m going to explain myself. If the person was the son of a let’s say, Rebecca, in that part of the Asian continent or the European continent as well Russia, the name of Rebecca is expressed as Rive or r-I-v-e. Rive decided to use that name, her name as part of the surname of the boy and she decided to coin a new surname. So she was, she said that that boy was the son of Rivkin which means as well the son of Rive. But it’s the name of the mother. In that era, the people did not know if that was the right name or not because there was not too many registries so they accepted the formula that the mother pronounced and that boy did not get enrolled in the army and he was safe by his mother. That way they were coining matronymics. But that’s not the only case because we have in Indonesia that there’s a part of Indonesia that has a lot of matronymics as well as in Philippines. In fact the middle name of the child’s mother is used as a middle name in most Filipino names. We also have that case in Vietnam. Matronyms were also given in England in certain, specific cases and in Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Romania, even Ukraine have family names that are derived from matronyms and you can still find them. So it’s a very common practice which is not in the case of the Middle East, specifically in the Arabic countries. They do not employ any case of surnames of the mother and in fact the sole matronymic that is considered in the Koran, it’s, well not in the Koran, the Arabic culture it’s Isa bin Maryam. So it’s the same name as of Jesus and they recognize it only the possibility of being the son of Miriam and not of Joseph. That’s the only matronymic that is, in that culture. The Jews still use a lot of matronymics, given of course of the story that I just told of the Cantonese wars and of course because they also have the unfortunate rapings because of the pogroms and many other cases and the mothers decided to use their name and coin new surnames for them to use. Now we’re going to switch for the toponymics and please follow the arrows in order to understand that toponymics are of course the place names and those place names are because of major geography. I mean names like Frank become France or from minor geography which you can find of cities. There are lots of surnames that are let’s say in Spain, Seville, the surname Sevilla it’s very common but also we have state, departments, voivodeships or guberniyas, depending on the language we use that also coin surnames. There’s the voivodeship of Grodno in Russia that has the, has coined the surname of Gordon and Gordon is also a part of the toponymics place names that we have to take in consideration. Of course there are cities and there are small expressions of cities which is a village or towns and those village and towns also give us the possibility to have certain surnames like in fact we could cite the cases of Hall, Wood, Moore, Shaw, West, Britain, Riley, which are small cities in other cases that have become larger cities but they are cases of place names that people have used in the passing of the times. What happens with the preposition? Guzman is one surname and de Guzman, it’s another surname. Guzman it’s if you have seen of course heraldry, coats of arms, Guzman is a surname that has coats of arms. So if the person finds that the person to be researched has that surname and it’s the possibility to be connected with the de Guzman, the reality is that there are two different and apart families. Guzman has heraldry while de Guzman has only the right to use the surname and it does not have heraldry. That’s why the preposition de or d in English it’s very important to be taking care for knowing and for researching our surnames. The Nisba is the prefix that I’m going to explain which is in Arabic and the Nisba, it’s an adjective that indicates that the person comes from a place or a tribal affiliation or has certain ancestry so if he has that part of the word which is iyyah, which is the suffix in many Arabic names, that can be definitive to know that the person has a toponymic name. Many Muslim names are toponymic and the Nisba itself, the iyyah gives us the possibility to know that we have a Arabic surname to be searched. What happens with occupational names? Well they give us also the possibility to know if our ancestors did work on certain profession or they were in commerce or they were in industry or they were part of the clergy or the government and if we look for a good nobility lineage, one way to do it is through our surnames. Also if they have an unskiilled job, it doesn’t mean that we are still unskilled. It does mean only that our first ancestor decided to take that as a family name or if he didn’t decide that, depending on the era that he took or they applied that surname to him, that becomes if that person had a name imposed by the authorities. So I’m going to cite some surnames like Appleman which can be written in many ways, Archer, Bailey, Bunder, Butler, Caballero in Spanish which is Chavalion in French or Nobleman in English, Coppersmith, Cowman, Cheeseman, Roper, Rector, Sandler, Sadler, Sastay in Spanish Schmidt in German or Smith in English, Shoemaker, Shuester which is also the same surname expressed in a different way, Snider or Schnyder, we have also the Stahl in German which is a person who has stalls, or Stallarsky which is a fourier and then we see that we have a surname that ends in s-k-I or s-k-y, Stollarsky, then we know that he is the son of the fourier. Once again, we find prefixes as a way to know if that person had or not a origin of certain part of the world. What happens with the characteristics and artificial surnames? Well they are as we can see, part of a physical feature, a