In certain regions of Europe last names changed from one generation to another or were tied to the property on which an ancestor lived…
Learn about your ancestor’s country of origin and determine what the common practices were in that region…
Even before I started researching my family tree I’d heard names sometimes changed from the old country to the new world. Different languages, different accents, unknown spellings all played a part in the names new Americans acquired upon arrival. The name Vito Corleone is recognized as the main character in the Godfather. However, in the Godfather II it’s a young Vito Andolini who arrives at Ellis Island from Corleone, Sicily. As the boy is registered to enter the United States there are language difficulties and Vito is given the last name Corleone, which is actually the name of his home town.
However, It also seems to have happened to our names as we moved from state to territory to new frontier areas as we settled the country. My research into my great-grandmother Bessie Jane Belew Rose turns up relatives and ancestors named Belue, Beleu, Ballew and even Ballou, as in Cat Ballou. Remember that movie with Lee Marvin playing the drunkest gunfighter in the west? Cat—as in Catherine—Ballou hires him to protect the family ranch and then avenge her father’s death. It was a comedy by the way, made in 1965. But back to our story… The name is pronounced “blue” like the color, and that’s how it’s spelled in some families along with a very French version of Ballieux, or something like that.
Turns out I have a branch of Blues, like the color, on a different part of my tree. And a great great grandmother, Catherine Blue—I wonder if she was called Cat. These Blues came from Scotland by way of Nova Scotia and as far as I can tell the name was always spelled Blue. This is the same family that begat Ronald Reagan and makes the former president one of our distant cousins on my Dad’s side.
Speaking of French—back to the Ballieux spelling—Phillippe Du Trieux arrived in New Amsterdam in 1624 with the first immigrants on the ship the New Netherland to settle on Manhattan Island. In a few generations Philippe, became Phillip, and du Trieux became Truax. One of the du Trieux boys married Sarah la Roux, They named a son Larue, and his last name became Truex, with an “e” and then later the name settled on the spelling of Truax, with an “a”. About the same time someone named VanderVinck arrived in the area and over a couple of generations his name evolved to become Wink, as in Sansom Wink, my great great grandfather.
Other family names that have evolved over the years are Beavins, Bevins or Bivens, and maybe before that it was originally ap Evans, which means “of Evan”, as in “son of Evan” in Ireland and Wales.
Then there were different spellings, Talmadge became Talmage, as in America’s first spies. Stillwell, was spelled Stilwell sometimes. In looking for information about my great great grandmother Nancy Qualls, I can’t overlook Quarles and Quails.
Some of my family names have seemed fixed through the years: Rose, Miller, McKay, Scott… although Scott was written Schott in a marriage record once, Rose can turn up as Ross in some families; Miller can be Millar; McKay might be McKee… It’s good to keep these things in mind when looking for specific documents that don’t seem to exist.
How about your family names? What differences have turned up in your research?
Here’s how I’m related to some of these people.
Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay, she was called “Kat” > Olive Wink > Sansom Wink > Jacob Adam Wink > Adam Wink > Jacob Wink, Esq. b. 1733, Bedford, PA > Sebastian Wink b. 1705 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, immigrated and returned to die in France > Isaac VanDerVinck
Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay > Olive Wink > Sansom Wink > Jacob Adam Wink > Adam Wink > Jacob Wink, Esq. who married Elizabeth Truax > Larue Jacob Truex > Phillip Truex > Jacob Du Trieux > Philippe Du Trieux > Philippe DuTrieux, b. 1586, Roubaix, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, arrived New Amsterdam, 1624.
Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay > Donald Graham McKay > Robert McKay who married Catherine Blue > Donald Daniel Blue (great great grandfather of Ronald Reagan) > Donald Neil Blue b. 1799 in Kilcalmonell, County, Argylshire Highlands of Scotland