History of Last Names
Going back in time, before the 10th century, takes us to an era where people were usually only referred to by their first name. The Romans, and their society, were the exceptions and this is further explained by the above definition of a cognomen.
The vast majority of people did not travel a great deal and lived in small communities where their first name distinguished them from each other. First names were not duplicated within a village so there was no confusion. Increases in population, travel and different cultures influenced this custom and second names, or surnames, were slowly introduced.
American Last Names
The whole subject of American names is extremely complex. British Last Names were taken to America and became American surnames. Now add to this the other names that derive from many other countries in the World and we have a vast amount of possible derivations of American Last Names! Many have retained the form that they had in other countries. But the origins of many other American Last Names were changed so that English speakers would find them easier to pronounce and spell. And, of course, Native American Last Names can also be added to increase the complexities of American surnames. American Last Names embody all the surnames of the world.
Adopted / Invented Last Names
Many of our ancestors left their homelands for the chance of better opportunities in different countries. The USA welcomed many such people. However officials were unable to understand the many different languages and so Last name's were registered in a phonetic fashion by using the closet spellings that sounded similar to the original name.
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