Discovering Names

What does your name mean, where does it come from, how else could you spell it? They are questions I have been trying to ask some of my long deceased ancestors. They generally don’t answer me but I have been able to discover some answers through genealogy sleuthing and hopefully my experiences may give you some clues to finding out more about your family.

My grandmother could tell me her great grandmother’s maiden name but not even her first name. This was not a big problem because the surname didn’t appear to be a popular name so I thought it should be easy to trace the family once I find the Ubach’s. My problem was that I couldn’t find anyone with the surname Ubach and I had given up. Years later when I was looking at her husband’s family I connected with another family member who had a copy of their marriage certificate and apparently Ubach was really Hubach. In this instance pronunciation was the problem. My grandmother and her younger sister couldn’t believe that their great grandmothers maiden name was Hubach because their dad had always said it was Ubach. A plausible explanation I was given by another Hubach descendant was that the Hubach’s in England mostly ended up in the east end of London where people tended to drop their H’s when they spoke, turning Hubach into Ubach. When I later followed the family back into Germany I found that the surname was initially Huppach, another change that could be attributed to pronunciation.

Scandinavian names are another thing entirely, seemingly changing without a concern. My Nana’s maiden name was Johnson however the family knew that her grandfather was born in Norway and his surname was once Johanson. Learning more about my great, great grandfather taught me more about Scandinavian names. The story with his name is that Anders Johansen left Norway on an English ship amongst a crew of mostly English and some Scandinavians, Andrew Johansen arrived in Australia and a few years later Andrew Johnson got married. Things I learnt about Scandinavian names that may be worth you knowing. Until recent history, 1922 in Norway and a bit earlier in Sweden and Denmark surnames were not inherited. Surnames were descriptive patronymic or matronymic and middle names were often descriptive of the place or farm you lived on. In the case of a middle name people often changed their middle name when they moved, matching their middle name to the name of the place where they were living. A patronymic surname means that your surname is descriptive of your father, in the case of my ancestor, taken from his surname Johansen, it means that he was the son of Johan. In the case of a daughter there a few variations but one of the most popular is dotter, as in the daughter of Anders would have the surname Andersdotter or Andersdr.

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