Change of family forms XVIIІ-XX century

The topic of surname changes and their variability will be interesting both to those who are just starting to engage in genealogical research and already experienced genealogies. In genealogical practice, to achieve a positive result, it is imperative to understand the importance of this aspect.
First, it should be noted that the family form of the XVIIІ-XIX century. were rather unstable, many records are full of errors and inaccuracies.

In the process of research, many people have a situation when, for some reason, the name of the ancestor in the archival documents is either completely absent or changed, which makes it difficult to study the further history of the genus.

Reasons for changing last name:

Change of surname ending

One example is the addition of the –enko suffix, which is very common among Ukrainian surnames when the son of Pustovoit, for example, was already recorded as Pustovoitenko, son of Yarosh, as Yaroshenko, son of Taran as Taranenko, etc. Sometimes this process was the opposite, i.e. Taranenko son could become Taran.

Another option is the addition of the –sky suffix, here, as an example, we can cite the family of the famous composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. His great-grandfather Fedor Chaika from the Ukrainian Cossacks, who lived in the Poltava region, and his grandfather Pyotr Fedorovich already bore the name Tchaikovsky.

Surname on the female line

A vivid example of such an option for the origin of the family name is the family tree of the Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. The poet’s great-grandfather Andrei Bezrodny is a Cossack who arrived from the Zaporizhzhya Sich in the village of Kirilovka (now in the village of Shevchenkovo, Zvenigorod district of Cherkasy region), then he married the daughter of Ivan Shevets – Efrosinia, whose father was engaged in the manufacture of shoes. Having gone to live in the bride’s house “in the house” according to the custom of that time, Andrey took his wife’s surname, and all of their children in the following were already called Shevchenko.

Surname by occupation (profession) or nickname

Very often, the surname came from a person’s occupation, for example, Petrenka’s son could be written with the surname Gonchar (by occupation), and Shevchenko’s son with the surname Ruda (nickname given by the person’s external characteristics, his character traits, etc.).

Last name given in connection with changes in marital status

There are cases when the surname passes from the stepfather (if the mother got married a second time and the child was adopted).

There were also cases when an illegally born child (outside of marriage) was first recorded on the mother’s surname, and later the father acknowledged his paternity and the surname changed (in practice there were cases when this happened even in adulthood, when the child grew up and already had his family).

Sometimes there are times when children become orphans and relatives or some acquaintances took them to be raised and then such a child could already be recorded under a different name.

Scribe error

In the documents XVIIІ-XIX century. a lot of mistakes and inaccuracies, especially with regard to confessional paintings and metric books, very often banal negligence or carelessness of a clerk led to the fact that in different documents the same person was listed under different surnames.

Spelling changes

Very often, changes in the spelling of a surname are dictated by a change in spelling. The most striking example is the documents at the turn of 1917, when, before the revolution, records in church books were in Church Slavonic, and in the early 1920s. with the advent of registry offices, act records began to be kept in Ukrainian, and even with a low level of literacy.

Intentional change of surname

Sometimes there are cases of intentional change of surname by its owner, due to its dissonance.


Good luck in finding.