human quality or a defect, they can be as well circumstantial. I mean circumstantial as if that person was born on certain month or time of the day or even the color of the sky or any other circumstantial situation. The color, derogatory, funny, and of course we’re going to delve into the decree of Napoleon on surnames. So those surnames that depend on physical features which are characteristics are of people who have the surname of Gross which is a person who has a lot of weight or a Tall or a Turk which is rowdy person or having other other features which is a Lefty, which is gosh, it’s a surname in French. We have a lot of physical features that can be equivalent to a traits of the moment of researching our surnames. Those qualities which are unseen can be also considered as a defect. So a person who speaks has a, speaks well has a surname of Speaker but if he’s a gossiper then he gets the surname of Gedlean or a person who is weird, he gets the surname of dog or labujerleon which means a bragger or Hymie which is a wretched person. So people got derogatory surnames because they didn’t decide to take no patronymics, nor toponymics or the possibility of taking toponymics on their towns or from any part of the city where they lived. I mean mountains, woods, or any other considerations. They didn’t take those surnames or they didn’t apply what the emperors or the militaries of the 18th century established in Hungary as the proper surnames. She established that the Austria and Hungary imperial should be divided as in a cross in four territories. Being the northwest, schwartz or black, the northeast, veis or white, the southwest as green or green as well, and the southeast as ret or red. So those are part of the color surnames that could be taken but people did not take surnames mainly because they didn’t know that they were compelled as I said in the era of Maria Terese and then they got the application of derogatory surnames because many soldiers or office clerks just made fun of them. Not withstanding that we are hearing about the derogatory surnames, there are also funny surnames that we are taking. Like the case of Stranger, Jelly, Flow, Onion, Poor, Nature or Bottom have funny names that were taken by people and at the passing of the time, they stayed with the families and they didn’t switch them. Now if we are going to speak about the Napoleonistic decree on surnames, we have to take into consideration that it was a decree that was signed on August the 18th, 1811 in the towns of Saint Cloud in France and that decree is so important that we have to know that in the article two of that decree, Napoleon prohibited that the people should never use names of cities as family names. Why? Because there were so many people who used them, he didn’t have the possibility to identify whether people were really from those cities or no. So they, he established in the article three that the mayors register the inhabitants of their towns would have to check and give notice to the government from those practices that the people use those names of cities and then they could acquire or have artificial surnames. Those artificial surnames are mainly based on jewelry or precious stones like my surname in fact, it’s an artificial surname which is composed by the stem of ruby and then it has the suffix of stein which in German it’s stone. The stone of ruby, the ruby stone that my father of my great great great great grandfather decided to acquire given that there was a list that he could apply and pay for the right of use of that surname and depending on the amount of money you could use certain name. Of course my family was not as rich as the diamond family or as desired but anywhile, I got a precious stone surname and that helps me to research in case of knowing when my family got that surname and that will help you as well. So how does the history of surnames help in family history research? Well surnames have a fingerprint, as we said the stems are very important and the prefixes and the suffixes. But also they suffer evolution and why they suffer evolution? Because they’re not written the same way through the passings of times. Many surnames switch from the Slavik to the more western type of writing and then they can be translated to other languages that do not use our alphabet system and then they are written in those different characters that become a new wording. So the possible tracing on the surnames depends on the language that they were coined and then to try to make a line to where they came to our days and how are they written? So as I said surnames can be translated into the language of the adoptive country and so if a person with have that surname like Rubinstein like mine and came to Mexico and didn’t want to have a foreign sounding surname, he would become simply as Ruby which would take the part of stone and Ruby, it’s a very common surname in this part of Mexico. So it doesn’t mean that the Rubinsteins of other generations wouldn’t be connected to me. It only means that my family would have had cut their surname just to be according to the adoptive country and now for the knowledge of the linguistic structure that we have spoken of the surname, you can really trace your family ancestors. How can you do that? Well see in this part of the presentation, the alternative spellings. The way they’re written differs from the actual name but it doesn’t mean that they are different surnames. So if you find a person that has the Aplon surname it can be as well Apton. You have to find in the brick walls that every genealogist gets into the possibility to analyze why they put the t instead of the l or how the Bonson become Bouson. Because the Bonson went to a part of the world that they spoke French and then they wrote this way the surnames. Finally to end this presentation, I would ask everyone to have the possibility to get into the page of MyHeritage and try to look at the collection catalog. Why? Because there you can find a lot of sources that will help you to cross reference the surname of your ancestors of the person or of the person that you’re searching for. That’s a very large collection and it can be refined by location and that would help us through the knowledge of the basic onomastics and the grammar that I have spoken to you today that the linguistics that will help us in order to find our family history through the surname. So with that, I end my presentation and I must thank everyone for listening to me this day. Alejandro, that was fascinating. Thank you. