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A Brief History of Surnames
When communities consisted of just a few people, surnames (last names/family names) weren't important. As each town acquired more and more Johns and Marys the need was established for a way to identify each individual from another. The Romans had begun the practice of using "given-name + clan-name + family-name" about 300 B.C. In the English-speaking part of the world, the exact date that surnames began to be adopted can't be pinpointed.The Domesday Book (1086) compiled by William the Conqueror required surnames, but hereditary surnames are not considered to have been commonplace until the late 1200's.
William Camden wrote in "Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine" (1586): "About the year of our Lord 1000...surnames began to be taken up in France, and in England about the time of the Conquest, or else a very little before, under King Edward the Confessor, who was all Frenchified...but the French and wee termed them Surnames, not because they are the names of the sire, or the father, but because they are super added to Christian names as the Spanish called them Renombres, as Renames."
It is not surprising that one of the first Western European countries, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to institute hereditary surnames was Italy. There is documentary evidence to show that hereditary names where employed among the patricians of the Republic of Venice in the tenth and eleventh centuries AD.
Some surnames refer to occupations (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason) a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century. Places of residence were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname for reasons that can be easily understood. Less apparent is the rationale behind the adoption of animal references (Wolfe, Fish, Byrd, Katt) although it may have been to identify a similar trait in the bearer of the name (John Fox might have been sly.) Relations of those with royal rank often adopted the title as a surname (King, Abbott, Steward, Prince) and colors (Brown, Black, White, Gray) were adopted for less obvious reasoning.
Physical features that were prominent when surnames began to be adopted were also borrowed as an identifier (Long, Short, Beardsly, Stout) as were dispositions of the bearers (Gay, Moody, Sterne, Wise.) Sometimes the name told its own story (Lackland, Freeholder, Goodpasture, Upthegrove) and sometimes they might have been selected to elicit envy or sympathy (Rich, Poor, Wise, Armstrong.)
Patronymic names are those that identify the father and various cultures did so by different means. The Scandinavians added "son" to identify John's son or Erik's son. The Norman-French used the prefix "Fitz" to mean child of, as in Fitzpatrick, for child of Patrick. Many other cultures had their own prefixes to indicate of the father's name, including the Scots ('Mac'Donald,) Irish ('O'Brien,) Dutch ('Van'Buren,) the French ('de'Gaulle,) Germans ('Von'berger,) Spanish/Italian ('Di'Tello,) and the Arab-speaking nations ('ibn'-Saud.) Sometimes the prefixes were attached to places rather than the father's name, such as traditional family landholdings or estates.
When surnames were being adopted, many were the result of nicknames that were given by friends, relatives, or others. Some nicknames were extremely unflattering, to the point of vulgarity, but most of those have vanished, having been changed by descendants through spelling changes or simply by changing names after emigrating.
Some names were simply acquired when those without a surname acquired a need to have one. A lady-in-waiting for royalty might have had no traditional surname, but would require one if no longer in the service of royalty. In times of political turmoil, a deposed ruler might require a smaller staff, and long-time servants would find themselves among commoners -- and suddenly in need of a surname. Names were sometimes invented as combinations of other words.
The Chinese were the first to adopt surnames to honor their forebears with the family name placed first, rather than last. Thus, the family name of Sun Yat-sen is Sun.
What's In a Name? The Meaning of Cerruti
The Italian surname CERRUTI, and it's variants Cerro, Cerrato, Cerrini, Cerri, and others, is of nickname origin, that is, it belongs to the category of surnames descriptive of some personal or physical characteristic of the initial bearer.
The name CERRUTI is derived from the Italian word "ciorra," from the latin "cirrus" which means "lock or bunch of hair." This nickname was often applied to one who had an unusual bunch, lock, or fringe of hair.
Which Cerruti Family Line?
The main subject of this research is the Cerruti family that comes from the town of Cerruti near Crocemosso in Piemonte, Italy. Of course, this research is not limited in any way to that one lineage, ideally I would like to locate as many Cerrutis as possible, anywhere in the world, and determine what, if any, are their relationships to each other.
A search of all the telephone directories in the United States lists less than 200 Cerruti listings. A search of Italian directories seems to show about 1,000 families all over Italy, certainly not very many. There are also Cerruti listings in France (less than a dozen), England (2), Switzerland (2), and other European countries. In addition, there are a large number of Cerrutis in South America, mainly Argentina.
If you have any information about any Cerruti, living or deceased, I would greatly appreciate receiving this information. You can e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can fill out our questionnaire. If you prefer, you can fax information to 516-620-5212. If you wish to call and chat, call me at 516-921-3539.
If you have any GEDCOM files containing Cerruti names or any text files please attach the file to an e-mail note. Any information you send will be greatly appreciated.
You can also send pictures of crests, towns, maps, whatever, to me at:
Any information you send will be made part of this ever growing database, and, who knows, we might find some lost relatives somewhere.
If you want an up to date GEDCOM file of the information presented here, color copies of the crests or maps, or anything else, just ask!
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