Patronymic: Wikis


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A patronym, or patronymic, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a matronym. Each is a means of conveying lineage. During singular naming there was a considerable time of loose patronomization before they became a formal part of a person's name in the 1700s.

In many areas patronyms predate the use of family names. They are common as middle names in Russia, and in Iceland surnames are an exception, with the law in favour of patronyms (or more recently, matronyms).

Many Celtic, English, Iberian, Scandinavian and Slavic surnames originate from patronyms, e.g. Wilson (son of William), Powell (from "ap Hywel"), Fernández (son of Fernando), Rodríguez (son of Rodrigo), Carlsson (son of Carl), Stefanović (son of Stefan) and O'Connor (from "Ó Conchobhair", meaning grandson/descendant of Conchobhar). Similarly, other cultures which formerly used patronyms have since switched to the more widespread style of passing the father's last name to the children (and wife) as their own.

Patronyms can simplify or complicate genealogical research. A father's first name is easily determinable when his children have a patronym; however, migration has frequently resulted in a switch from a patronymic to a family name due to different local customs. Most immigrants adapt as soon as birth, marriage, and death certificates must be written. Depending on the countries concerned, family research in the nineteenth century or earlier needs to take this into account.

In biological taxonomy, a patronym is a specific epithet which is a Latinized surname. These often honor associates of the biologist who named the organism rather than the biologist himself. Examples include Gopherus agassizii, named by James Graham Cooper after Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, and Acacia greggii, named by botanist Asa Gray after explorer Josiah Gregg.



Western Europe

In Western Europe patronyms were formerly widespread but later became confined to Scandinavia.

Nordic countries

This following entry somewhat oversimplifies the situation in Norway by implying that Danish and Norwegian were-are the same language. The Norwegian forms are -son and -dotter, Danish and Dano-Norwegian forms are -søn, -sen and -datter. As noted in the comment about Danish patronymics in northern Germany, the use of Danish spellings in Norway was due to the cultural and political domination of Norway by Denmark which supplanted the written Norwegian language with the Danish one. All scribes, priests and official persons used Danish to express the Norwegian names and words they were hearing and wrote down whatever they saw fit. Norwegian did not die but continued to evolve as a spoken language - in the mid-19th C it was given a written norm again after approximately four centuries of Danish only as the literary language of Norway and Denmark. Norwegian is officially known today as nynorsk (Modern Norwegian - to differentiate it from Middle- and Old Norwegian). Dano-Norwegian in its spoken form evolved essentially from Norwegian pronunciation of Danish while retaining most of the Danish vocabulary - it is officially known as bokmål (book language or literary language).

The Norwegian Naming Law does not prohibit the use of patronymics, it is entirely permissible to use -son or -sen, -dotter or -datter for children. In order to avoid the predominence of -sen names as surnames (due to the historical substitution of Danish forms for Norwegian ones), one may also choose as a last name a farm, place or occupational name that has been in the family from ones great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents or parents. So the ancient custom can be kept up if one chooses to do so - first name + patronymic + last name. This is one way of preserving some of the Norwegian cultural heritage that was degraded or assumed not to exist during the Danish period - somewhat analagous to the Russian versus Ukrainian linguistic divide.

In Norse custom patronyms and matronyms were formed by using the ending -son (later -søn and -sen in Danish and Norwegian) to indicate "son of", and -dóttir (Icelandic -dóttir, Danish and Norwegian -datter, Swedish -dotter) for "daughter of". This name was generally used as a last name although a third name, a so-called byname based on location or personal characteristic was often added to differentiate people and could eventually develop into a kind of family name. Some early modern examples of the latter practice, where the patronymic was placed after the given name and was followed by the surname, are Norwegian Peder Claussøn Friis, the son of Nicolas Thorolfsen Friis (Claus in Claussøn being short for Nicolas) and Danish Thomas Hansen Kingo, the son of Hans Thomsen Kingo. Eventually, most Nordic countries replaced this system with the prevailing "international" standard of inherited family names. In Norway, for example, the parliament passed a family name act in 1923, citing the rising population and the need to avoid the confusion of new last names in every generation. In Iceland, however, patronymics are still used as last names and this is in fact compulsory by law, with a handful of exceptions[1]

The use of Nordic-style patronymics, particularly in its Danish variation with the ending -sen, was also widespread in northern Germany. This reflects the influence of Scandinavia in this part of Germany during the centuries.

