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Dictionary of American Family Names: 3-Volume Set Hardcover – Apr 17 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2128 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195081374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195081374
  • Product Dimensions: 29.7 x 18.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 7 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,618,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa138621c) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a4ee04) out of 5 stars Mandatory book for everybody interested in origin of surnames April 6 2008
By Radoslaw Zielezinski - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Dictionary of American Family Names (DAFN) is a major work by Patrick Hanks. It contains circa 70,000 surnames from the United States, showing their origin and meaning.
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)
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a4ee58) out of 5 stars Flunks on Irish names Aug. 19 2013
By Gallivant - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You would think that a researcher of names in would check one (or more) dictionaries in the source language of each name. In the case of Irish, it's important to know a little about the language: names are spelled differently in the vocative or when masculine or feminine.

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. 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?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a502ac) out of 5 stars Very good resource. April 21 2008
By Michael D. Pelletier - Published on
Format: Hardcover
So far in the names that I have been looking up in my family tree I have found that these three books have most of it. Sometimes I have to look around to find a surname similar to mine to see if mine is off some. Only a few names have I not been able to find in here.
HASH(0xa0a5066c) out of 5 stars Just what I needed Sept. 23 2013
By Colleen Chupp - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do allot of genealogy and I knew what a few names meant in mine or my husbands families. Theses books help so much with how we all got our names and root of it.
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.
HASH(0xa0a50618) out of 5 stars Excelliant Jan. 5 2014
By William Leonard Lambert - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It met all my needs and expectations. I was able to find and understand the origins and meanings of my surnames.