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the unique features about MyHeritage is that you can search for a single surname like Rubinstein and MyHeritage will translate in that behind the scenes into all the variations and in your search results you’ll actually get the different variations. I think that’s how it works there. Is that correct? That is correct but also you have to refine if it does bring you the possibility you have to work in the different ways of writing down the surname because sometimes it won’t express the way we’re looking at that surname. So we have to confide in MyHeritage produces us but we have also to see by ourselves the possibilities of different ways of writing the surnames. Okay now before I take this slides back again, could you go back one slide? Maria is asking if she could look at your previous slide. Yes of course. All right there you go Maria. I’ll be able to keep that up for a second while I shower Alejandro with some love here. Lois is saying fascinating presentation, thank you. Deena says very, very good. Theresa, thank you very much, learned much. Karen is saying very, very interesting and Maria is saying thank you so very much. So truly, a truly fascinating presentation. Okay hopefully Maria got what she needed from that slide. I’m going to take over the presentation just for a moment. If you have, we have a bunch of questions already but if you have questions, feel free to put them into the question box and I will see them behind the scenes here but for the moment, let me just let you know about our next MyHeritage webinar and that is going to be Tuesday, March 12th which is in two weeks and the topic is Suggested Relationship Paths: An Inside Look at the Theory of Family Relativity. Oh that’s intriguing to say the least. So you can go to FamilyTreeWebinars.com to register for that one. Oh and I do believe we have some door prizes here. So our first door prize is a one year MyHeritage Complete Plan. So this is the premium plus family site subscription and it also includes data subscription. I’m not going to list off everything here but if you would like to win this, go ahead and raise your hand in your control panel on the lefthand side. There’s a little hand icon, press that and I will pick somebody who has raised their hand. All right this is going to go to Bill Butcher. So go ahead, there you go. Occupational name in action right there. All right so congratulations to Bill and I do believe we have one more door prize and who doesn’t want this right? A MyHeritage DNA test kit. One of the things I love about my kit over at MyHeritage, I’ve done myself and my dad as well as a whole bunch of my husband’s family on MyHeritage but what I love about MyHeritage is that I have some more recent European ancestry straight from my great grandmother came from Oslo, Lorraine, she’s of German heritage and now I’ve got very recent Czech heritage and my best matches for my European connections come from MyHeritage because they have so many European customers so keep that in mind guys. So I’m going to give away this, let’s see here. All right this will go to Rita Lagas and I’m sorry if I pronounce your name wrong Rita. Hopefully I didn’t destroy it too much so congratulations to Rita. So you will be getting an email. I’m not sure exactly how this works so you may have to wait for an email from Jeff in order to collect your prize but you will get it okay. Just keep in mind that Jeff is at Ridge Tech along with most of the MyHeritage staff or maybe not most but many of them and many of the Legacy staff. Everybody’s descended upon Salt Lake City for the big roots tech week. All right let’s get to some of the questions and we have a number of them here. So the first question Alejandro, Robin wants to know are you familiar, you seem to have a lot of familiarity with surnames around the world so I’m just going to throw some of these at you here. Robin wants to know about the surname Retinger, it has an ending g-e-r, she wants to know is that an occupation or a region, would you have any idea in that sense? That’s a Germanic. Yes definitely it is a Germanic surname and of course it is a place name. Excellent. Retingger which is written with a double g. Okay. Am I correct? I don’t know. She has it r-e-t-t-I-n-g-e-r. That’s fine. Retin is a surname of a place. Okay excellent. All right oh Paul wants to know this is an amazing topic but are there any books that can help? So not all people of Anglo ancestry are as familiar with some of the other places in the world that you’ve talked about, are there any books that kind of cover this big topic that you’ve been discussing? Well yes there are plenty of. If you’re looking for English surnames, there is a Oxford Dictionary which is a very good one on English surnames. If you’re looking for other kinds of surnames, it depends on the knowledge of your language that I would recommend because there are great authors that work on surnames