Who invented the first name?

Where do the surnames come from?

Everyone has one - usually the whole family has the same. We're talking about the surname. And there are quite a few different ones. Where do all these names come from? Who invented it and has it always existed?

There used to be no surnames in Germany. The first name was enough to name someone unequivocally. The villages were small. Usually there was only one person for each first name who listened to it and if not, there were epithets to distinguish them. For example, if there was the name Peter twice in a village and if one was perhaps very big, then his name was Peter Groß. If the other had red hair like a fox, his name was Peter Fuchs. It was not until the 14th century that these surnames were entered in the baptismal register. In this way it was possible to record who belonged to which family across generations.

The same thing was done with father names. The father's first name then became the family name. If the father's first name was Otto, then all family members were named like this: his wife was called Maria Otto, his eldest son Karl Otto, the next son Johann Otto, etc.

Some surnames also refer to the place where someone comes from. Hans lived by the brook, here he lived Hans Bach. If someone came from Cologne to another city, they were called Gustav Kölner to distinguish them from the local Gustavs. Quite often, however, the surname was derived from the profession. Some professions already played an important role in the Middle Ages: tailors, bakers, fishermen and many more.

Meier, for example, is a common German surname. You can write it in different ways: Meier, Maier, Meyer, ... But it always means the same thing. Meier is a job title. A Meier managed or leased an estate or a farm. The profession no longer exists in this form, but it has been retained as a surname. However, the shepherd still exists - as a profession and as a surname. And in abundance. Ah!