Saturday, November 28, 2015


They say names carry power but have you ever wondered how people got their last names?  Many people have a last name based on their ancestor's job such as Smith, Cooper, or Miller.  Smith due to the family being blacksmiths or Cooper because of making barrels, or Miller due to the family milling grain into flour? 

Business Card, Company, Address, NameSome  have a name with a prefix that means "son of" as in MacDonald and other such Scottish names while in other cultures, you are given your first name and both your paternal and maternal surnames as is normal in Spanish and many Spanish speaking countries.

Of course, if your family emigrated to the United States, your name might have been changed because the person registering you couldn't spell it and changed it to something they could spell.  Yet have you ever wondered about other ways last names came about?

I'll share how many locals got their last names up here after a small bit of Alaskan history.  The state was divided up among the Protestants, the Catholics, the Moravians, the Russian Orthodox and a few other groups.  The area I'm was given to the Catholics where  they started setting up churches around the early 1900's or so.  Up until that point, most people had only one name. 

The church took the first name of the person who headed the family group and decided that was the last name.  They were given English first names when they were baptized and the date of their baptism became their legally registered birth date.  This was because the culture was subsistence based and people followed a seasonal path. 

Although most had English names, they also kept their native names. As a point of interest, the names here are neither male nor female.  They are names of those who have passed and are given to newborns.  As the child grows up, they might be called dad, or uncle or grandmother based on who had the name last.  A child grows up knowing who last had the name and the relationship of that person to others.

There are a few surnames in town that had nothing to do with the original person's name.  No one is sure why they got a last name of Hill but I think it might be because the missionaries thought the name was too hard to spell and chose something simpler but who knows.  The reasons for the obviously non-native names are now lost in the mists of time.  They just are and that is what is important

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