What exactly is a surname? In some cultures, a hereditary last name, surname, or family name is the distinctive part of one’s name that identifies their family, clan or group. The common middle name among most people today is simply their given first name coupled with a middle initial – “Shea,” “azel” or “ael.” However, in other cultures and societies, this is not the case. In the English speaking world, as well as the European or Asian cultures, it has become customary and often mandatory for a boy to carry both his father’s and mother’s surname as his first name.
There is no definitive definition of what is a surname in any culture or society, though there are certain characteristics and generalizations about what a surname means. For instance, most families have more than one surname. In most English-speaking countries, however, two names are usually required for a male child and a single name for a female child. This custom has been around for centuries, but it has declined in other areas over the past century or so.
For some families, the surname is also important to them because it provides clues to other information. For example, most Scottish families prefer to use patronymics (or spelling variants of given names) in place of full names when possible. This is particularly true for those who derive their surname from Ireland, England or Australia. It also applies to ethnic groups such as African-Americans, Native Americans or Hispanics. For these groups, certain surnames carry particular significance or meaning. For example, Shiatsu is an Asian style of massage, which might mean that the practitioner’s last name came from Shihatsu, an Asian style of massage therapy.
In most societies today, a family surname is often referred to as the decedent, given name or forename. But in some parts of the world where the community practices different beliefs, the surname is sometimes referred to as, and occasionally actually is, the hereditary name of the individual or sometimes just simply “son” or “daughter.” Sometimes the surname is changed simply to provide another name for the individual. For instance, in the United Kingdom, gay families sometimes use the word “stamp,” which in American English means a son, to differentiate themselves from heterosexual families.
When people trace their lineages or origins using historical records such as census records, census directory records and birth/death records, they may be interested in the question, “Who are my ancestors?” In tracing your family tree, the first place you should look is in the county where you were born and where your parents and grandparents lived at the time. Using the surname table that is available from the local government offices or online, you can find both the name and the surname of any relative who might be missing. Using this type of search, you can trace your ancestors back to your great-grandparents. The surname table will also tell you whether the person who has been missing is an ancestor descendant or person of unknown pedigree.
In addition to searching for relatives using the family history website or a family genealogy directory, genealogists and other individuals do research using public records as well. These types of records include things like birth, marriage and death certificates. These are important records to have on hand when tracing your family tree since they often contain vital information that can help family members identify others within their genealogy.
Many free online directories will provide you with what is a surname. Often, these services will also allow you to search for specific names that are similar to the name you enter. You can also use their “whois” service to see if any domain names or web servers are registered to the same person or company. This is another way of determining if you are tracing your family roots correctly.
When you finally have what is a surname of the person you are researching with, it is important to know what options are available to you. In most cases, using the web to help trace your family tree will be your only option. If at all possible, try to find any old newspaper articles, obituaries and family records you can to use as well. Sometimes just doing a quick search in one of these sources may uncover information that can help you piece together your family’s history and discover what is a surname of your relative.