By David Peel
As an injury lawyer, legal research is common. However, even many non-legal issues, like genealogy (family trees and origins), fascinate me. The origin of how many of us got our last names is quite interesting. Many American names descended to us from ancestors in the “Old World” of Europe. Even in the Bible one can see the need for them: Saul, “of Tarsus;” Mary “Magdelene” (from Magdala); James and John, “Sons of Zebedee;” and Matthew, “The Tax Collector.”
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 brought last names into more common usage throughout Europe. There are several sources of names. See if you know someone with each type:
“TOPONYMIC:” BASED ON PLACES OR FEATURES:
A last name often derived from where a person was from, lived or where he owned land.
Ackerman (from “acre”), Atwood (“at the wood”), Banks, Beaumont (French for “beautiful hill”), Beck or Brooks (“stream”), Bolton (“house settlement”), Bridges, Bush, Camp, Douglas (“dark river”), Dunlap/Dunlop (a muddy hill), Fields, Ford (“river crossing”), Forest, Garfield (“triangle field”), Glenwood, Gordon (“spacious fort”), Greenwood, Grove, Hamilton (“crooked hill”), Hartford, Hill, Knolls, Lake, Lane, Lee (“clearing”), Milton, (“mill town”), Moore (from moor “open area”), Norton (“north town”), Perry (“where pears grow”), Ramsey (“garlic island”), Riley (“rye-clearing”), Stone, Stroud (“overgrown thicket”), Timberlake, Underhill, Whitfield and Wood.
Many last names are obviously from jobs like a Smith, but some might surprise you:
Archer, Baker, Barker (“tanner”), Bailey (“porter”), Brewer, Butcher, Carpenter or Joiner (“wood-worker”), Carter (“transport cart”), Carver, Conner (“inspector”), Cooper (“barrel maker”), Cook, Dexter or Dye (“cloth dyer”), Farmer, Faulkner or Fowler (“falconer”), Ferrari (“metal worker”), Fisher, Fletcher (“arrow maker”), Foster (“forester”), Gardener, Glover, Hunter, Judge, Knight, Leach (“doctor”- often used leaches), Mason, Miller, Page, Parker (“park keeper”), Potter, Reeves (“sheriff”), Sawyer (“wood-cutter”), Shoemaker, Smith, Stewart or Ward (“guard”), Tanner or Gerber (“tans hides”), Taylor or Snider (“tailor”), Thatcher, Tucker (“folds clothes”), Turner (“turned wooden legs with a lathe”), Tyler (“tiled floors”), Weaver or Webb (“weaver”), and Wright or Wainwright (“wagon wheel maker”).
ANCESTORS AND NICKNAMES:
Adamson, Davidson (“the son of David”), Dawson, Dickson, Evans, Fitzgerald (“fitz” is “of”) Harris, Harrison, Henderson, Hobson, Jackson, Jones (Welsh for John), Madison, MacDonald, Marriott (“from Mary”), Nicholson, O’Malley (“O’” is “of”), Richardson, Robinson, Rogers, Simpson, Stephenson, Thompson, Watson, Williamson and Wilson. Nicknames or descriptions include: Little, Strong, Black, Young, White, Strong or Swift. The best has to be Falwell, or Fallowell. Yes, someone, long, long ago, “Fell in the well!”
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.