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Dictionary of American Family Names: 3-Volume Set Hardcover – Apr 17 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-This scholarly dictionary contains more than 70,000 entries-covering 85 to 90 percent of the U.S. population-and is the most comprehensive collection of American surnames ever produced. Hanks and contributors used the 1997 ProCD phone directory to create a truly multicultural work, with a vast array of names from European, Asian, and Middle Eastern backgrounds. Entries include each name's frequency of occurrence in the database; language(s), origin(s), and definition(s); associated given names; and, for some, the earliest known bearer in North America (or other historical notes). The lengthy introductory material covers the history of surnames, types of names, and-in 23 separate essays-surnames from particular countries/ethnic groups (including bibliographies). This set will be useful for genealogists, historians, and others curious about their family roots. However, it is not written for the layperson, and most students will need assistance in interpreting entries. Unfortunately, there are no glossaries that define genealogical, grammatical, and linguistic terms, and teens are likely to puzzle over such words as metonymic, agent derivative, byname, cognate, etc. Another drawback is that while there are cross-references to main entries (e.g., Roecker, "variant of ROCKER"), there are none going in the other direction; and some names mentioned as variations don't receive their own listing (for instance, Van der Werken, which appears to be absent, is actually discussed under Vanderwalker). Still, Family Names is a valuable contribution and will likely become the definitive source in this area.
Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This hefty set purports to outline the etymology of 70,000 American family surnames. The introduction claims that more than 85 percent of Americans will be able to locate their family name in these volumes. The population sample for compiling this resource was 88.7 million, roughly one-third of all U.S. inhabitants. Names are ordered alphabetically across the three volumes, with each entry containing the frequency of the name's occurrence, etymology, languages, spelling variants, typology (identifying when the name denotes a place, occupation, status, or forebear), regions in which the name appears, and cross-references. The entries are clear and lucid, without reliance on confusing abbreviations or symbols.
As the helpful general introduction indicates, the Dictionary is intended only to be a starting point for etymological or genealogical research. This introduction also has brief but informative sections about names in specific regions or time periods (ancient Rome, for example), and hereditary, patronymic, habitational, topographic, and seasonal names. A second introductory section, "Surnames, Forenames, and Correlations: Some Facts and Figures," explains the survey population as well as the normalization and presentation of the data. A third opening segment, "Introductions to Surnames of Particular Languages and Cultures," is particularly helpful in its specificity, providing information on surname history in regions ranging from the British Isles to East Asia, in addition to chronicling immigration patterns. Anyone can benefit from this information, whether they find their actual family name here or not. Each one of these introductory chapters contains its own bibliography, though it should be noted that many of the sources listed in the regional sections are not in English.
The introductory chapters provide more than 100 pages of helpful advice for researchers both using these volumes as well as going beyond them for further investigation. Additionally, clear structure and layout make this work a great source for lightning-quick reference into the origins of one's family name. The Dictionary of American Family Names is a useful tool for both the beginning and advanced researcher and is recommended for academic and large public libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As US is a melting-pot of nations so there are (in US) surnames of the whole world: Europe (whole), Jewish, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, East Asia. The introductory portion of the book describes surnames of particular nations, languages and cultures.
I think that the idea of writing DAFN was very interesting, namely mentioning surnames of US, it (DAFN) mentions surnames of the whole world. That is why I've bought DAFN.
As a matter of fact I've got "A Dictionary of Surnames" by Patrick Hanks - 1988 edition, but DAFN is more up-to-date. Besides both dictionaries may be complementary to one another.
Very important is a contribution to a DAFN by many contributors and consultants of the whole world.
Patrick Hanks wrote to me 25.02.2008 among other things: "The consultant for Polish names was Professor Aleksandra Cieslikowa of the Institute for the Polish language in Krakow, who did a magnificent job."
Of course I made sure of credibility of DAFN in the field of Polish surnames. I compared DAFN to Polish Dictionary of surnames in respect of etymology and went well!
Finally, I think Patrick Hanks is a leading authority on world names.
Radoslaw Zielezinski (Poland)
The entry for my name for example, rehashes what the old Irish name dictionaries (Woulfe and MacLysaght) say: "...Ó Gealbháin `descendant of Gealbhán', a personal name from geal `bright' + bán `white'."
That's a flattering and possibly accurate meaning. However, if you look in an Irish dictionary, the word means "sparrow". The word is still used today. That meaning seems at least as likely.
Omniglot.com has a list of Celtic cognates for sparrow: gealbhonn in Scottish Gaelic, golfan in Cornish, golvan in Breton. While spelled differently, the words sound much the same. I mention this because of the other part of the definition, which seems pure (and rather offensive) conjecture to me:
"French: nickname for a cheerful drunkard, from Old French galer `to enjoy oneself', also used in a transitive sense with the meaning `waste', `consume' + vin `wine' (Latin vinum). French: from a variant of the personal name Gauvain (see Gavin)."
The French were very chauvinistic about their native languages until just recently and if this came from a French source, it seems they also didn't bother to learn any Breton. I doubt if the Breton St. Goulven was a cheerful drunkard.
Why would you want to promulgate such misinformation? Shouldn't you at least mention that the source material is doubtful?
When I ordered it I received 1 book, not knowing that it was a 3 volume set. I did contact the dealer and got the 3 books, and the whole deal/sell went smoothly. I recommend this seller to anyone. They fulfill their promises on a timely basis. They are easy to work with and are all around great.
Thanks you Amazon and Book World.
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