I saw this recently on MyHeritage – What’s in a French Surname? – MyHeritage November 24, 2019: https://blog.myheritage.com/2019/11/whats-in-a-french-surname/.
by Talya November 24, 2019
MyHeritage recently added an important collection of historical records from France, opening new horizons for genealogists with French heritage. The France, Nord Civil Marriages collection contains not only details about brides and grooms registered from 1792–1937, but also details on their parents. If your ancestors hail from this magnificent region so steeped in history and culture, you likely have some French ancestral surnames in your family.
The word “surname” actually derives from the French surnom, derived from sur (“above” or “over”) and nom (“name”). Surnames were uncommon in ancient times, probably because there wasn’t much of a need for them. Social circles and communities were much smaller, and people didn’t move around very much. As the world developed and the population of Europe grew, the need for a way to distinguish between the various Jeans, Pierres, and Michels emerged. The earliest documented use of surnames in France was during the 11th century, but they did not become common until around the 14th century.