Ancestry Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm Fri, 22 May 2015 02:09:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Do You Come From Royal Blood? Your Last Name May Tell You.http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/22/do-you-come-from-royal-blood-your-last-name-may-tell-you/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/22/do-you-come-from-royal-blood-your-last-name-may-tell-you/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 02:03:40 +0000 sdalton http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7758 Do you think your family originated from the top 1 percent? According to a new study of unique last names from around the world, moving in or out of the upper class doesn’t take just a few generations — it takes centuries. Measuring not just income and wealth but also occupation, education, and longevity, researchers… Read more

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Do you think your family originated from the top 1 percent?

According to a new study of unique last names from around the world, moving in or out of the upper class doesn’t take just a few generations — it takes centuries.

Measuring not just income and wealth but also occupation, education, and longevity, researchers found that upper-class families took 300 to 450 years before their scions fell back into the middle class. Throughout society, poor families, taken as a whole, took an equal amount of time — 10 to 15 generations — to work their way up into the middle class.

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Head of the Class: Do Certain Surnames Indicate Nobility?

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Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the London School of Economics conducted the study, which they published in the journal “Human Nature.”

The researchers based their study on families with unique last names. Those unique last names made it possible to trace the families through genealogical and other public records. In England, those aristocratic names included Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham.

The social scientists looked for those and other unique, upper-class surnames among students who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities between 1170 and 2012, rich property owners between 1236 and 1299, as well as probate records since 1858 — which are available on Ancestry.com.

They found that social mobility in late medieval England wasn’t any worse than in modern England. Illiterate village artisans in 1300 took seven generations to incorporate fully into the educated elite of 1500. Conversely, if you died between 1999 and 2012 and had one of the 181 rare surnames of wealthy families in the mid-19th century, you were more than three times as wealthy as the average person.

Researchers aren’t sure why social mobility appears to move so slowly, despite outside political and social forces, and suspect genetics may play a role.

The United States isn’t even old enough yet to test the researchers’ theory. But that hasn’t stopped many observers from identifying certain surnames that connote wealth in the United States.

For example, about 100 Mellons are alive today sharing $12 billion, the fruit of a bank their forefather Andrew W. Mellon founded in the mid-1800s. The several hundred living members of the Rockefellers share $10 billion in wealth that started when John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870.

With just $1 billion, the Kennedy family’s wealth is eclipsed by the assets of less romantic family dynasties (the wealthiest family in the world, the Waltons, trace their riches to the founding of Wal-Mart in 1962), but the 30 Kennedy heirs live with a name associated with America’s Camelot.

Time will tell how long it takes those heirs to end up driving a cab. In the meantime, if you have a unique surname, or even if your last name is Smith, Ancestry can help you find out where your ancestors worked, how well they were educated, and how long they lived — all signs, according to researchers, of their place in the social hierarchy.

— Sandie Angulo Chen

Discover your own family’s upward (or downward) mobility. Start a free trial.

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Are You a Smith? Here’s How to Find Out About Your Family Historyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/13/are-you-a-smith-heres-how-to-find-out-about-your-family-history/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/13/are-you-a-smith-heres-how-to-find-out-about-your-family-history/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 21:54:05 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7687 Your last name may not be Smith, but with more than 45 million records for the name on Ancestry, you could find yourself related to someone (or someones) with the most popular surname in the United States and Great Britain. What could that mean to you? A lot. The English surname Smith traces it roots… Read more

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Smith

[Image: Shutterstock]

Your last name may not be Smith, but with more than 45 million records for the name on Ancestry, you could find yourself related to someone (or someones) with the most popular surname in the United States and Great Britain. What could that mean to you? A lot.

The English surname Smith traces it roots back to Britain and a time when surnames often came from a person’s trade. Back then blacksmiths filled a vital function, making tools, armor, horseshoes, and other necessary items. The importance and pervasiveness of the occupation becomes clearer as you see how names meaning “smith” grew into the most widespread among trade-inspired surnames in Europe.

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So if you’re a Smith your ancestors were British, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. The meaning and background is just part of this name’s journey. Jumping from 274,919 Smiths in the 1850 census to 2,376,206 in the 2000 census, the surname in the United States goes beyond the trade and gives insight into how names were formed as people immigrated into the melting pot. As Americans and citizens of the world, we are rarely connected to just one country, and our ancestry origin stories are often much more complicated than we realize.

 

The surname Smith isn’t confined to people with connections to Great Britain. People from other areas of Europe and Africa bear it, too. Slaves often took the last names of their former owners after the Civil War and had zero biological connections to the country where their last name came from. Others had their names “Americanized”; German Schmidts became Smiths, for example. Even some Irish immigrants with the Gaelic name MacGowan, meaning “son of the smith,” ended up having their last name translated as simply Smith.