In Finland, the use of patronyms instead of family names was very common well into the 19th century. Patronymics were composed similarly as in Swedish language or other Scandinavian languages: the father's name and the suffix -n for genitive plus the word poika for sons, tytär for daughters. For example Tuomas Abrahaminpoika (to be read in English as "Tuomas, Abraham's son") and Martta Heikintytär (to be read in English as "Martta, Heikki's daughter").


In Dutch, patronymics were often used in place of family names or as middle names. Patronymics were composed of the father's name plus an ending -zoon for sons, -dochter for daughters. For instance, Abel Janszoon Tasman is "Abel son of Jan Tasman", and Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer: "Kenau, daughter of Simon Hasselaer". In written form, these endings were often abbreviated as -sz and -dr respectively eg. Jeroen Cornelisz "Jeroen son of Cornelis", or Volkert Evertsz. The endings -s, -se and -sen were also commonly used for sons and often for daughters too. In the northern provinces, -s, as genitive case, was almost universally used for both sons and daughters. Patronymics were common in the Dutch United Provinces until the French invasion in 1795 and subsequent annexation in 1810. As the Netherlands were now a province of France, a registry of births, deaths and marriages was established in 1811, whereupon emperor Napoleon forced the Dutch to register and adopt a distinct surname[2] Often, they simply made the patronymics the new family names, and modern Dutch patronymic-based surnames such as Jansen, Pietersen and Willemsen abound. Others chose their profession or habitat as family names: Bakker (baker), Slachter (butcher), van Dijk (of dike) etc.

Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The use of "Mac" in some form, was prevalent in Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx. "Mc" is also a frequent anglicisation in both Scotland and Ireland. In Ireland, the forms "Mag" and "M'" are encountered. The prefix "Mac" is used to form a patronym, such as "MacCoinnich" - or the anglicized 'Mackenzie' - son of Coinneach/Kenneth. Less well known is the female equivalent of Mac, Nic, condensed from nighean mhic (in Scottish Gaelic) or iníon mhic (in Irish). For example, the Scottish Gaelic surname, Nic Dhòmhnaill meaning 'daughter of a son of Dòmhnall' (in English, Donald), as in Mairi Nic Dhòmhnaill, or Mary MacDonald. In Ireland, the use of Ó (and its feminine equivalent , from iníon uí), anglicised "O'" and meaning 'grandson' predominated over "Mac"[citation needed]. At the north end of the Irish Sea, in Ulster, the Isle of Man and Galloway (indeed as far north as Argyll), "Mac" was frequently truncated in speech, leading to such anglicisations as "Qualtrough" (Son of Walter) & "Quayle" (son of Paul, cf. MacPhail) - usually beginning with "C", "K" or "Q". In Ireland, this truncation resulted in surnames such as "Guinness" (son of Aonghus, cf. MacAonghusa) beginning usually in "C" or "G" for patronymics prefixed with Mac, and in "H" (e.g. "Hurley" (descendant of Jarlath, cf. Ua hIarfhlatha/O'Hurley) for surnames prefixed with "O". Colloquial Scottish Gaelic also has other patronymics of a slightly different form for individuals, still in use (for more information please see: Scottish Gaelic personal naming system). An interesting crossover variation in the use of "O'" for grandson in Irish and "Ap" for son in Welsh, was that the West Waleian name Ho-well was derived from Ui'Well of old Irish, which then became O'Well... then Howell in their Welsh relatives. As for Ap Howell, that does mean, 'the son of the grandson of...Well'[citation needed]

In Wales, before the 1536 Act of Union all Welsh people used patronyms and matronym as the sole way of naming people. Welsh, as a p-Celtic language, used "Map" (Modern Welsh "Mab") in contrast to the q-Celtic Scottish "Mac". Rhydderch ap Watcyn was Rhydderch son of Watcyn. Daughters were indicated by verch (from merch, meaning 'girl, daughter'), as in Angharad Verch Owain or 'Angharad, daughter of Owain'. This gave rise to names such as ap Hywel being — after the Acts of Union — used as Anglicised surnames; in this case the name ap Hywel became the surnames Howell/Powell. There are many such Anglicised surnames, such as Bowen from ab Owen, Protheroe from ap Rhydderch, and Pulliam from ap William. Up until the Industrial Revolution the use of patronyms was still widespread, especially in the South West, Mid West and North of Wales. There was a revival of patronyms during the 20th century, which continues today. Myrddin ap Dafydd is a contemporary Welsh poet.


