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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Answer to Question: When did Surnames Begin in New York?

Duke asked
Old Dutch records are found with family names, patronyms, surnames and sometimes a combination of names. When did the English first demand the use of surnames? Does a record exist with the new names, or were they destroyed durning the Revolution

Olive Tree Answer: Duke, that's a very good question. The Dutch in the Netherlands did not require surnames until the time of Napolean but in the New World, that requirement came much sooner.

In 1674, New Netherland was ceded to the British by treaty, and renamed New York. The British quickly became frustrated by the practice of patronymics and the difficulties it created for the government. The practice of using a patronymic to identify individuals was confusing to the British and so their use was discouraged in favour of one surname for everyone in the same family.

Although Patronymics ended theoretically under English rule in 1687, not everyone followed the new guidelines. You will find individuals in official records who followed the new rules and used a surname, but you will also find those who continued to use their patronymics into the early 1700s. In fact some individuals switched about, from a new surname to their old patronymic so it can be a bit confusing when looking through records of that time.

You may wish to read Understanding Patronyics for more information on this interesting subject.

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