Surnames

It was the slave master’s last name that in many instances the slave acquired through ownership to a specific plantation. Although in many instances a slave actually had his father’s surname based on the slave master impregnating his women slaves. 

The surname for Native Americans likewise was in many instances lost based on enslavement by the colonist. Also in some instances the Native Americans in order to hide their identities took on European names thus avoiding surrender to and encampment on Indian reservations. Native American names given in their own tongue or own language were not easily pronounced or spelled by Europeans thus Indian name changes were common. Names were changed to fit European culture and nomenclature.

A giveaway when researching Native American names is to find a suspected Native American with a very nationalistic name such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Elizabeth Browning. This type of name was taken to demonstrate national loyalty thus, gaining acceptance as not being a threat. The Native American thus won safety for himself or herself and their family.

The question may arise with all the changes in surnames how anyone could possibly trace their ancestry. The answer is to start where your ancestor’s name recognition began. It may be from a slave designated name. It may be from a self-imposed name change for purposes of safety. But, whatever the case it is the only start you have so use it.

Article written by: CherokeeCloud

Reposted: May 27, 2007