By looking into records of your family’s past and creating a family tree, you can see that the meaning of your last name gives you only one sliver of understanding when it comes to your roots. Ancestry can give you a fuller understanding of how you, and your name, came to be and the hundreds of family connections that happened along the way. It allows you to see yourself as one part of a growing story that unfolds with every generation.

When it comes to surnames, Smith seems so simple and obvious. But no name is simple or obvious, and the journey of the original bearers and those who came after can hold stories more exciting than a bestselling novel. Ancestry gives you the resources to delve further into these tales and broaden your vision of, and acquaintance with, those who came before you.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free trial with Ancestry now and start uncovering the one-of-a-kind story that is your family. The country’s most common name proves that no story or ancestral journey is as easy as it seems.

―Shanna Yehlen

 

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If George Clooney Is This Guy’s Cousin, Who’s In Your Family Tree?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/07/if-george-clooney-is-this-guys-cousin-whos-in-your-family-tree/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/05/07/if-george-clooney-is-this-guys-cousin-whos-in-your-family-tree/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 19:57:34 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7666 Eloquence, an interest in politics and global affairs, rugged good looks, the ability to connect with crowds — there’s a lot that Abraham Lincoln and George Clooney have in common. But did you know that the 16th president of the United States and the Oscar-winning actor/director/writer/producer/dreamboat also have a common ancestor? Researchers at Ancestry combed… Read more

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Eloquence, an interest in politics and global affairs, rugged good looks, the ability to connect with crowds — there’s a lot that Abraham Lincoln and George Clooney have in common.

But did you know that the 16th president of the United States and the Oscar-winning actor/director/writer/producer/dreamboat also have a common ancestor?

Researchers at Ancestry combed through the actor’s family tree and discovered that Clooney’s mother, Nina Bruce Warren, can trace her roots back to Lucy Hanks, Lincoln’s maternal grandmother. That makes the Hollywood star Honest Abe’s half-first cousin, five times removed.

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Connecting famous people to other famous people isn’t all the online records and tools at Ancestry are good for, though. They’re available to you, too. The same sorts of records that allowed researchers to follow Clooney’s family back through 200 years of Kentucky relatives can help you discover the story of your past.

Maybe you’ll find your own connection to the men and women who shaped this country. You might find out your long-lost cousin is a big movie star, a famous political figure…or a close neighbor.

To begin, sign up for a free 14-day trial membership on Ancestry and start filling in your family tree. Once you enter the names, birth dates, and birthplaces that you know for family members, a world of information opens up to you. The site automatically searches through census data, birth and death records, marriage and divorce files, military records, and passenger manifests. Those, in turn, can help you find the names and birthplaces of your grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond.

When you know where your ancestors lived, you can also search through city directories, local newspapers, and even yearbooks to find out more biographical details. Perhaps a local directory shows that your great-great-great-grandfather was a cobbler — that could explain your love of shoes. Or you might discover that your great-grandmother traveled to this country with four siblings you never knew about. That’s when the Ancestry community comes in handy: You can search through shared public family trees and visit the message boards to reach out to other living relatives.

As you step into your own family’s past, you might still be interested in the bigger historical picture of the times, too. Ancestry has some fascinating collections to peruse, such as the Abraham Lincoln Papers, with 20,000 documents, including photos and drafts of the president’s speeches. Do any of his letters predict that the country would stand united against “Batman and Robin?” Take a look for yourself.

 

Discover your family story. Start free trial.

— Sabrina Rojas Weiss

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What Was Life Like 200 Years Ago?http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/29/what-was-life-like-200-years-ago/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/29/what-was-life-like-200-years-ago/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 16:38:30 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7636 The War of 1812 concluded in 1815, and in the decades to come, the United States developed a vast transportation system, a national bank, and interstate trade. The economy blossomed, and canals, roads, cities, and industrialization expanded. England’s defeat in the War of 1812 also removed barriers to westward expansion and, tragically, accelerated Native American… Read more

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Vintage Young Woman with Corsage

[Image: Library of Congress]

The War of 1812 concluded in 1815, and in the decades to come, the United States developed a vast transportation system, a national bank, and interstate trade. The economy blossomed, and canals, roads, cities, and industrialization expanded.

England’s defeat in the War of 1812 also removed barriers to westward expansion and, tragically, accelerated Native American removal.

Two hundred years ago, the United States stood at the edge of a frontier — both literally and figuratively. So what was life like at that exciting time?

