Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace where you can view the genealogy information that we've collected about the Watt, Looper and Salyer families.
The family tree information contained here represents 11870 individuals (6078 male, 5792 female), 4139 families, with 1651 distinct surnames, all linked. The earliest birth date is 1480. The data was last updated on November 28, 2005.
The information is presented in three forms:
Both of these applications have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'm confident that you'll be able to find the information you're looking for. Progenitor has a small number of large pages, so when you reach a surname, you can quickly jump to other members with the same name. It also has a built in Java engine to help you quickly locate surnames and individuals. It takes a few minutes to load the gendex file to your browser. Kith & Kin has a large number of small pages that load very quickly, but it requires a lot of retrievals from the web server.
Until about 1100 A.D. most people in Europe had only one name (This is still true in some primitive countries today). As the population increased it became awkward to live in a village wherein perhaps 1/3 of the males were named John, another sizeable percentage named William, and so forth.
And so, to distinguish one John from another, a second name was needed. There were four primary sources for these second names. They were: a man's occupation, his location, his father's name or some peculiar characteristic of his. Here are some examples.
The local house builder, food preparer, grain grinder and suit maker would be named respectively: John Carpenter, John Cook, John Miller, and John Taylor.
The John who lived over the hill became known as John Overhill, the one who dwelled near a stream might be dubbed John Brook or perhaps John Atbrook.
Many of these surnames can be recognized by the termination -- son, such as Williamson, Jackson, etc. Some endings used by other countries to indicate "son" are: Armenian's -- ian, Dane's and Norwegian's -- sen, Finn's -- nen, Greek's -- pulos, Spaniard's -- ez, and Pole's -- wiecz. Prefixes denoting "son" are the Welsh -- Ap, the Scot's and Irish -- Mac, and the Norman's -- Fitz. The Irish O' incidentally denotes grandfather.
An unusually small person might be labeled Small, Short, Little or Lytle. A large man might be named Longfellow, Large, Lang or Long. Many persons having characteristics of a certain animal would be given the animal's name, examples: a sly person might be named Fox; a good swimmer, Fish; a quiet man, Dove; etc.
In addition to needing an extra name for identification, once occupational group found it necessary to go a step further. The fighting man: The fighting man of the Middle Ages wore a metal suit of armor for protection. Since this suit of armor included a helmet that completely covered the head, a knight in full battle dress was unrecognizable. To prevent friend from attacking friend during the heat of battle, it became necessary for each knight to somehow identify himself. Many knights accomplished this by painting colorful patterns on their battle shields. These patterns were also woven into cloth surcoats which were worn over a suit of armor. Thus was born the term, "Coat of Arms".
As this practice grew more popular, it became more and more likely that two knights unknown to each other might be using the same insignia. To prevent this, records were kept that granted the right to a particular pattern to a particular knight. His family also shared his right to display these arms. In some instances, these records have been preserved and/or compiled into book form. These records list the family name and an exact description of the "Coat of Arms" granted to their family.
Interest in heraldry is increasing daily. This is especially true among people who have a measure of family pride and who resent attempts of our society to reduce each individual to a series of numbers stored somewhere in a computer. In our matter-of-fact day and age, a "Coat of Arms" is one of the rare devices remaining that can provide an incentive to preserve our heritage. We hope you'll agree that it is much more than just a wall decoration.
If you are interested in a more in-depth study of the subject, may we suggest you contact the genealogical department of any fair-sized public library. We especially recommend the "Dictionary of American Family Names" published by Harper & Row and also "The Surnames of Scotland" available from the New York Public Library as excellent sources on the meanings of surnames.