Surnames with family connections!
The last name often comes from family connections such as Johnson (John's son) Robertson and even Nixon (Nick's son). Similar names in this category are those names beginning with Mc, Mac or Fitz such as McDonald or Fitzpatrick. There were also the first names such as William, Phillip, Edward, and Hugh which were changed to create the surnames Williams, Phillips, Edwards, and Hughes. ( From, for example, William's son or Edward's son). Adopting such names was extremely important as they provided permanent proof of verifiable ties of blood, family and kin. Therefore the history connected to a powerful ancestor could be passed down the generations. Gaelic ones beginning with Ó or Mac immediately identify significant family ties and the heritage of a specific nationality such as Irish or Scottish.
Surnames were changed and foreign names were adopted when a country was invaded or conquered. British history has been strongly influenced by such events. The Roman invasion, the Danes and the Norwegians and Norman invasion being prime examples and these events have all influenced British naming traditions. Add this to the differences in the meanings and origins of English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish surnames explain the complexity of the area and subject. These names, with vastly different meanings and origins, have found their way to many other countries in the World and in particular to America.
Adopted / Invented Surnames - Voluntary Immigrants
Many of our ancestors left their homelands for the chance of better opportunities in different countries. The USA welcomed many such people. However officials were unable to understand the many different languages and so surnames were registered in a phonetic fashion by using the closet spellings that sounded similar to the original name.
Many of our ancestors, however, had no choice in their lives due to the practice of buying and selling people into slavery. One of the most famous books relating to the forced slavery of an African in America was 'Roots' by Alex Haley. According to research into genealogy compiled by Alex Haley his ancestor was a man called Kunta Kinte who was an African from the Gambian town of Jufferee. A vital element in the story of Kunta Kinte is that he desperately wanted to keep his own name rather than take on the adopted or transferred name of his owner.
Scottish last names divide into two categories. Scottish ones from the highlands and Scottish names from the lowlands of Scotland. The Scottish Gaelic surnames from the highlands were heavily influenced by the Clans. Highlanders gave their allegiance to Clans and adopted the surname used by that clan. These names included names like Mackintosh, Macgregor, Maclachlan, Macdonnell, Macdonald, Macduff, Buchanan, Drummond, Munro, Campbell, Stewart, Cameron and Ross. Scottish sur-names from the lowlands of Scotland tended to be influenced by English names. Many Scottish names such as Stewart, Cameron and Ross are now commonly used as First or middle names.
Welsh Traditions -It has been estimated that about nine-tenths of the Welsh population answer to a total of just one hundred names. Examples of Welsh these are Bennett, Beynon, Davis, Ellis, Evans, Griffiths, Jones, Lewis, Llewelyn, Lloyd, Owen, Pritchard, Pugh, Powell, Price, Meredith, Thomas, Trewent, Yorath and Williams. Welsh naming traditions make use of patronymics as opposed to fixed names. Patronymics are of , relating to, or derived from the name of one's father or a paternal ancestor. The Welsh patronymics system used the prefixes ab or ap (meaning son of) such as ap Rhys (for son of Rhys) or ab Owen (for son of Owen). This lead to many a Welsh surname beginning with the letters B and P. The letter A was dropped from ap and ab. The name ap Howell was thus shortened to Phowell and gradually this then lead to the surname Powell.
- Bowen from 'ab Owen' son of Owen
- Price from 'ap Rhys' for son of Rhys
- Pritchard from 'ap Richard' son of Richard
The oldest surname recorded anywhere in Europe can be found in Irish historical records dating back to the year 916. According to Friar Woulfe, an authority on the Irish surname, the first recorded fixed surname is O'Clery (Ó Cleirigh) detailing the death of Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, lord of Aidhne in County Galway. Patronymics are of , relating to, or derived from the name of one's father or a paternal ancestor and this system of naming people played a part in the meanings and origins of Irish surnames. The term 'Ua', as in the above Irish surname Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, was an early form of "O" meaning grandson (Tigherneach was therefore the grandson of Cleirigh). The prefix "Mac", meaning son of, was also used, although these names were not always hereditary and could change according to a given name. The oldest Irish surname's were taken from occupations, tribal names and from pre-Christian Gods. Unlike their English counterparts, very few Irish surnames were derived from locations. Irish names tended to reflect ancestors or important historical figures.
The influence of the Christian church from the 10th century then played a role in the origins and meanings of Irish surnames and these have survived the test of time. Irish ones beginning with 'Kil' or 'Gil' derive from the Irish word 'Giolla', meaning follower or devotee. Irish surnames beginning with 'Mul' derive from the Irish word Maol meaning bald (this referred to the tonsure of monks)
Celtic is the language of the Celts. The remains of the old Celtic language are found in the Gaelic, the Erse or Irish, the Manx, and the Welsh and its cognate dialects Cornish and Bas Breton. Erse is a modification of Irish, OE. Irishe.] A name sometimes given to that dialect of the Celtic which is spoken in the Highlands of Scotland called, by the Highlanders, Gaelic. Celtic surnames and their derivatives are detailed under the sections Scottish, Welsh and Irish surnames.
Gaelic is the language of the Gaels and refers to the Celtic Highlanders of Scotland. Gaelic surnames and their derivatives are detailed under the section Scottish surnames.
They are are complicated! The meanings and origins of British surnames have been described and are certainly not without complications. These British traditions were taken to America and became American surnames. Now add to this the other name types that derive from many other countries in the World and we have a vast amount of possible derivations of American surnames! Many American types have retained the form that they had in other countries. But the origins of many other American surnames were changed so that English speakers would find them easier to pronounce and spell. And, of course, Native American surname's can also be added to increase the complexities of the American surname. The American examples embody all the surnames of the world. Tracing American surnames is a difficult task. Please refer to Genealogy for helpful information regarding how to trace ancestors and gain more information into tracing the meanings and origins of the American Surname.