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Population: By 1815, the United States had grown into a country of 8,419,000 people, including about 1.5 million slaves. (Official estimates are available for the entire population in 1815, but slave counts were conducted during the censuses of 1810 and 1820. In the 1810 census, there were 1,191,362 slaves; by the 1820 census, there were 1,538,022 slaves). While a population of less than 10 million seems small compared to today’s count of over 320 billion people, the population in 1815 had more than doubled since the country’s first census, taken in 1790, when there were 3,929,214 people. The population would continue to increase by more than 30 percent each decade for much of the 19th century.

Almost all of this growth was due to high birth rates, as immigration was low in 1815, slowed by European wars that raged from 1790 to 1815. Only about 8,000 per year entered during this period. The 1820 census counted 8,385 immigrants, including one from China and one from Africa.

Food: Because these innovations in transportation were still in their infancy in 1815, however, most Americans ate what they grew or hunted locally. Corn and beans were common, along with pork. In the north, cows provided milk, butter, and beef, while in the south, where cattle were less common, venison and other game provided meat. Preserving food in 1815, before the era of refrigeration, required smoking, drying, or salting meat. Vegetables were kept in a root cellar or pickled.

For those who had to purchase their food, one record notes the following retail prices in 1818 in Washington, D.C.: beef cost 6 to 8 cents a pound, potatoes cost 56 cents a bushel, milk was 32 cents cents a gallon, tea 75 cents to $2.25 a pound. Shoes ran $2.50 a pair. Clothing expenses for a family of six cost $148 a year, though the record does not indicate the quality of the clothes.

Life Expectancy: The boom in native population in the early 19th century was even more remarkable considering the low life expectancies of the time. By one estimate, a white man who had reached his 20th birthday could expect to live just another 19 years. A white woman at 20 would live, on average, only a total of 38.8 years. If measuring from birth, which counted infant mortality, life expectancy would have been even lower. A white family in the early 19th century would typically have seven or eight children, but one would die by age one and another before age 21. And, of course, for slaves, childhood deaths were higher and life expectancy was even lower. About one in three African American children died, and only half lived to adulthood.

Disease was rampant during this time. During the War of 1812, which concluded in 1815, more soldiers died from disease than from fighting. The main causes of death for adults during this period were malaria and tuberculosis, while children most commonly died from measles, mumps, and whooping cough, all preventable today.

Housing: More than four out of every five Americans during the early 19th century still lived on farms. Many farmers during this time also made goods by hand that they’d use, barter, or sell, such as barrels, furniture, or horseshoes. Cities remained relatively small and were clustered around East Coast seaports: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston, South Carolina. In the 1810 census, New York, the largest, was home to 96,373 people. By 1820, the population would reach 123,706. Try out a search of 1800s census records on the Ancestry website.

Employment: Industrialization would soon accelerate urbanization. In England, the Industrial Revolution had begun in the mid-18th century, and despite attempts made to restrict the export of technology, in 1789, a 21-year-old Englishman memorized the plan for a textile mill and then opened a cotton-spinning plant in Rhode Island. By 1810, more than 100 such mills, employing women and children at less than a dollar a week, were operating throughout New England. By the 1830s, textile production would become the country’s largest industry.

Wages for other industries during the time ranged from $10 to $17 a month for seamen. Farm laborers after the end of the War of 1812 earned $12 to $15 dollars a month. A male school teacher earned $10 to $12 a month; a female teacher earned $4 to $10. In Massachusetts, a tailor and printer could both expect to earn $6 a week, while a servant might earn only 50 cents a week.

Transportation: Industrialization affected the country in other ways, of course. In 1815, there were no steam railroads in America, so long-distance travel was by horseback or uncomfortable stagecoach over rutted roads. Cargo moved by horse-team was limited to 25-30 miles a day. But in 1811, Congress signed a contract for the construction of the National Road, the first highway built by the national government. By 1818, it had crossed the Appalachian Mountains, fostering westward expansion.

In 1815, Americans were also discovering steamboat travel. In 1807, Robert Fulton had opened the first steamboat ferry service, between Albany and New York City. By 1815, advances in technology allowed a rival to ferry arms and ammunition to General (later President) Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812, and then to steam back up the Mississippi and then the Ohio to Pittsburgh, proving the feasibility of steamboat navigation of the mighty river.

Entertainment: For recreation, horse racing became increasingly popular by the time of the War of 1812. Singing and sheet music became widely popular, particularly “broadside songs,” or lyrics printed on a sheet of paper and sold for a penny. The sheet had no music, but instructed the purchaser which popular, well-known tune the words could be sung to. The songs often had to do with current political or military events. At the other end of the artistic spectrum, the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, formed in 1815, performed Handel’s “Messiah” in its opening concert.