like in Spanish if you’re looking for your ancestry in surnames, then you should read the book (speaks foreign language) which was one of the greatest works of onomastics and family surnames. If you’re looking for Italian surnames, there are also great books. I don’t recall right now the name of the author. We have German surnames by Loris Mink. We have Jewish Surnames by Alexander Geiger. We have many other kinds of surnames and I would gladly help you providing the list of authors in any case which will enrich the culture of our listeners. Yeah that would be great if you could shoot an email to either Jeff or I with some of those books. That would. It would be a pleasure. That would be wonderful. Okay let’s see. Daniel Kerns, he says that the research he does, so his last name is Kerns, k-e-r-n-s, the research he’s done indicates that Kerns is the French spelling of a Scottish name and he wants to know how would something like that possibly happen? Well is it migration and France migration of names. In other words, people do not live in the same part of the world. In other ways, if you have a surname that comes from France, it doesn’t mean that all of your family stayed in that part of the world, the whole time. Kerns as I heard, K-e-r-n-s, am I correct? Yeah, he says in Scottish it was originally Grant and in French it got translated to Kerns. Well you might find it surprising that Kerns it’s basically a toponymic because it’s a small city in Switzerland that is exactly the way our listener writes his surname and it’s in the certain part in the central part of Switzerland. So it’s not necessarily comes from England or France, but it can also come from Switzerland so it depends on the story of the family that will establish how it was coined because there is no exclusivity in the coining of the surnames. Yeah I think that’s so important to remember ’cause some surnames, especially in America, could have many different nationalities of origin so. All right Naomi, excuse me Naomi wants to know if you could discuss this name if you’ve ever heard it before. The name is Rambam or Rambaum, could you give her any information on that name? Could you be so kind to spell it for me? Sure it’s either r-a-m-b-a-m or r-a-m-b-a-u-m. Okay Rambam. Rambam means an acronym. It’s a very interesting name. Maimonides, Moshe do Maimon writes the name as Rambam. An acronym as you know it’s formed by the capital letters of different words. It is a very common practice within the Jews to use acronyms for great scholars which is the case of Maimonides who was Ra, R-a, mem is for M is for Moses, so it’s Rabbi Moses, b comes from Ben which is a patronymic of that name and then am it’s ending or the suffix of the name Maimon which was the name of the father. Rambam is the surname based on an acronym. Interesting. Very interesting. Okay Patricia would like to know, could the preposition of de, d-e, be written as d-y in the surname Dydecker? So I’m guessing Dydecker is maybe Germanic or Dutch or something like that. So they’re different variations probably for D-e in different languages. Definitely and there’s no connection. No connection? No connection whatsoever because the d-e it’s a word, a preposition that it’s used in Latin languages and the d-y it’s used more on Slavik languages. Basically in Polish. Okay, good, great. Wow, it’s amazing that you know these things. Theresa wants to know about the Austrian surname Bettendorf. Once again, it’s spelled? B-e-t as in Tom, t-e-n-d as in dog, o-r-f. Okay so if you find the word Bettendorf, then the final, the suffix means dorf as town, a small town and you have that town in fact in the US, you have a Bettendorf in the state of Iowa but Bettendorf is also a small town in Germany which passed its name to this little town when some German people came to live in this part of America, in the state of Iowa. Okay Lois wants to know what’s the best way to find out if a surname is based on a place name? Are there any sort of rules to go by? Well it’s kind of difficult because you would have to know all the atlases of the world and the way they’re written which in many cases the way they’re written now is considered the language but there are some books that actually work on place names and I’m going to gladly once again share with you the information because it depends on the language in order to know when it is from the town and when it’s not from the town. Yeah that makes sense. Well we’ve got a number of people asking for specific names here and I don’t want to test you too much. Well why not? Okay all right all right. That’s fine, that’s fine. Okay Michael wants to know about the surname, now this looks to me like it’s Germanic, Treffenstatt, T-r-e-f as in Frank, f-e-n-s-t-a-t-t? Okay the fact that is should be written out, the end as d-t, I mean Treffenstadt it’s in German. It’s written the suffix as s-t-a-d-t. Treffenstadt it’s must be a naturally a German surname which has to be researched because I don’t have a real answer for that surname right now. Okay that’s fine. Karen would like to know about the surname Menzel, M-e-n-z-e-l. Okay Menzel is also, it has a Germanic origin and Menzel it’s a, it comes from a toponymic as well because originally the surname was from Menzel which is the equivalent of d-e in Spanish, from Menzel and Menzel it’s a part of Germany, it’s mines, the city of mines is a very important city that became the person of Menzel in German means a person who comes from mines. So that’s a toponymic. Let’s see. Clara her last name is Dragonsky and I don’t know, but I’m assuming that’s Polish or eastern European, she says that in her research she has found e-g-o added to the last name so for instance dragonoskyego so is this a grammatical thing