These names were not necessarily hereditary; however, some people of noble birth might take on the name of the place they ruled, which could be passed on to later generations. Surnames were introduced into England after 1 066 by the Norman barons. When they first began using them, people would change or drop their surnames at will; however, the titles began to stick after a time. “So trades, nicknames, places of origin, and fathers’ names became fixed surnames – names such as Fletcher and Smith, Redhead and Swift, Green and Pickering Wilkins and Johnson,” Paul Blake explains.
By 1400 most English families had adopted the use of hereditary surnames, many of which stuck a considerable amount of time. Others, however, faded away or changed after only a few generations. Titles originating from a place are probably the oldest and most common forms of surnames. These may derive from numerous sources, such as a country, town or estate, and sometimes even landscape features. Many different surnames can stem from a single word; for example, the word ‘Hill,’ could generate many names such as Hull, Holt and Knell to name a few. Blake expands on names originating from a place. Nearly every county, town, riding, hundred, hyphenate, village, hamlet and even single house, at any date, has given its name. Again, most are obvious, but there are some surprises – such as Bristol (both Bristol and Barstow in Surrey), and Vase (Devises or a dweller on the boundary). Thorpe means a village and there are numerous names derived from the word borough – examples are Boroughs, Bury, Burg, Burke, Bourne, Borrow and Burrower. ” Not only did people take on the names of the villages and landscapes in which they lived, but they hanged and kept the names for generations after.
Over time, the many names began to fragment and connect with others to form completely new titles. C. M. Matthews so eloquently puts it, “Modern English surnames are so many fragments of medieval conversation, crystallized into permanent form. Nicknames, relationships, places of abode, occupations?words or phrases used casually to differentiate one neighbor from another?these have stuck like tags and are still with us after six or seven centuries. ” The seemingly meaningless titles given to people ages ago stuck through the generations ND now define who we are and where and who we came from.
Surnames can carry such a deep meaning that authors have been known to give their characters meaningful names to give insight to a character. For example, George R. R. Martin named a family in his book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, “Stark,” meaning strong or brave. This title set up the entire family’s personality and story before a single word was uttered. This is only one example of millions throughout literature, and it shows how important us renames are to us. Surnames are a very significant and complicated part Of both Our history and Our present.
Our families’ names can be used to further delve into to the past and find more about where we come from. They are also present in almost every aspect of our lives today. Surnames have grown to hold a power they never had before. They define who someone is in the eyes of both the law and society. These titles also show that something so meaningless as a nickname or defining characteristic can have an enormous effect on future generations. People can use the names they were born with to learn more about themselves and those who came before them.