Re: Surname origins #general

Stan Goodman <SPAM_FOILER@...>

On Wed, 8 Jun 2005 07:57:58 UTC, (windselle) opined:

Hi. I have a question I'm hoping someone might have an answer to, but before
I ask, I need to thank everyone who responded to my request for help
concerning the situation with family and the woman caller >from Israel. I
still am no further than I was as far as learning anything, but even still,
the polite and friendly assistance here was more than I could've asked for
and I thank everyone for it.

This question may pertain to my previous one, but really at this point it's
more curiosity than anything. Is there a way to tell the origins of a
surname? The reason I ask is that I've been able to trace my father's
surname to the late 1700's and that's as far as it's gone. Furthermore, any
search results I get on this surname, either through searching on my own or
seeing other people's messages on other boards about this same surname..
everything comes to a screeching halt in the mid 1600s at the earliest, in
their families and my own. My feeling is that it has to be derived >from some
other name.

Now I've heard a French version of this name, other English versions, Jewish
versions.. but how would one find out exactly where it started, and is it
possible? This is really more a quest to find out how surnames came into
being in the first place, although I do have some understanding of it as far
as naming someone "Brewer" because he brewed ale, and the like. Even in
biblical times though, there are instances of surnames.

My thinking is that it's got to be nigh impossible to discover one's own
roots if it involves various surname changes over the course of hundreds of
years, isn't it? At the very least it has to be immensely difficult. At this
point I have given up on searching out my father's ancestry as it just seem
to come to a screeching halt and there is no way of knowing that I know of,
if there was a surname change. It really does seem as though someone at some
point decided to adopt this surname and didn't inform a soul. This is likely
a ridicious question and yet it puzzles me just the same. How does one find
out the actual origins of their surname, and is it possible?

Rebecca Anne Darlow
It's unfortunate that you haven't told us what the surname is that you are
interested in; someone here might have been able to tell you something about

But your question seems to be founded upon a belief that people,
specifically Jews, have always had fixed surnames, which is incorrect. The
example of Biblical surnames is misleading: one has no assurance that an
apparent surname (I can think of some >from the Second Temple era, but not
from First Temple or earlier) is in fact a permanent label that persisted
over generations, rather than a tag carried by a single individual in a
single generation. The fact is, as has been discussed in this group many
times, that most Jews of Western Europe had fixed surnames only by
Napoleonic decree, and in Eastern Europe only shortly thereafter. I have
been told, though I can't cite proof, that some in Romania actually made it
into the twentieth century without a persistent surname.

For comparison, I know Beduin Arabs here in Israel that don't have surnames
even now, which is unimportant to the authorities because everyone in this
country has an ID number that serves the same purpose as far as the State is

Stan Goodman, Qiryat Tiv'on, Israel

ISMACH: >from Lomza Gubernia, Galicia, and Ukraina
HERTANU, ABRAMOVICI, LAUER: >from Dorohoi District, Romania
GRISARU, VATARU: >from Iasi, Dorohoi, and Mileanca, Romania

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