Monthly Archives: November 2011

What about you?

Have you ever researched your family history? If so, what was the motivation behind your decision to start searching for your ancestors? What was your biggest “aha!” moment?  What were your biggest challenges?

Please share your stories by adding them to the “Comment” section below.


What’s in a name?

Do you know the meaning and the origin of your last name? Your last name is a history in and of itself. There are essentially three types of surnames: geographical/place of origin, occupational, and descriptive.

For example, my maiden name is “Holloway.” It’s a name of Old English origin that literally means “dweller by a sunken road.” In early England, when two adjacent properties would each mark their boundary with a ditch, over time the two adjoining ditches gradually merged to become a sunken lane, which later become a thoroughfare, or, “hollow way.” Other examples of geographical surnames are “Norman,” “Hill,” Moore,” “York,” and “Ford.”

If your name is “Baker/Becker,” “Cooper”, “Taylor/Tailor,” or “Smith,” you already have a good idea about what your earliest ancestors did for a living!

Descriptive names are just that, a description of a physical or personality trait. “Armstrong,” “Smart,”  “Brown, and “Short,” are types of descriptive surnames.

Surnames were not always used. Prior to the 10th century, first names were sufficient for identifying someone. As the population grew, a new means of identification became necessary. Therefore, if you were William, son of Robert, you become known as William Robertson. Or, if you were Arthur, son of John, you were known as Arthur Johnson. As John was a popular name in medieval England, this accounts for the large number of people with the name “Johnson.”

For additional reading on the subject, please visit our friends at Brooklyn Ancestry at this link:

Do you know what your name means? Share it with me, I’d love to learn about it.


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