Finally, singing played a large part in one of the most significant social movements of the time — and in all of America’s history — the Second Great Awakening. From 1790 to 1830, wave after wave of Protestant evangelism swept across the country. Tens of thousands of people would attend a single camp meeting, marked by enthusiastic preaching and audience singing and participation. These more informal services, led by itinerant preachers, also helped tie settlers on the Western frontier to the cultural life of the rest of the country. The Second Great Awakening also fostered greater participation by women and African Americans, who continued developing their artistic traditional of spiritual music during this period.

Curious about your ancestors’ daily lives 200 years ago? Reconstruct and reconnect to their lives with a free trial on Ancestry, where you’ll find War of 1812 records as well.

—Sandie Angulo Chen

 

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Double the Fun: Why You Might Have Multiple Middle Nameshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/28/double-the-fun-why-you-might-have-multiple-middle-names/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/28/double-the-fun-why-you-might-have-multiple-middle-names/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 19:31:45 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7635 Two middle names make a statement, one that usually reminds us of country manors, polo games, royalty, and presidents. It’s never been a common practice in the U.S. to give two middle names. With today’s digitized records, it’s become a bit of a bureaucratic mess for those who have four (or more) initials to deal… Read more

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Two middle names make a statement, one that usually reminds us of country manors, polo games, royalty, and presidents.

It’s never been a common practice in the U.S. to give two middle names. With today’s digitized records, it’s become a bit of a bureaucratic mess for those who have four (or more) initials to deal with. But with families having fewer children in general, the temptation to bestow two middle names — to honor several parents, for example — is strong.

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Multiple middle names are far more common in Europe, where the German tradition of multiple names was carried to Britain by members of the royal family, who were of German descent. Edward VIII (later, the Duke of Windsor) had seven names in total: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. The late Princess Diana memorably flubbed the order of two of Prince Charles’s middle names during their 1981 wedding.

Traditionally, the British upper class has used multiple names to indicate family connections, even going so far as changing surnames to reflect these bonds. In France, it is normal for citizens to have multiple middle names, though all names except the surname are referred to as “first names” on official documents.

While many British babies of both sexes are given two middle names today, in the past, the phenomenon was largely confined to men, as women traditionally shed their given middle name to replace it with their maiden name upon marriage.

Here are some well-known examples of the practice, from both sides of the pond:

  • James Mercer Langston Hughes, American poet and novelist. His two middle names came from his mother’s middle and maiden names.
  • George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States. Walker was his mother’s maiden name.
  • John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, British author of “The Lord of the Rings.” Reuel was a family name from his father’s side.
  • George Raymond Richard Martin, American author of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series. Richard was his confirmation name, chosen as a teenager.
  • James Hugh Calum Laurie, British actor who uses Hugh as his stage name.
  • Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland, Canadian actor. The name Kiefer honored Warren Kiefer, who directed his father, Donald Sutherland, in his first film.
  • George Alexander Louis Cambridge, son of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton. The young prince is third in line for the British throne.
  • Kelsey Gabriel Elias Grammer and Faith Evangeline Elisa Grammer, children of American actor Kelsey Grammer.

Curious about the names in your family tree? Start a 14-day free trial of Ancestry and learn more about your ancestors today.

— Melanie Linn Gutowski

 

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How German Are You? What Your DNA Can Tell You.http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/27/how-german-are-you-what-your-dna-can-tell-you/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/27/how-german-are-you-what-your-dna-can-tell-you/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 16:33:52 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7628 Many boots have marched across Britain, but which invading army bequeathed the most durable legacy? The Romans left their roads. The Normans left their language. But the Germans left their DNA. Of all the armies that have invaded Britain in recorded history, only Anglo-Saxons managed to substantially alter its genetic and ethnic composition. As a… Read more

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[Photo: Shutterstock]

Many boots have marched across Britain, but which invading army bequeathed the most durable legacy?

The Romans left their roads. The Normans left their language. But the Germans left their DNA.

Of all the armies that have invaded Britain in recorded history, only Anglo-Saxons managed to substantially alter its genetic and ethnic composition. As a result of the Anglo-Saxon invasion around 400-500 AD, most white British people today owe almost 30 percent of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans.

For people living in southern and central England, it’s true that 40 percent of their DNA comes from the French. But that French connection doesn’t come from any known French invasion force, such as the Normans, who took over England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The French contribution to British DNA probably results from migration from the continent 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age — and long predating anything resembling a military invasion.