or is this a variation of a surname? It’s a variation of a surname and it’s really interesting because the stem of the family name which is drago or draga and the ending or the suffix which is s-k-I or y depending on the zone of the Slavik part where this surname comes from. It’s very interesting because the stem is more Yugoslavian and the suffix is more Polish or Russian. So it’s more likely that the family lived within the limits of Yugoslavia and Poland and which means this surname has a meaning, a very nice meaning which is the son of the beloved or the so if you hear about Litman, which is a very known surname, it’s the same surname as in the Slavik Dragonosky. Wow. All right Linda would love to know if you know anything about the surname Springstead and that could be spelled s-p-r-I-n-g-s-t-e-d or s-t-e-a-d. Yeah definitely. I know it’s a typical circumstantial surname. So a person who is in a very festive and a very nice and a flowing way of being is because that person is living in a state of springing and a nice time of the year where flowers bloom and were we have a nice weather so Springstead is the state of spring. Oh nice. Now I want to be fair to some of the other nationalities here ’cause we’ve done a lot of German and such, so Maria’s interested in the surname Scalzi, s as in Sam, c-a-l-z-I. Scalzi. Oh okay that comes from Italian. Yeah it’s Italian. And Scalzi must be, (mumbles) I’m trying to hear that it can be related to the professional shoemakers but I have to research on that. Oh okay. Let’s see. We’ll just do one or two more here. Sonny wants to know would the German surname of Blankenheim refer to the town of Blankenheim in Germany? Definitely. Okay. Definitely. Most surnames of Germany are from towns and many of them you find also your origin if you are or not Jewish. Many cities did not allow Jews to live within and many anti-Semitic you may say laws define that Jews were not to supposed to have certain surnames. So if you find a Germanic surname that has double letters, they basically, it’s not a definite, it’s not a definite recipe for knowing your origin but it has a letter double letter, most cases you find that you are not Jewish and if they come from a place of Germany, then it’s almost 90% that you wouldn’t be Jewish, that you would be from totally Germanic origin. Okay. Shar is curious about what the d stands for? So this is a prefix, so when d apostrophe is used as a prefix in Italian names such as D’Amto or D’Esposito, D’Rosa, or D’Antonio. That’s correct. That’s right in Spanish it’s a language that’s derived from the Italian and of course from the Latin. So it’s correct that usually the d would, that sign and however they use the d-e. It’s also in that language that it’s considered the apostrophe, it’s considered as a pertinence. Being a part of either a city, a family or a person. You may, it’s very important for you to know that down here in Mexico and in many other Latin American countries, women still use the d-e as part of their name. In other words, if a person, its name Desanchez and if she’s married to let’s say Mr. Perez, she might be named Maria Sanchez de Perez so she becomes part of the family Perez and she has to announce in her legal documents that way. Wow this has just been terrific Alejandro and I think the audience could go on forever trying to give you surnames but I think, I think you’ve done an amazing job and your presentation has absolutely wonderful that you have started with the beginning of time and you’ve really touched every continent, every people that has developed a surname history and the audience is so happy as well. So I would just like to thank you for your presentation today and I would like to thank the audience for all their wonderful questions. Thank you everyone for being here today. I want to point out that you can save the chat log where I tried make notes for you, especially on some of the definitions and things like that. So if you go to your, go to webinar control panel, if you go to File and then save chat log, you can then save that to your computer and it will also be available as, I believe, as part of the webinar in the replay. It might take a little longer since it’s Rich Tech week for it to get attached but it should be available there as well. And then let me, so that’s where you can save those notes. Oh and there was one question about closed captioning. Patricia wanted to know how do you turn on closed captioning? That’s happens with the replay of the webinar. So right now we’re in the live version. As soon as we end in a minute or two, this will get processed and added to the Legacy Family Tree webinars library and you’ll be able to watch this class for as many times as you want. It will always be free but it does take a couple days for the closed captioning to be transcribed. So let’s say today is Tuesday, so I would say by Friday for sure it will be there and so when you go to the class in the library at Legacy Family Tree webinars, you’ll see a little CT. Let me show, whoops I’ll pull it up so you can see exactly where it is. Let me pull this over here. I think you should probably be able to see that. If you go down to this class here. When you click, you’ll see a little box right here. You just click on that and it will bring up the, the close captioned version so that you’ll be able to read the webinar as well. Anyway so that’s taking a little while but that’s, so it’s that little CC box that you would press. All right thank you everyone for being here today. Thank you Alejandro for your wonderful presentation and we look forward to seeing everyone in two weeks for the next MyHeritage webinar. Goodbye everybody. Hasta la vista.

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