“Preparing a family tree is a stressful daunting task for many adoptees. If given the opportunity, the inquisitive adoptee looking to build a more comprehensive and realistic self-identity will be encouraged to learn that selected names provide a treasure shoppe of delightfully meaningful clues to the past.” —Judith Land
Genealogists concentrate on the meanings and origins of surnames because they are inherited and the easiest way of identifying people who are related. Inherited surnames have a cultural significance that defines what individuals represent, their unique style and individuality, and their heritage. Names provide information about the regional and geographic origin of individuals, ancestors, occupations, social backgrounds, and distinguishing characteristics about them.
Some names are most common among rich people and some among poor, some in families with more schooling and some in families with less. Naming a child after a parent or famous ancestor preserves family ties and history and is sometimes repeated over many generations for centuries. In societies where leadership was hereditary, being able to prove a pure connection to the aristocratic classes through surnames was historically crucial and more meaningful than accomplishment.
Brooks, Lake and Ford indicated persons who dwelt near a brook, a lake, or a bridge. Cook, Farmer, Forester, and Mason provided strangers with a recognizable clue to the person’s occupation, social standing and background. Nicknames like Red or Sienna for a red-haired boy; Blaine (yellow), Boris and Courtney (short); Bella, Linda, Naomi and Rosalind (beautiful) and dozens of other names that spoke of appearance were given to people who passed those names onto their children.
Given names represent a voluntary choice by the parents that represent thoughts and feelings that can be significant because they provide valuable hints about family history, social standing and background. Names such as Grace, Hope, and Charity represent honorable and good qualities that parents hope to pass on to their children.