The archaic French, more specifically, Norman, prefix fitz, which is cognate with the modern French fils, meaning son, appears in England's aristocratic family lines dating from the Norman Conquest, and also among the Anglo-Irish. Thus there are names such as Fitzgerald and Fitzhugh. Of particular interest is the name Fitzroy, meaning "King's son", which was used by Royal bastards who were acknowledged as such by their fathers.

In modern France the terms patronyme and nom patronymique have been used to designate the family name, meaning that it is inherited from the father. This usage is contrary to the international meaning as described in the rest of this article. A law enacted in 2002 replaced these terms with nom de famille, as in other countries, although its widespread adoption remains unrealised.

Iberian Peninsula

In Portugal, there are some common surnames which had a patronymic genesis, but are no longer used in such way. For instance, Álvares was the son of Álvaro and Gonçalves was the son of Gonçalo (it was the case of Nuno Álvares Pereira, son of Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, son of Gonçalo Pereira). Other cases include Rodrigues (Rodrigo) and Nunes (Nuno). In the same way the surname Soares means son of Soeiro (in Latin Suarius). It comes from Latin Suarici (son of Suarius); the Latin genitive suffix -icius/a was used to indicate a patronymic. After it became Suariz, Suarez and eventually Soares.

Spanish patronyms follow a similar pattern to the Portuguese (e.g., López: of Lope; Hernández: of Hernando; Álvarez: of Álvaro). Common endings include -ez, -az, -is, and -oz. (Note: Not all names with similar endings are necessarily patronymic, i.e. Ramas, Vargas, Morales.)

In the past, both in Spanish and Portuguese, plus Catalan endings -ez, -es, -iz, -is tended to confound (since pronunciation was quite similar in the three languages). Nowadays, Portuguese has been fully standardized in -es and Catalan in -is, Spanish also is standardized to -ez but is very common to see archaic endings in -es. For instance, Pires, Pérez and Peris are the modern forms of "Peterson" in Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan.

Eastern Europe


Vuk Karadžić reported that in Serbia there were no last names "until our times", i.e. until the nineteenth century, and that patronymics were used in the traditional way.


In East Slavic languages, the ending -ovich/-yevich/-yich is used to form patronymics for men. For example, in Russian, a man named Ivan with a father named Nikolay would be known as Ivan Nikolayevich or 'Ivan, son of Nikolay' (Nikolayevich being a patronymic). For women, the ending is -yevna, -ovna or -ichna. For masculine names ending in a vowel, such as Ilya or Foma, the corresponding endings are -ich and -inichna.

In Russia, the patronymic is an official part of the name, used in all official documents, and when addressing somebody both formally and among friends. A Russian will rarely formally address a person named Mikhail simply as 'Mikhail', but rather as 'Mikhail' followed by his patronymic (i.e. 'Mikhail Nikolayevich' or 'Mikhail Sergeyevich' etc). However, on informal occasions when a person is called by a diminutive (such as Misha for Mikhail), the patronymic is rarely used. In colloquial, informal speech, it is also possible to contract the ending of a patronymic: thus Nikolayevich becomes Nikolaich, and Stepan Ivanovich becomes Stepan Ivanych or simply Ivanych as the given name may be omitted altogether. In this case the contraction, if possible, is obligatory: Ivan Sergeyevich Sidorov may be called 'Sergeich' or, more rarely, 'Sergeyevich', though such contractions are sometimes avoided as they tend to bring a shade of muzhik-style familiarity. A famous example of a contracted female patronymic is 'Mar' Ivanna' (Марьванна), short for 'Maria Ivanovna' (Мария Ивановна), a young female teacher who is a recurring character in Vovochka jokes. In contrast to male names, if a woman is called by her patronymic name without a given name, the patronymic is never contracted: 'Ivanovna' but 'Mar' Ivanna'. Male and female patronymic names derived from names ending in -slav (Vladislav, Yaroslav) have two possible forms: long, with -vovich/-vovna (Yaroslavovich, Yaroslavovna) and short, with -vich, -vna (Yaroslavich, Yaroslavna). A curious use of a Russian patronymic occurs in some Tom Clancy novels; the character Jack Ryan, whose father was Emmet Ryan, is addressed as Ivan Emmetovich by a Russian colleague, Sergei Nikolaich (Nikolaievich) Golovko. Similarly, the name of the Arabic genie from the Russian book Old Khottabych (Starik Khottabych) by Lazar Lagin was constructed from the genie's name 'Hassan Abdul-rahman ibn Khattab'.