Danes also contributed 11 percent of the DNA of a modern British person, while Belgians contributed 9 percent.

These revelations come from a groundbreaking study conducted by Professor Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, who co-led the research. As he said: “It has long been known that human populations differ genetically, but never before have we been able to observe such exquisite and fascinating detail.”

The study sampled the DNA of 2,039 British citizens. It also took DNA samples from 6,209 individuals from 10 European countries to determine the contributions their European ancestors made to Britain’s genetic makeup.

Historians suspect that other invaders, such as the Romans and Danish Vikings, didn’t intermingle with the native population or didn’t bring enough of their own people to make an appreciable difference in the long-term ethnic makeup of an entire country.

The Oxford study resolves a long-standing dispute about the way the Anglo-Saxons took over England after the Romans retreated. Cultural clues led some archaeologists to believe that local populations must have retreated to Wales or had possibly been wiped out. But the high percentage of Anglo-Saxon DNA in modern Brits shows that the invaders intermarried with, rather than replaced, the existing population.

The study contained other insights, such as the lack of a genetic basis for a single “Celtic” group. In fact, residents of areas associated with Celtic culture today — Scotland, Northern Ireland,Wales, and Cornwall — were among the most unlike each other, at least in terms of their DNA. But no group stood out more than the residents of the Orkney Isles in Northern Scotland. Twenty-five percent of their DNA came from Norwegian ancestors who invaded the islands in the 9th century.

If your DNA wasn’t selected for an Oxford University study, don’t despair. AncestryDNA lets you to research your own genetic past with just a small saliva sample. You’ll get a personal ethnicity estimate that tracks your ethnic heritage across 26 regions.

Through DNA matching and historical records available on Ancestry, AncestryDNA can even identify potential relatives who are Ancestry members and have taken the AncestryDNA test. With millions of family trees and more than 850,000 people who have taken a DNA test, Ancestry and AncestryDNA are great tools to start or expand your understanding of your own family tree.

— Sandie Angulo Chen

 

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6 Unusual Last Names You Won’t Believe Exist — But Do!http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/23/6-unusual-surnames-you-wont-believe-exist-but-do/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/23/6-unusual-surnames-you-wont-believe-exist-but-do/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 19:32:30 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7613 Thanks to “Sherlock”, “The Imitation Game,” and many other movies and television shows, the name Benedict Cumberbatch found its way into our modern pop culture lexicon. Had the rising star been named Benedict Smith or Benedict Miller, would there be as many memes and GIFs? An unusual last name can set you apart from the… Read more

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Vintage 1930 Photo On The Farm with Pet Lamb

[Photo: Big Stock]

Thanks to “Sherlock”, “The Imitation Game,” and many other movies and television shows, the name Benedict Cumberbatch found its way into our modern pop culture lexicon. Had the rising star been named Benedict Smith or Benedict Miller, would there be as many memes and GIFs?

An unusual last name can set you apart from the pack–here are six of most unique ones out there.

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1. Shufflebottom

This name has nothing to do with…what you might think it has to do with. Deriving from the British geographical locale of Lancashire, the “Shippalbothoms,” and other names with similar endings, belong to a group that found themselves living in valley bottoms. However, Shufflebottom can also be connected to the name Schyppewallebothem, which means “valley of the sheep wash.”

2. Biggerstaff

Originally from the region Bickerstaff in Lancashire county, the Biggerstaffs can count people with the last names Bickerstath, Bickerstathe, Bickersteth, and many more among their distant relatives. The Old English combination of bicere (“beekeeper”) and stæð (“landing place”) created this surname, which now exists mostly in Northern Ireland and belongs to “Harry Potter” actor Sean Biggerstaff, who played Oliver Wood in the film series.

3. Hartshorn

The name’s origin isn’t exactly set in stone. One theory lies in the Old English where hart is “heorot” and means “stag” — thus, stag’s horn. The other possible derivation is similar, but deals more with horticulture than animals. The Middle English plant, the harteshorn, describes a plant with leaves that branch out to resemble a stag’s antlers. Perhaps it’s a case of chicken and the egg: Did the last name or plant name come first?

4. Fullilove

Just when you think all last names need an etymologist to figure out their origins, there’s a unique name that comes along and means almost exactly what you think it does. Fullilove is derived from a nickname for an amorous person and comes from the French “pleyn d’amour.” This is a case where a name doesn’t come from an locational origin, but a nickname. The original Fulliloves actually fit the phrase “living up to their name.”

