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Business Cards: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

Tracing the origin of your family name, you may be able to find out not only who your ancestors were but also what they were. In 12th-century England, when family names began to be used, people were identified by what they did as much as by what they were called. If a baker were named John, he became John Baker. A professional with a bow and arrow took the name Archer. Barber was the name given to a man who cut hair. Does your family name come from the work one of your relatives did long ago?

  • Blacksmith: A person who worked in iron.
  • Goldsmith: A person who worked in gold.
  • Whitesmith: A person who worked in tin.
  • Last Name: Barker
  • Occupation: Shepherd
  • Origin: Barker comes from the Norman word barches, meaning “shepherd,” the person who watches over a flock of sheep.
  • Last Name: Black
  • Occupation: Dyer
  • Origin: Men named Black were cloth dyers who specialized in black dyes. In those days, all cloth was originally white, so it had to be dyed different colors.
  • Last Name: Carter
  • Occupation: Delivery person
  • Origin: A person who drove a cart pulled by oxen, carrying goods from town to town, was named Carter.
  • Last Name: Chamberlain
  • Occupation: Personal servant
  • Origin: Noblemen required servants to cook, clean, and generally care for their large estates. Chamberlains cleaned the chambers, or rooms, of a nobleman's home.
  • Last Name: Chandler
  • Occupation: Candlemaker
  • Origin: The French word chandelier refers to a person who makes candles.
  • Last Name: Cooke
  • Occupation: Cook
  • Origin: The name Cook was given to people who made their living cooking for others. The e in Cooke was added to disguise the name's meaning.
  • Last Name: Cooper
  • Occupation: Barrelmaker
  • Origin: Cooper was the name for someone who made wooden barrels.
  • Last Name: Fisher
  • Occupation: Fisherman
  • Origin: People named Fisher were professional fishermen.
  • Last Name: Gardiner
  • Occupation: Gardener
  • Origin: This is a variation of the Norman word gardinier, which means a gardener, a person who cares for plants and lawns.
  • Last Name: Hansard
  • Occupation: Swordmaker
  • Origin: Hansard in French means “a long, pointed sword.” Swordmakers were given this name to identify their craft.
  • Last Name: Kellogg
  • Occupation: Slaughterer
  • Origin: Kellogg was a nickname for a pork butcher. Its literal meaning is “kill hog.”
  • Last Name: Kemp (Kempe)
  • Occupation: Wrestler
  • Origin: These were unusually strong fellows who wrestled for a living. The name comes from the Old English word cempa, meaning “warrior.”
  • Last Name: Leach
  • Occupation: Doctor
  • Origin: Leach comes from the word laece, meaning “doctor.” Medieval doctors also used blood-sucking worms called leeches on their patients. They believed these worms would purify the patients' blood and rid them of disease.
  • Last Name: Parker
  • Occupation: Park keeper
  • Origin: Noblemen often kept beautiful parks on their estates. Watchmen, or “parkers,” guarded the parks from outsiders.
  • Last Name: Smith
  • Occupation: Metalworker
  • Origin: Anyone who worked with metal was called a smith. This name was originally a friendly nickname referring to the person or his business. Eventually it became one of the most popular English names.
  • Last Name: Stone
  • Occupation: Stoneworker
  • Origin: Stone is the nickname for someone who worked with stone, a mason or stonecutter.
  • Last Name: Wall
  • Occupation: Mason
  • Origin: Wall was the name given to a special kind of mason, one who had great speed and skill in building straight wall structures.

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