In Ukrainian, the female Patronymic always ends with -івна (-ivna) or -ївна (-yivna) . The male Patronymic always ends with -ович (-ovych).


In Bulgarian, the patronymics are -ov/-ev and -ova/-eva for men and women, respectively. These are identical to the endings of family names in Bulgarian and some other Slavic family names (such as names in Russian and Czech). In Bulgarian official documents, the patronymic is inserted before the surname - e.g. Ivan Marinov Yordanov would be the son of Marin Yordanov.

Some South Slavic surnames (usually Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian) look morphologically identical to East Slavic patronymics, but do not change form between masculine and feminine: Milla Jovovich and not 'Jovovna'. In addition, these surnames cannot be contracted using the pattern described above, and generally carry the stress on a different syllable. Examples include Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich and Vladislav Khodasevich.


In Hungarian, patronyms were traditionally formed with the ending -fi (sometimes spelled as -fy or -ffy). This system is no longer in common use, though traces of it can still be found in some frequent present-day surnames such as Pálfi (son of Paul), Győrfi, Bánfi or in the name of the famous poet Sándor Petőfi (who chose this Hungarian form instead of his Slavic birth name Petrovics). In the Old Hungarian period (10th−16th century, see History of Hungarian), when surnames were not in common use, the full genitive was represented as in Péter fia András (Peter's son Andrew); these forms are in frequent use in charters and legal documents dated back to that time.


In Romanian, the endings -escu and -eanu were used, as in Petrescu, 'son of Petre (Peter)'; many modern Romanian family names were formed from such patronymics.


Most Greek surnames are patronymics by origin, albeit in various forms depending on ancestral locality. Diminutive suffixes which denote "son of", or more generally "descendant of", are produced as follows: starting with the given name Δημήτριος, Dēmétrios, for example, the patronymic surnames Dēmētrópoulos (Peloponnesus), Dēmētrákos (Laconia), Dēmētréas (Messenian Mani), Dēmētrátos (Cephalonia), Dēmētrákēs (Crete), Dēmētriádēs/Dēmētr-ídēs (Pontus, Asia Minor, also -ídēs), Dēmētréllēs (Lesbos), Dēmétroglou (Asia Minor), or simply Dēmētríou (Cyprus, the first name in the Genitive) are formed. The same principle can apply to surnames deriving from professions, for example from παπάς, papás, priest, one derives the surnames Papadópoulos, Papadákos, Papadéas, Papadátos, Papadákēs, Papadéllēs, Pappá etc, all of which signify a "priest's son". The same principle(s) may apply in combination, eg Papanikoláou, Papanikolópoulos, "the son of the Reverend Nicholas". A daughter's patronymic is the same as the son's, but always declined in the Genitive, eg Dēmētropoúlou, Papanikoláou etc. In addition to these surnames, actual patronymics are used in official documents as "middle names" preceding the surname, for example the children of a Giánnis Papadopoúlou are, say, María Ioánnou Papadopoúlou and Andréas Ioánnou Papadópoulos (Ioánnou is the genitive case form of Ioánnis, which is the Katharevousa correspondence of the father's name, Giánnis). Traditionally, a married woman would adopt her husband's names - both his patronymic and his family name - but today this is not official and she keeps her own names as far as the state is concerned. If she is widowed, the tradition requires that she should switch back to her own patronymic, but keep the family name of the deceased.



Use of patronymics was introduced in Armenia by Russians during the times of Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Previously to that use of patronymics was very limited. Patronymics are usually formed by addition of "i" (pronounced as ee) to the father's name, e.g. if father's name is "Armen", the corresponding patronymic would be "Armeni". Russified version of the same patronymic would be "Armenovich" for males and "Armenovna" for females. After Armenia re-gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 a massive decline in use of Russified patronymics occurred; nowadays few Armenians use patronymics. Many Armenian surnames, especially Western Armenian, are patronymics that were first used by distant ancestors or clan founders. These are characterized by the suffix "-ian" in Western Armenian, often transliterated as "-yan" in Eastern Armenian. These are appended to the given name, i.e. Asdvadzadourian, Hagopian, Khachadourian, Mardirosian, Bedrosian, Sarkissian, etc. Patronyms for individuals were common in the 20th century but have since fallen out of use.