5. Clampitt

Similar to the last name of the Clampetts in the sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the name Clampitt comes from the the Old English — “clam” meaning “mud” and “pitt” being “pit.” A name that translates to “mud pit” is an apt one for the rags-to-riches family on the popular television show.

6. Shellaberger

Like so many last names, Shellaberger morphed to its current state over many years. When looking at historical documents, the closely related name Schellenberger has 8,468 documents reporting births, marriages, and deaths on Ancestry.com. Meanwhile, Ancestry.com only has 3,760 documents for the Shellabergers.

Given these numbers, and the fact that people with these last names both have the locational ties to Schellerberg, Germany, we can surmise that Shellabergers once had the last name Schellenberger, but eventually the name changed through movement around the world.

Love your last name? Hate your last name? Dig deeper with a free trial of Ancestry to find out what your surname means and learn more about the people who bore the name ages before you.

— Shanna Yehlen

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Switched At Birth: 7 Stories of Triumph Over This Unbelievable Phenomenonhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/20/switched-at-birth-7-true-stories/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/20/switched-at-birth-7-true-stories/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:58:20 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7559 If you or someone you know has had a baby recently, you might have seen nurses carefully check the newborn’s tiny bracelet against his mother’s own cuff, making sure multiple times that the names and codes match up — particularly before it’s time to leave for home. This is not just hospital paranoia. Babies, perhaps… Read more

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If you or someone you know has had a baby recently, you might have seen nurses carefully check the newborn’s tiny bracelet against his mother’s own cuff, making sure multiple times that the names and codes match up — particularly before it’s time to leave for home.

This is not just hospital paranoia. Babies, perhaps more than you think possible, have been accidentally sent home with the wrong families for decades. These are stories that practically inspired the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction.” They make us feel like soap operas and primetime dramas are basically documentaries.

It’s a relatively modern phenomenon, as the children of earlier generations were born at home (with a whole other set of worries). And as DNA data is becoming an extra tool in the genealogists’ arsenal, a little changeling could turn carefully mapped history into chaos — or open up amazing new branches in a family tree.

There’s no doubt these errors can be devastating to all involved, but here are seven stories in which the involved families made the most of a nightmare situation.

Sophia Adelaide Kent

Was Queen Victoria’s first child, also named Victoria, swapped with the daughter of her father’s first, unofficial wife? A quirky article from The New York Times in 1889 recounts an event in New York City, where the claims of a woman named Sophia Adelaide Kent were presented to the audience. She said her “father,” Prince Albert, as well as Victoria’s rumored late-life companion, John Brown, supported her until their respective deaths. The woman also asserted that the Vatican, for some reason, held the proof of her birth. The press at the time must have been much tamer than today; otherwise, this story would have been all over the place.

Agnes and Lenie

In 1933, in a maternity ward at the Leiden Academic Hospital, the Netherlands, two women in adjacent beds were handed their baby girls who had just been washed and dressed. It wasn’t until 23 years later, when they met while attending the same wedding, that the women realized that Agnes looked like Lenie’s tall blonde sisters and Lenie resembled Agnes’ short brunette sisters. Their court case went to the Hague in the ’50s but went unresolved in the days before DNA tests existed. In 2012, the hospital issued an official apology to the woman.

Philippe, Paul, and Ernstli

In the small town of Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1941, identical twins Philippe and Paul Joye were born to a French family, and Ernstli Vatter to a German family; but nurses mistakenly placed Paul and Ernstli in the other’s bed. Philippe and his “brother” lived as fraternal twins until at the age of 5, when they all attended the same school and teachers pointed out how much alike Philippe and the boy raised as Ernstli looked. All three boys became the subjects of scientific studies for years. At age 7, the boys were returned to their biological families, and they are said to have adjusted well, though their mothers never got over the trauma.

Marti and Sue

From day one, Mary Miller suspected that the little girl she took home from the hospital in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1951, was not her daughter. But she was ill from postpartum complications and had six other kids to take care of, so she didn’t say anything about it … for 43 years! A 2008 episode of “This American Life” tells the whole story, with in-depth interviews with Martha “Marti” Miller, Sue McDonald, and the rest of their families — who have welcomed both women into their lives with love and a whole lot of “oh, so that explains…” The women feel a little more awkward about each other, in fact, than they do about their mothers.

Kay Rene and DeeAnn

Marjorie Angell wondered why the baby handed to her after a bath at Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner, Oregon, on May 3, 1953, weighed less than she had when she was born. But she tossed out the doubt that DeeAnn was hers and raised her right along with her five other children. Meanwhile, growing up, Kay Rene Reed wondered why she had brown eyes, while her parents had blue. But it wasn’t until both DeeAnn and Kay Rene were grandmothers themselves that an elderly mutual acquaintance of the two families showed Kay Rene’s brother a photo of one of the other Angell girls, who looked exactly like his sister. In 2009 the “swisters,” as they call themselves, had DNA testing that proved they were switched. The news was hard to take, but since they both lived happy lives with the “wrong” families, they feel luckier than most and have been working together to adjust to the truth.

