As with many
people who start on their family tree, once I worked out were we
come from, I wanted to understand why we are called what we are.
It is not known
when humans first began using names though the practice is certainly
very old, probably extending far into prehistory.
cultures use names, naming customs vary greatly from people to people.
In some cases they are very simple, such as those of many Indonesians
who use just a single name. On the other hand, traditional Chinese
naming practices were very complex. Chinese males were given different
names at various points in their lives, in addition to a surname
and sometimes a generation name.
several purposes. Most importantly they help distinguish us from
one another. Imagine how difficult it would be to refer to people
if we did not use names. Instead of saying Bob one would have to
say something like the short red-headed man who lives down the street.
Some names carry information about our roots, such as family or
clan names. They are generally inherited. Names can serve other
purposes as well, such as the Chinese generation name which identifies
the generation of the bearer, or the names used by some African
cultures which describe the order in which siblings were born. Given
names, what westerners call first names, are generally bestowed
at some point after the birth of the child.
In this section
of the site, you can:
out more about etymology - the study
of origin and meaning of word.
out information about where and when practice of using surnames
more about naming systems -
understanding the patterns people used to name their children
assists in family research, especially when you hit those major
the etymology of Surnames in my
out about Coats of Arms and Tartan,
where they come from and who should 'rightly' use them
links section (left) provides some excellent reference sites for
name meanings. These sites provide a mixture of first and surname
meanings across a variety of different cultures, and have been invaluable
in compiling this research