In Azeri, patronymics are formed through oğlu (sometimes transliterated as ogly) for males and qızı (often transliterated as gizi or kizi) for females. Prior to the late 19th–early 20th century, patronymics were used as an essential part of a person's full name, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu ("Sardar, son of Ilyas") and Mina Nabi qızı ("Mina, daughter of Nabi"), since surnames were mostly non-existent before Sovietization (with the exception of the upper and some middle class families). After surnames were commonly adopted in Azerbaijan in the 1920s, patronymics still remained parts of full names, i.e. Sardar Ilyas oğlu Aliyev ("Sardar Aliyev, son of Ilyas"). Nowadays in Azerbaijan, patronymics sometimes replace surnames in unofficial use. Normally in such case, they are spelled as one word (i.e. Eldar Mammadoğlu, Sabina Yusifqızı). Many Azeri surnames are also derived from Persian-style patronymics ending in -zadeh (Kazimzadeh, Mehdizadeh, etc.). They are found among both Caucasian and Iranian Azeris. However unlike the former, Azeris in Iran do not generally use patronymics in oglu / qizi. Azeri patronymics are not to be confused with Turkish surnames in -oğlu and Greek surnames in -ογλού (-oglou), which do not have specific female versions and do not reflect names of fathers.


In Georgian, patronymics, when used, come with the addition of s to the end of the father's name, followed by dze. For example, Joseph Stalin's actual name was Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili. s in Georgian is a possessive, and dze means son. Georgian last names derive mostly from patronymics. Two common elements in Georgian last names, dze and shvili mean son of, and child, respectively.

Middle East


In Arabic, the word "ibn" (ابن) (or بن: "bin", "ben" and sometimes "ibni" and "ibnu" to show the final declension of the noun) is the equivalent of the "-son" suffix discussed above (The prefix ben- is used similarly in Hebrew). In addition, "bint" (بنت) means "daughter of". Thus, for example, "Ali ibn Amr" means "Ali son of Amr". The word "Abu" means "father of", so "Abu Ali" is another name for "Amr". In medieval times, an illegitimate child of unknown parentage would sometimes be termed "ibn Abihi", "son of his father" (notably Ziyad ibn Abihi.) In the Qur'an, Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is consistently termed "Isa ibn Maryam" - a matronymic (in the Qur'an, Jesus has no father; see Islamic view of Jesus). An Arabic patronymic can be extended as far back as family tree records will allow: thus, for example, Ibn Khaldun gives his own full name as "Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Abd ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun". Patronymics are still standard in parts of the Arab world, notably Saudi Arabia; however, most of the Arab world has switched to a family name system. As in English, the new family names are sometimes based on what was formerly a patronymic. Often, the word Ibn is replaced with a "b." and bint with a "bt." in name formulas rendered from Arabic into Latin characters. Thus Hisham Ibn al-Kalbi becomes simply Hisham b. al-Kalbi. Another form widely used in the Arab World is the usage of both the Patronymic and a family name, often using both the father's and grandfathers given name in sequence after the own given name, and then the family name.

In Iraq for example, full names are formed by combining the given name of an individual with the given name of their father (sometimes the father is skipped and the grandfather's given name is used instead, sometimes both father and grandfather are used), along with the town, village, or clan name. For instance, Hayder Muhammed al-Tikriti is the son of Muhammed named Hayder, and he is from the town of Tikrit.


In Aramaic, the prefix bar- means "son" and is used as a prefix meaning "son of". In the Bible, Peter is called Bar-jonah in Matthew 16:17 and Nathanael is possibly called Bartholomew because he is the son of Tolmai. The titles can also be figurative, for example in Acts 4:36-37 a man named Joseph is called Barnabas meaning son of consolation.

Jewish usage

Jews have historically used Hebrew patronymic names. In the Jewish patronymic system the first name is followed by either ben- or bat- ("son of" and "daughter of", respectively), and then the father's name. (Bar-, "son of" in Aramaic, is also seen). Permanent family surnames exist today but only gained popularity among Sephardic Jews in Iberia and elsewhere as early as the 10th or 11th century and did not spread widely to the Ashkenazic Jews of Germany or Eastern Europe until much later. While Jews now have permanent surnames for everyday life, the patronymic form is still used in religious life. It is used in synagogue and in documents in Jewish law such as the ketubah (marriage contract). Many Sephardic Jews used the Arabic ibn instead of bat or ben when it was the norm. The Spanish family Ibn Ezra is one example.