Dimas and Elton

When he was 14, Dimas Aliprandi saw a TV show about babies who were switched at birth and wondered if that could be why he looked so different from his Italian-Brazilian family, but DNA testing was too expensive at the time. Ten years later, in 2008, he finally did the test and the Sao Paulo hospital where he was born helped track down his biological family and the Aliprandis’ biological son, Elton Plaster, at a nearby farm. Both families reacted to the news in the most unusual way: The Aliprandis built a home on the Plaster farm and they all live there, happily ever after.

Manon Serrano

Sophie Serrano made headlines this year when she and her unnamed co-plaintiffs were awarded 2 million euros per family for the switching of their daughters at a Cannes clinic in 1994. Serrano questioned why daughter Manon’s hair seemed thicker after being treated for jaundice, and for years, Manon’s father wondered why she was darker than both her parents. A paternity test taken when she was 10 shocked everyone. Her biological parents were of Creole descent, and both babies were placed naked in the same incubator. Twenty years later, the families have decided that they’re too different from each other to maintain contact, and Manon feels closer to her mother, Sophie, than any relation by blood.

Think one of your ancestors was switched at birth? Or want to know if you inherited your idiosyncrasies from some great-great-grandmother? Order your AncestryDNA kit today and discover more about your ethnic makeup and family history.

— Sabrina Rojas Weiss

 

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The Girl With the Tattooed Facehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/the-girl-with-the-tattooed-face/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/the-girl-with-the-tattooed-face/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 23:33:12 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7558 The girl with the tattooed face became something of a legend, but she started out as an ordinary girl. Olive Oatman and her younger sister, Mary Ann, were kidnapped by Indians in 1851. They eventually ended up living with a tribe of the Mojave, where they were both tattooed with distinctive blue markings on their… Read more

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The girl with the tattooed face became something of a legend, but she started out as an ordinary girl.

Olive Oatman and her younger sister, Mary Ann, were kidnapped by Indians in 1851. They eventually ended up living with a tribe of the Mojave, where they were both tattooed with distinctive blue markings on their chins.

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Mary Ann died during a famine (along with many of the Mojave). Olive survived, though, and eventually returned to live among her own people again. There she told her remarkable story that started when her parents, Royce and Mary Oatman, packed up their seven kids in 1850 and left their Illinois farm for Missouri, where they joined a wagon train headed to California. Olive was 14 and Mary Ann was 7.

When some of the travelers splintered off, the Oatmans found themselves traveling without the safety of the group. They continued on and were spending a night on the banks of the swollen Gila River, in what is now Arizona, when they were attacked by Indians. (Olive later identified them as Apaches, but some think they may have been a branch of the Yavapai.)

Royce and Mary Oatman were killed, along with four of their seven children. At the end of it all, only Olive, Mary Ann, and their brother Lorenzo, age 15, were still alive.

Lorenzo had been clubbed and left for dead, but he eventually came to and found his way to a settlement, where his wounds were treated. Then he retraced his steps and found and buried his family’s bodies. In 1954, a marker was erected at their burial site by the Arizona society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It reads, “In memory of the Oatman Family, Six members of this pioneer family massacred by Indians in March 1851.”

Lorenzo found no trace of Olive and Mary Ann, but he kept looking.

The girls had been taken by the Indians who killed their parents, and according to Olive, they were mistreated as slaves for about a year. Then they were traded to a group of Mojave, who treated the girls better. The Mojave chief and his wife may even have adopted the girls.

While living with the Mojave, Olive and her sister got the distinctive tattoo markings on their chins. Westerners who study the tribe say this is a fairly common tattoo among the Mojave that is done ritualistically to ensure a good afterlife. Olive said it was done to mark them as slaves.

It was probably the drought and famine of 1855 that took Mary Ann’s life. She was 12 that year, and Olive was 19. Around that time, the white communities in the region began to hear about a white woman living among the Mojave. One sent a messenger asking for Olive’s return, and intense negotiations took place. Olive was eventually sent to Fort Yuma, where she learned that her brother Lorenzo had been searching for her and Mary Ann.

