What’s In a Family Name?

Family names are interesting. In many cultures, they tell a story about your family history. In Japan, they often refer to where your family comes from, rather than a job. In England, it tells about your ancestor’s job. But what about other countries?

If I look at my family name, I can tell that someone in my family’s history was an archer. Someone used a bow and arrow. I don’t know when it happened, but that’s where the name originates from.

So, if you’re willing to disclose your family name, what country is it from, and what’s the story behind it? Let’s discuss this in the comments below.


18 thoughts on “What’s In a Family Name?”

  1. From Ireland, my family name Hoey comes from the Dal Fiatach dynasty. They are descendant from Fiatach mac Daire, a King of Ulster and High King of Ireland in 1st Century AD. Although this is from the internet (Wiki) so I’m not sure if all this is 100%accurate.

  2. According to the “Surname Database”, the Tobins were originally a family called “de St. Aubyn”, who were of Norman-French origin and integrated into Ireland in the wake of the Norman Invasion. There’s a bit of info about the coat of arms, one Tobin who was a politician of some sort, and one who died in battle, but there’s nothing too too interesting on the site.

    However, my maiden name is actually Clarke, so let’s have a look at that…
    Anglo-saxon in origin, and refers to an occupation…a scribe or secretary. lol So my ancestors were writers, of a sort. Nice. It also says that “Clarke” was derived from “clerk or cleric”, meaning that my family was part of a religious group that – at the time – were some of the only educated people, so our name became synonymous with “educated” or “literate”. Interesting.

    1. Very interesting. I guess you’re following in your ancestors’ footsteps 🙂

      And your husband’s ancestors were Norman, huh? One branch of my Smith family (maternal grandmother) were descended from Normans dating back to the Norman Invasion.

      1. Pretty cool. 🙂 I’m interested to look further into both our histories now.

        Side note; back in school we had to do a project about our family’s history. My best friend discovered that a branch of her family was chased out of Ireland for stealing sheep…and guess whose family they were caught stealing those sheep from? XD I branded her “sheep-thief” for years after that. lol

          1. Yeah, we got one heck of a good laugh out of it. Although the coincidence level is probably quite a bit lower because of where we live…quite a large percentage of Nova Scotia can be traced back to certain areas of either Ireland or Scotland, so there’s pretty good chances that a lot of our families intersected at some point. 😀

            1. Yeah. Apparently, the Archer part of my family interacted with my uncle’s family a long time ago. So, my aunt and uncle’s ancestors met each other before: one was a pirate, the other was a regular sailor.

  3. My family name is Kombu.
    Kombu means a kind of seaweed or a kelp. My ancestor lived in Fukui, Japan.
    This is a rare name. We always find almost only my family and relatives wherever we go. There are a few people with Kombu name in Osaka and Nara, too.
    Kombu people in Nara was on Junichiro Tanizaki’s book, Yoshino-
    Kuzu. I do not know they have blood connection with us.

    About the story when our ancestor got their name, there are two stories.
    We got this family name in Edo period.
    Basically merchants did not have family names. So, it is honorable to get a family name. Now, then, why Kombu?

    Story1. My ancestor presented Kombu to castle and the local lord said “Oh, thanks!Good Kombu. You are Kombu-san from now on.”
    Story2. My ancestor was hanging Kombu on their signbord to make it dry. The local lord came nearby and saw it. “Kombu on a
    signbord? Your name is Kombu-san.”

    I like “signbord” story.
    Our ancestor was a wholeseller of sea foods. Then, in 1782, they changed their bussiness and started confectionery shop. This old shop still exist in Fukui. If you come to Fukui, please visit the shop.
    URL is here.

    1. So that’s your ancestor’s shop? Wow, I’m surprised it’s still open. That’s pretty rare.

      You have a couple of interesting stories. You’re definitely the only person I’ve met with the family name Kombu.

  4. My family name of Cappozzo comes from the northern parts of Italy, I believe, from around the Tuscany region. From all accounts this name in Italy is as common as Smith is in Australia.

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