Many immigrants to the modern Israel Hebraized their names. This was especially common among Ashkenazic immigrants, because most of their names were taken later and some were imposed by the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires.

A popular form to create a new family name using Jewish patronymics sometimes related to poetic Zionist themes, such as ben Ami ("son of my people"), or ben Artzi ("son of my country"), and sometimes related to the Israeli landscape, such as bar Ilan ("son of the trees"). Others have created Hebrew names based on phonetic similarity with their original family name: Golda Meyersohn became Golda Meir. Another famous person who used a false patronymic was the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, whose original family name was Grün but adopted the name "Ben-Gurion" ("son of the lion cub"), not "Ben-Avigdor" (his father's name).

Indian subcontinent

Patronymy is common in parts of India and Pakistan. For example, if a father is named Khurram Suleman (a Muslim masculine name), he might name his son Taha Khurram, who in turn might name his son Ismail Taha. As a result, unlike surnames, patronymics will not pass down through many generations.

In Ancient India during the Vedic Age, when Sanskrit was the lingua franca, patronymics were common as last names. Sanskrit patronymics were the adjective form of the father's (or clan's forefather's) given name. This adjective is formed by Indo-European ablaut (a phonological process), which adds an additional /a/ to the first vowel in the patronymic: changing from short /a/ to ā, short and long /i/ and /ē/ to ai, and short and long /u/ and /ō/ to /au/. Sometimes a suffix, such as -ya, was also added. E.g.:

  • The very first mantra of the Rigveda has its seer named Madhuchchhandā Vaishvāmitra, meaning Madhuchchhandā, son of (or of the lineage of) the sage Vishvāmitra.
  • Buddha Shākyamuni had the patronymic Gautama due to his lineage from the sage Gotama.
  • The clan descended from Sage Agasti is called Āgastya.
  • The full name of Draupadi was Krishnā Draupadī, meaning Krishnā, daughter of Drupada.
  • As Krishna (Vishnu's avatar) was the son of Vasudeva, his name was Krishna Vāsudeva.

In southern India, Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala and Karnataka, patronymy is almost the norm. This is a significant departure from the rest of the country where caste or family names are mostly employed as surnames.

However, rather than using the father's full name, only the first letter—the initial—is prefixed to the given name. For example, if a person's personal name is Saravanan and his father's Krishnan, then the full name is K. Saravanan and is seldom expanded, even in official records. Some families follow the tradition of retaining the name of the hometown, the grandfather's name, or both as initials. The celebrated Indian English novelist R. K. Narayan's name at birth was Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami, which was shortened at the behest of his writer friend Graham Greene. Rasipuram, the first name, is a toponym and Krishnaswami Ayyar, the second name, is a patronym.

Nonetheless, the growing trend in cities in southern India and among expatriates is to expand the father’s name and place it after one’s given name, thus creating a surname and preventing confusion. The name stated in the earlier example, K. Saravanan would become Saravanan Krishnan, bringing it partly in line with western naming conventions.

In Maharashtra, a very common convention among the Hindu communities is to have the patronymic be the middle name. Examples:

  • Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar's full name is Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, where Manohar is his father's given name.
  • Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's full name is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, where Ramesh is his father's given name.
  • Sunil Gavaskar's son Rohan would be Rohan Sunil Gavaskar, and so on.

This system works for both boys and girls, except that after marriage, a woman takes her husband's given name as her middle name—her new middle name is no longer a patronymic.

Indians, particularly Tamils, in Singapore often continue the patronymic tradition; this entails having a single given name, followed by son / daughter of, followed by their father's name. Malaysian Indians may also follow this custom with "son" or "daughter" of being replaced by "anak lelaki" or "anak perempuan" respectively.

Indians of the Isma'ili faith also have patronymic middle names which use the father's first name and the grandfather's first name plus a family name. Someone called "Ramazan Rahim Ali Manji" might call his son "Karim Ramazan Rahim Manji" and his granddaughter might be called "Zahra Karim Ramazan Manji".

See also


External links


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

This article compiles a useful guide of genealogical definitions and methods used in research.


General definitions

  • Genealogy - the study of family history.
  • Genealogist - one who studies family hostory.

