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Thread: Surnames

  1. #1
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    Surnames

    I was reading through the genealogy section and found that a number of searches were relying on surnames. This may not be the best approach. In my case my last name was misspelled on my grandfathers birth certificate. The name should be Curwen but it was common practice to drop a W in the middle of a word. Sometimes the W was replaced with an R. An example is the name Warwick. This name is pronounced with the middle W silent, Warrick. I have family members who are Warwicks. This is the reason why my surname wound up Curran instead of Curwen. The Curwens were a reviver clan and were located In Cumberland. The name originated as a place name in Kirkcudbright.

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  3. #2
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    Digging back into my family tree on both sides, it's rare that a spelling variation lasted more than three generations no matter where they were from: Ireland, Germany, Norway, or France.

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    Indeed, misspellings or intentional changes to surnames are very important to understand when chasing genealogy. Sometimes they were changed when immigrants reached new shores because they weren't literate and relied on the officials to write it down as it sounded. In other cases they were changed to sound less ethnic, or to be less complicated. Many of the Gaelic based names, of course, had to be roughly approximated in English.

    A prime example of surname simplification is that of Colquhoun. It's pronounced "ca-hoon". The surname many know today as Calhoun is a derivative of Colquhoun because, quite frankly, keeping the original spelling would guarantee a lifetime of explaining to people how to say it.

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  6. #4
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    Another means of acquiring a surname was being named after the place you're from, the trade you followed or the language you spoke. A former neighbor's family was named after the village of Killin in Scotland - thus, Killinder. Another friend's surname was Miller. I also knew a guy whose last name was Deutsch (pronounced doytch) for someone from Germany or speaking German.

    My surname is another case in point - Scott. Some Scott's were actually part of the Border clan/family and eventually got the name as last names became more popular (between the 11th and 16th centuries, according to most sources). Some didn't have a last name at first, but when the family moved out of Scotland, they were referred to as 'xxx, the Scot', which gradually became 'xxx Scot'. As spelling became standardized, the last name gained the second 't' to differentiate the family from the ethnicity.

    The chief of Clan Scott is the Duke of Buccleuch, so Buccleuch became a surname for some members of the clan. It's also spelled Buckloo, Buckalew, and there are others as well. There are also the Scotts of Harden (so the surname Harden may mean you're actually a Scott!), the Scotts of Ancrum, the Scotts of Polwarth, etc.

    As for my line's origins, we're not sure. As far as I know, the furthest back anyone in the family has been able to trace so far is an Alexander Scott who settled in the Clinch River valley of southwest Virginia about 1774. We don't know where he came from before then.



    Genealogy is such a fascinating (and confusing and frustrating) subject.
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by EagleJCS View Post
    Another means of acquiring a surname was being named after the place you're from, the trade you followed or the language you spoke. A former neighbor's family was named after the village of Killin in Scotland - thus, Killinder. Another friend's surname was Miller. I also knew a guy whose last name was Deutsch (pronounced doytch) for someone from Germany or speaking German.

    My surname is another case in point - Scott. Some Scott's were actually part of the Border clan/family and eventually got the name as last names became more popular (between the 11th and 16th centuries, according to most sources). Some didn't have a last name at first, but when the family moved out of Scotland, they were referred to as 'xxx, the Scot', which gradually became 'xxx Scot'. As spelling became standardized, the last name gained the second 't' to differentiate the family from the ethnicity.

    The chief of Clan Scott is the Duke of Buccleuch, so Buccleuch became a surname for some members of the clan. It's also spelled Buckloo, Buckalew, and there are others as well. There are also the Scotts of Harden (so the surname Harden may mean you're actually a Scott!), the Scotts of Ancrum, the Scotts of Polwarth, etc.

    As for my line's origins, we're not sure. As far as I know, the furthest back anyone in the family has been able to trace so far is an Alexander Scott who settled in the Clinch River valley of southwest Virginia about 1774. We don't know where he came from before then.



    Genealogy is such a fascinating (and confusing and frustrating) subject.
    My maternal grandmother stems from Scotts of Yorkshire. I suspect there's not a lot of Scottish ancestry there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silmakhor View Post
    My maternal grandmother stems from Scotts of Yorkshire. I suspect there's not a lot of Scottish ancestry there.
    My paternal grandmother was a Wilson and the family were cleared off their land in Scotland and were able to travel down the coast to Yorkshire by boat, allegedly with a couple of goats. The women of the family were nurses and midwives and the goats were essential to their skills.
    They went inland by canal and ended up in a smallholding in the Pennines which was all on a slant but they were as Scottish as Hogmanay. They did not keep Christmas, regarding it as a pagan festival, for several generations.
    I presume to dictate to no man what he shall eat or drink or wherewithal he shall be clothed."
    -- The Hon. Stuart Ruaidri Erskine, The Kilt & How to Wear It, 1901.

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  11. #7
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    That's fascinating! My group were in Yorkshire as early as the late 18th century. One of my forebears was named "John Wesley Scott," so it's a safe bet they were Methodists. I don't really have any other information about them.

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  13. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silmakhor View Post
    My maternal grandmother stems from Scotts of Yorkshire. I suspect there's not a lot of Scottish ancestry there.
    The border between Scotland and its southern neighbor was quite mutable over a long period of time, and without going anywhere people had changing nationality. Add to that
    the nature of the border folk raiding and trading across the border, the bloodline ties across the border were a given. Scotts were border folk, and family has been more durable
    than borders. In one of my lines, there were three Capt. William Moseleys in Virginia in 1660, two from England (one from London, one from Staffordshire), and one from the
    Netherlands. All three trace back to the Staffordshire/Shropshire/Offa's Dyke area. Not a question of kin, just how far back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tripleblessed View Post
    Scotts were border folk, and family has been more durable than borders.
    This holds true for Scotts (of the Borders Clan Scott) and other Scots from the Borders (Kerrs, Elliotts, Armstrongs, etc. etc.).
    John

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    Here are some quotes from the Introduction to The Surnames of Scotland by George Fraser Black:

    1. The eighth Duke of Argyll refers to this habit of Highlanders dropping one name and assuming another. "During the Military Age," he says, "they did so perpetually when they enlisted under some new chief, and joined some other Clan. In assuming the name of their new associates they kept up that theory of blood-relationship which in nine cases out of ten had no foundation whatever.


    2. Sir Walter Scott tells us that one of his friends, shooting in the North, had a native guide assigned to him under the name of Gordon. But he recognised the man as having served him in a similar capacity some years before in another place under the name of Macpherson. On asking the man whether he was not the same and whether his name had not been Macpherson, the composed reply was, 'Yes, but that was when I lived on the other side of the hill.'

    3. In clan societies one can enroll as a member if he bears the name under which the society is organised. Thus an individual bearing the name Macdonald may join the Clan Macdonald Society, but how many Macdonalds are really Macdonalds? A present-day John Macdonald may boast of the ancient greatness of that clan when as a matter of fact he may actually be descended from some seventeenth-century Donald Campbell, and therefore the scion of a clan which was the hereditary and deadly enemy of Clan Donald!
    Last edited by Bruce Scott; 20th January 23 at 11:30 PM.

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