October 30th, 2010 at 3:49 pm (Articles)
According to Wikipedia the meaning of the word patronymics is:
A patronym, or patronymic, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one’s father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one’s mother or a female ancestor is a matronym. Each is a means of conveying lineage. In many areas patronyms predate the use of family names. They are common as middle names in Russia, and in Iceland surnames are an exception, with the law in favour of patronyms (or more recently, matronyms).
Many Celtic, English, Iberian, Scandinavian and Slavic surnames originate from patronyms, e.g. Wilson (son of William), Powell (from “ap Hywel“), Fernández (son of Fernando), Rodríguez (son of Rodrigo), Carlsson (son of Carl), Stefanović (son of Stefan) and O’Connor (from “Ó Conchobhair”, meaning grandson/descendant of Conchobhar). Similarly, other cultures which formerly used patronyms have since switched to the more widespread style of passing the father’s last name to the children (and wife) as their own.
Patronyms can simplify or complicate genealogical research. A father’s first name is easily determinable when his children have a patronym; however, migration has frequently resulted in a switch from a patronymic to a family name due to different local customs. Most immigrants adapt as soon as birth, marriage, and death certificates must be written. Depending on the countries concerned, family research in the nineteenth century or earlier needs to take this into account.
A good set of examples are given in the book
“Secrets of Tracing Your Ancestors” by W. Daniel Quillen.
The Irish had their own form of patronymics recognized the world over. Prefixes such as Mc or Mac were used to signify the son of: McDonnell was therefore the son of Donnell. Another prefix was the O’ which meant “descended from”, and a grandson or great grandson might use such a prefix. Occasionally the English passed laws to annoy the Irish (actually they were trying to assimilate them into English culture). One such law forbade the use of the patronymics O’ and Mc. At that time, the patronymic fitz replaced Mc for son of: Fitzmorris then meant the son of Morris.
Almost as prevalent as Irish patronymics are Scandinavian patronymics. I suppose we all know more than our fair share of individuals, with surnames like Anderson (Ander’s son) and Johnson (John’s son). For centuries Scandinavians employed this naming scheme, and until surnames became common (in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s depending on the location), the names changed from generation to generation.
Jewish culture also has its patronymics. You will occasionally see the name ben used to designate the son of, as in David ben Joseph (David, the son of Joseph). Certain Jewish groups also used patronymics to honor living grandparents, and there was a specific order used to designate names. The first-born son was often named after his paternal grandfather, and his brother (the second son) was named after his maternal grandfather. They used this practice for their daughters too: first-born daughters were given the name of their paternal grandmother and second-born daughters received the names of their maternal grandmother. This method of, naming was especially popular with Sephardic Jews.
Be sure to check out the book to read more about this subject and many others.
On a personal note, this book is one that would be a great addition to your collection or an appreciated gift for anyone working on family history.