A patronymic is a form of a surname derived from a fathers given name. For example, If Johann had a son "Jacob", that son would be known as "Jacob Johann's son" or more simply "Jacob Johannson". When Jacob Johannson had a son "Herman" that son would be known as "Herman Jacob's son" or simply "Herman Jacobson". At some moment in time different cultures adopted the practice of using a surname to reflect parantage, with the patronymic becoming "fixed" as a surname. In some cultures a variant of this practice was used with daughters names. If Jacob Johannson had a daughter "Brita" she would be known as Brita Jacob's Dotter". On occassion, these 'dotter' names were also perpetuated as a surname. Thus if Brita Jacob's Dotter had a son "Carl", he might be known as "Carl Britasdotter". Also known as Patronym a term often used by genealogists, but is undefined in the Oxford Dictionary of English (qv).

Levels of Confidence

  • Possible----refers to the level of confidence that one has concerning a genealogical fact. In this case, it suggests that the "fact" is not contradicted by other known and accepted facts. For example, if a John Smith was born in 1850 it is possible that he is the child of Robert Smith and Ann Jones, who were married in 1849. It is not possible that he was the child of Ann Jones who was born in 1748
  • Plausible---refers to the level of confidence that one has concerning a genealogical fact. In this case, it suggests that the "fact" is consistent with the currently available information, is not refuted by any known and accepted data, and, in general, would "make sense" if it were indeed correct. Plausible data, however, does not rise to the level where it can be clearly accepted as proven. That is, while it doesn't conflict with any other accepted data, it is neither confirmed by any direct primary source, nor does the available data surrounding it sufficient to consider it probably true. As an example of "plausible data", if John Smith were born in 1850 in the town of Roanoke, VA, it would be both possible and plausible that he could be the child of Robert Smith and Ann Jones, who were married in 1849 in Roanoke, VA. This datum would not rise to the level of "probable" because there might be more than one Smith family in Roanoke, VA in 1850 who could be his parents.
  • Probable---refers to the level of confidence that one has concerning a genealogical fact. In this case, it suggests that the fact is more likely true than not, but that there is no direct primary source that can be cited to show that it is true. Usually, things that reach the level of "probably true" have multiple lines of evidence independently pointing to their accuracy. No given line is sufficient by itself to raise the data above the level of "plausible", but taken together, the various lines of evidence suggest that it is in fact "probable". For example, if there were documentary evidence that
  • John Smith was born in Roanoke in 1850,
  • Robert and Ann Smith were married in Roanoke in 1849,
  • Robert and Ann Smith appear in the 1850 census in Roanoke with no children,
  • John's mother's given name was Ann,
  • That there was only one Smith couple in Roanoke in 1850

It might be concluded that John's parents were probably Robert and Ann Smith, and that John was born after the census had been taken. However, the point might not be accepted as proven, because the evidence for the connection is largely circumstantial.

  • Proven---refers to refers to the level of confidence that one has concerning a genealogical fact. In this case, it suggests that the fact is based on direct primary sources, such as a bible record, that demonstrate to a reasonable person that the fact is true. For example, if a family bible for Robert and Ann Smith showed that their son John was born in December of 1850, in Roanoke, most reasonable people would probably conclude that Robert and Ann were indeed the parents of "our" John Smith. However, depending on the extent of the effort made to gather comprehensive evidence to support this conclusion, and the additional evidence that could be mustered to support it, this might still not reach the level of the BCG Standards of Proof (See below).

Types of Sources

This section provides a distinction between two broad categories of source material and documents: Primary Sources, and Secondary Sources. The distinction between primary and secondary sources is critical in genealogy. A conclusion based on primary sources is fundamentally more sound than a concusion based on secondary sources. The definitions given here are simplifications, and should be used with some caution.

