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Local Surnames


Local names are also referred to as topographic surnames, which were given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree.

Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties. As a general rule, the greater the distance between an individual and their homeland, the larger the territory they were named after. For example, a person who only moved to another parish would be known by the name of their original village, while people who migrated to a different country were often known by the name of a region or country from which they came.

English local names were originally preceded by a preposition, such as de, at, atte, by, in. After the Norman Conquest, the usual preposition was de, which was used in both English and French place-names. In French names beginning with a vowel, the de was often merged with the name. For example, de Ash would become D'ash and, later, Dash. By the end of the 14th century, prepositions were frequently assimilated or dropped from the surname.


This page was last modified on 8 May 2007.

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