Ancestry tells us where she went from there: In the 1860 U.S. Census, you see Olive living in the household of the Stratton family. In fact, the head of household, a pastor named Royal B. Stratton, wrote a book about Olive’s (and Mary Ann’s) experiences. Royalties from the biography he titled “Life Among the Indians,” which was a bestseller, paid for Olive’s and Lorenzo’s education at the University of the Pacific. Olive lectured and spoke on her “life among the Indians” extensively to promote the book.

In 1865, Olive married cattleman John B. Fairchild, listed in census records as a money broker and later a banker. In 1870, when Olive was 32 and John was 40, he owned real estate worth $2,500 and had a personal estate valued at $10,000, which was off the charts compared to others in their neighborhood (it’s amazing what you can learn from the census). In 1880, their daughter, Mary, was seven. In the 1900 census, still in Texas, their daughter is 26, and a 30-year-old cook lives with them, as well a 4-year-old boy with a different last name, perhaps the cook’s son.

Olive suffered from depression and once spent three months in a “medical spa.” She died from a heart attack in 1903, and her husband passed away in 1907; both are buried in Sherman, Texas. The town of Oatman, Arizona, was named for her family. So they — along with Olive’s amazing story — live on.

— Leslie Lang

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What Your Grandmother Was Like as a Teenagerhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/what-your-grandmother-was-like-as-a-teenager/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2015/04/17/what-your-grandmother-was-like-as-a-teenager/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:39:53 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=7538 The concept of “teenager” being a distinct part of life complete with its own lifestyle — let alone one with time to sit around texting on their phones — is a 20th-century one that didn’t really exist until about the 1940s. Prior to the 1900s, many young people left school and worked, either on the… Read more

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The concept of “teenager” being a distinct part of life complete with its own lifestyle — let alone one with time to sit around texting on their phones — is a 20th-century one that didn’t really exist until about the 1940s.

Prior to the 1900s, many young people left school and worked, either on the family farm or at a job. But by 1900, some children were staying in school longer than before.

In 1895, the Connecticut State Board of Education actually started issuing certificates showing proof of age for children over 14 because children under 14 could no longer legally work. (These certificates list the child’s name, parents’ names, date and place of birth and evidence of age and are available at Ancestry).

And then came some other changes that altered societal conditions quite a bit.

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1. The Automobile

The early years of the 20th century saw the automobile age gearing up, and that led to changes in how young people lived. Before, when a boy was interested in a girl, he was invited to her home to have dinner with her family. He might sit in the parlor with them as they all listened to the radio together. At the end of the evening, he and the girl might spend a very short time together, unchaperoned, on the front porch.

Once boys had automobiles, though, those traditions were out the window. Dates were unchaperoned, and teenagers had about as much freedom, mobility, and privacy as they wanted. Anything could happen.

2. High Schools

The automobile culture at the start of the 20th century led to another big change: the end of the one-room schoolhouse. Americans started seeing the importance of more education for their teenagers, and buses could carry them greater distances. So towns built centrally located high schools and brought large numbers of older students to one location. All of a sudden, there were athletic teams and extracurricular activities, and this togetherness fed the growth of a teenage culture that hadn’t existed before.

3. Media

And, of course, people noticed this newly emerging group and its buying power. Marketers, advertisers, and other media began targeting, supporting, and creating trends and fads. Teenagers and their unique lifestyle had arrived.

4. The Decades

The 1920s were called the “Roaring ’20s” or the “Jazz Age.” World War I had recently ended, and the economy was booming. Many people left school young, at 14 or so, and started into full-time careers. Fashion had become much less Victorian, tight, and formal. Young people were listening to jazz music and going to dances. Teen spirits were high.

In the 1930s, the Depression hit, and times were hard for just about every family. Many teens left school to help their families on the farm. Jobs were scarce; people made do with what they could grow, gather, or make themselves and with very little money. A quarter of a million teenagers in the U.S. — mostly boys but a not-insignificant-number of girls, too — took to the rails and rode freight trains across the country. Many of them were looking for work.

The 1940s brought the U.S. into World War II, which also meant rationing and planting victory gardens. Many teens worked after school and helped with the war effort (collecting scrap metal or selling war bonds, for instance). For fun, they had sock hops, danced the “jitterbug” to big bands, and frequented soda shops.

In the 1950s, the war was over. Parents who had lived through two wars and the Depression wanted more for their children and encouraged their teens to attend college and prepare for a career. Their teenagers had more independence, opportunities, and freedom than ever before. It’s also when rock ‘n’ roll music hit, and that, too, changed the teen climate, initiating what was considered an almost insurmountable “generation gap” between parents and teenage children.

Start a free trial of Ancestry to search census records and discover whether your ancestors were in school or working as teens.

—Leslie Lang

 

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