Did you know?
Last names began to be used by commoners at different times throughout Europe. The practice came into fashion in France in the 13th century while it didn’t take hold in Germany until the 16th century. Last name usage was not compulsory in some Scandinavian countries until the 20th century.
Today in Iceland and Norway last names are still not used by its Native population and even though non-Natives do have last names they do not use them in day-to-day dealings. I recently was on vacation in Iceland and took a look at their telephone book. People are listed by their first names first and then by their last names. So, in order to find someone in the telephone book you first look-up the person by their first name and then follow down the list until you find their last name.
Last name usage in the beginning, by our standards, was somewhat confusing. A person could be called Sam Taylor because he sewed and his daughter could be named Sandra Atwood, because she lived near the woods. If you came to a town you had never been to before then you would not know that Sandra Atwood was Sam Taylor’s daughter.
It was not until the 15th century that surnames began to be inherited rather than to be taken from one’s appearance, job, town and a whole host of other possibilities.
Please keep in mind that this is a very general look at how last names came into being and how they were formed. Last name usage was and still is a very complex subject and varies immensely through-out the world.
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