  • Primary Sources---A primary source or record is an original document more or less contemporary with the events it refers to. A birth certificate, marriage record, gravestone, court record, contemporary letter would usually be considered to be a primary record. The key characteristic of a primary record is that it represents testimony of someone who had direct first hand knowledge of the events described. What is not included in category of "primary sources" are documents compiled long after the events by persons who could not be considered eyewitnesses. Some elements of death certificates are marginal in this respect: if the only available relative of a deceased person was a nephew, he might, for example, give an incorrect answer to the question about the deceased's father's occupation.
A possible exception to this are compilations of original records, in the form of extracts, or in some cases verbatim transcripts. A compilation of court records, marriage records, and the like are included in this category. Such documents are properly considered to be secondary sources as there is the possibility of information loss occurring in the transcription process. As a result, these sources are less reliable than true primary sources. Practically speaking, most genealogists can not (or do not) readily access the original source material on which such compilations are based, and so transcriptions of primary source material are often treated as if they were themselves primary sources.
  • Secondary Sources - for present purposes a secondary source or record is a document that is not contemporary with the events that it describes. The author can not be described as being an eyewitnesss to the events. Technically, this includes verbatim extracts and compilations based on primary documents, but in practice, such sources are often treated as primary records. (Some caution should be exercized when dealing with such records, as they may contain transcription errors of a substantive nature). Examples of a secondary sources would include: County Histories, Family Genealogies, newspaper articles about events that occurred at some time in the relatively distant past, etc. The authors of such works may be exactly right about what they describe, but they do not have this information based on their direct experience with the events of concern. The author's may be basing their interpretation on primary sources, but their presentation is ultimately an analysis. That is, it may describe what they think occurred, but they do not know of their own personal knowledge that the events concerned are in fact correctly described. A secondary source is fundamentally interpretative in nature, and interpretation can be in error.
  • Tertiary Sources - Tertiary source are sometimes described as a mixture of both primary and secondary sources. The wikipedia definition is "A tertiary source is a selection, distillation, summary or compilation of primary sources, secondary sources, or both...Typical instances of tertiary sources are bibliographies, library catalogs, directories, reading lists and survey articles. Encyclopedias and textbooks are examples of materials that typically embrace both secondary and tertiary sources, presenting on the one hand commentary and analysis, while on the other attempting to provide a synoptic overview of the material available on the topic."

Verification and Validation

Main article: Help:Verification and Validation

Standards of Proof

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) established the following standards for genealogical research:

1. Reasonably exhaustive search

  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion

2. Complete and accurate citation of sources

  • Demonstrates the extent of the search and the quality of the sources
  • Allows others to replicate the steps taken to reach the conclusion. (Inability to replicate the research casts doubt on the conclusion.)

3. Analysis and correlation of the collected information

  • Facilitates sound interpretation of the data contributed by each source
  • Ensures that the conclusion reflects all the evidence

4. Resolution of conflicting evidence

  • Substantiates the conclusion's credibility. (If conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible conclusion is not possible.)

5. Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

  • Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence
  • Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion

Additional information is available at BCG Site

Reference Styles

  • Fide - term taken from the Latin "fide", meaning "by, with, or from faith"; the term is used in the context of references to mean "taken on the faith of". It is used when an author has not seen a particular work, but is taking it on faith that another author has correctly cited the work.

Significance of Reference Verification

Reference verification in genealogy is important in and of its self. That is, its important that we be confident that references cited a) exist, and b) contain the information that's attributed to them.

However, the true significance of reference verification lies elsewhere. As an overall statement, genealogists are not very good at explaining "how they know what they know". Information is diligently sought, and inserted into family histories. Often much effort goes into tracking down a piece of information, or developing the reasoning underlying a conclusion about a date of birth (for example). Yet much more often than not, the sources used to develop that information or the reasoning, are not provided. If you search family lineages presented on Ancestry (for example) its likely that nine out of ten entries will lack any indication about where the data is coming from, or at best, reference someone else's genealogical work. Here, the attitude seems to be "That's a lot of work. I found this out, its true, and I don't need to explain where it came from."

Yes, recording where information comes from is a lot of work. But its less work than having to redo the research because you've forgotten how you got that information, or when you find that you have several answers for the same question, and don't know why you thought one of them was right. Again, look at Ancestry family lineages. Often you will find that several hundered people have entered information about any given person. For any given individual where you have a few hundred records, you'll typially find a mixture of DOB's, DOD's, parents and spouses. And more likely than not few if any of these entries will explain what the information is based on. Without that information, its impossible to determine which if any of these records is right. Anything you picked would be little better than a guess.

So, in order to select among many choices you need to know what sources were used in developing those lineages. No sources, and you can't choose among them.

However, that's not the real significance of reference verification. The real significance of including or leaving out the citations, is that it speaks to your credibility. If references are cited, you can in theory, check them out. They tell you that someone had a basis for what ever conclusion they reached, and they've giving you the basis for verifying their sources, and ultimately for validating their conclusions. If they don't provide the sources, you can't do any of that, and your own work will suffer.

An adage that applies here is:

You don't know what you know unless you know how you know it

The corrollary to that being

If you don't tell people how you know what you know, they probably aren't going to believe you
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This article uses material from the "Help:Genealogical definitions and methods" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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