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Sat Feb 2, 2013, 08:22 PM

question: why would a surname totally change in the middle of a long line?

Example: In the 1400s, the long long de Eley or Eley line changes to the surname Smythe. The whole line previously is Eley or de Eley, and then the direct descendants have the surname Smythe and later Smith.

What causes that? It's not the first instance I have seen of a surname flipping to something seemingly unrelated.

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Reply question: why would a surname totally change in the middle of a long line? (Original post)
grasswire Feb 2013 OP
ZombieHorde Feb 2013 #1
Hayabusa Feb 2013 #2
TheMadMonk Feb 2013 #3
grasswire Feb 2013 #4
TheMadMonk Feb 2013 #5
sybylla Mar 2013 #12
pipi_k Feb 2013 #6
jwirr Feb 2013 #7
HeiressofBickworth Feb 2013 #8
pipi_k Feb 2013 #9
Spider Jerusalem Feb 2013 #10
SheilaT Feb 2013 #11
PADemD Jul 2013 #13

Response to grasswire (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 08:32 PM

1. I don't know all reaons, but slavery and immigration are two. nt

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 08:35 PM

2. From what I know

Surnames back in those days for commoners were based upon one of two things: the city in which you lived (So X de Eley meant that X lived in the city or town of Eley) or your profession. It's possible that your ancestors either grew to dislike the town of their birth or would have preferred to go by their profession's name.

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 09:43 PM

3. Hapsburg to Windsor.

 

Old name might have some bad associaton happening.

Or change from locale to proffession as mentioned by Hayabusa.

Or maybe as simple as a peasant son getting an actual trade apprenticeship. Such was a BIG, BIG thing for a dirt grubber's kid back in the day.

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Response to TheMadMonk (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 11:14 PM

4. yes, this all is interesting

This line went from knights, VIPs and landed gentry in Britain all the way forward to the late 1400s, then the name changed to the common name and as you say, family status appeared to change as the world changed in the 1500s and 1600s. No more landed gentry in this line, and the name changed to Smith. A couple more centuries past that, my grandfather was homesteading on the prairie of Saskatchewan. Can't be much more humble than that!

Fascinating.

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Response to grasswire (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:40 AM

5. Ah, the other direction socioeconomically.

 

Someone born the wrong side of the sheets perchance?

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Response to grasswire (Reply #4)

Sat Mar 9, 2013, 08:49 PM

12. Look into historical tension of the era in which the name changes.

Sounds to me like someone pissed off a king or ended up on the wrong side of a war or rebellion. The previous name may have been a title used only by grant of the king. Once revoked, the family had no choice but to fall back on the family name.

Then again, there were a lot of families who had no family name, no surname, until the 1400's or 1500's. It maybe that the family still retained their ancestral title, but officially took a surname and used it for legal records. In England, titles and the names that went with them only passed on to the oldest son. The remainder of the family used the surname.

A gander at Debretts (sp?) might help you figure out what happened.

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 03:03 PM

6. Weird, isn't it...

On my father's side, I spent a long time looking for a link to the DeGray family in France.

What I found was that someone by the name of "Legoues" came over, and took the name of "Grais" from the military unit he was in that was sent to Canada in the late 1600s/early 1700s.

That was changed to "de Grais", then "Degre' ", and then to DeGray.

On my mother's side is evidence of a man with the last name "Regnier" adopting the last name of his wife, which was "Brion", and then maybe a generation later changed to "Brillion".

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during all that time, to see what happened and why...

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 04:24 PM

7. Not sure but I heard a great story from a friend. Her ancestor was coming in from Ireland and had

a criminal background. He wanted to change his name but had not thought it through. As he walked in the line at Ellis Island he looked up and saw a beer sign for Miller's. From that day he and his family went by the name Miller.

Same reason with a family in my tree. Went from Maas to Hinderson and then shortened it to Hinders.

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:32 AM

8. For one thing, spelling means nothing

So if the name sounds the same, the spelling doesn't necessarily mean it's a different family. Standardized spelling didn't exist, and there are examples of names sounding the same but spelled differently. This often happened when a person came through an immigration point. The person writing down the name spelled the name in the manner they thought is was spelled but may have been incorrect. Same with census takers. For example, if someone of German heritage wrote down the name "Deal" it likely came out "Diehl". Someone from England may have written it "Deale". One of my friends who is researching the Deal name, came up with documents when taken together showed six different spellings of the name, but all referring to the same family.

Also, as one poster said, socioeconomic status played a role. I have one ancestor without a title who married a woman whose father had a title and no male heirs. He took his wife's name (and title). And ever afterwards, the family carried the wife's name.

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Response to HeiressofBickworth (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 10:54 PM

9. Something like that happened

on a US census form one time for a great grandfather, whose last name was Auclair.

Likely because of my g. grandfather's Canadian French accent, the census taker recorded his name as O'Clair, making it look Irish.



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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 02:42 AM

10. The adoption of the surname of a relative to get an inheritance, possibly

or because of a prominent relative of that name--see for instance the children of one Morgan Williams and his wife Catherine Cromwell, sister of Thomas Cromwell, minister to Henry VIII; they became known as "Williams alias Cromwell" and in later generations just "Cromwell". Also possibly because of association with a village or manor of that name (which, in the case of the gentry, which is the social class we're dealing with, is frequently where a surname would come from in the first place).

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:58 PM

11. My first thought is that

the name change indicates a man taking his wife's surname, to keep that surname going if she had no brothers. Or her father had a lot of money and that was the condition of allowing the marriage.

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Response to grasswire (Original post)

Tue Jul 9, 2013, 08:58 PM

13. It doesn't seem like the 1400's was a very nice century to be alive.

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