By admin ~ April 3rd, 2009. Filed under: surnames.
In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th and 14th centuries, initially by the aristocracy but eventually by everyone. By 1400, most English and Scottish people had acquired surnames, but many Scottish and Welsh people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century, or even later. Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) ordered that marital births be recorded under the surname of the father.
Most surnames of British origin fall into seven types:
* Occupations (e.g., Smith, Sawyer, Clark, Cooper, Cook, Carpenter, Forrester, Head, Archer, Baker, Dyer, Walker, Woodman, Taylor, Turner, Knight, Weaver, Wright)
* Personal characteristics (e.g., Short, Brown, Black, Whitehead, Long)
* Geographical features (e.g., Bridge, Camp, Hill, Lake, Lee, Wood, Forest, Fields, Stone, Morley, Head -Middle English for hed = given a person who lived at the head of a river or on a hilltop.)
* Place names (e.g., Washington, Burton, London, Leighton, Hamilton, Sutton, Flint, Laughton)
* For those descended from land-owners, the name of their holdings, manor or estate (the name Washington can also fall into this category, Old English components Hwæssa-inga-tu-n “estate of the descendants of Wassa”)
* Patronymics, matronymics or ancestral, often from a person’s given name (e.g., from male name: Richardson, Williams, Thompson, Johnson) or female names Molson (from Moll for Mary), Madison (from Maud), Emmott (from Emma), Marriott (from Mary) or from a clan name (for those of Scottish origin, e.g., MacDonald, Forbes) with “Mac” Scottish Gaelic for son.
* Patronal, from patronage (Hickman meaning Hick’s man, where Hick is a pet form of the name Richard) or strong ties of religion Kilpatrick (follower of Patrick) or Kilbride (follower of Bridget). It might be worth noting that Kil may come from the Gaelic word ‘Cill’ which means Church. This would certainly support the claim that the surname is tied to the religion.