An Introduction to Western European Surnames | Newberry

An Introduction to Western European Surnames

Led by Jack Shreve. One session, 1 - 4 pm.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Saturday, April 14

1 - 4 pm

Cost and Registration Information

Early Registration Price (January 9 at 10 am – January 26 at 4 pm): $70
Regular Registration Price (January 26 at 4 pm – first day of class): $77

Members, seniors, and students get a 10% discount.

Register Online

Excuse our dust!

Beginning January 2018 the Newberry will be undertaking renovation of much of the first floor. The Adult Education Seminars Program will still have use of the basement classrooms, but please check this link frequently for the latest conditions - which exterior doors are open or closed, where to find an accessible entrance, which restrooms are available, etc.

Because of the renovation, the Newberry Bookstore will be closed during the Winter/Spring and Summer 2018 terms. As such, seminar participants will be responsible for acquiring all required texts for their seminars on their own. We apologize sincerely for the inconvenience, and appreciate your understanding. We have put together a list of helpful resources that should make it easy to find the books you need.

Seminar Description

All surnames mean something. Studying English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish surnames can reveal to you what European life was like in an earlier time, answering questions like, what kind of occupations were pointers, feidlers, and faucheurs? We will practice identifying the language to which the surname belongs, and then we will discuss how place names came about. Finally, because the roots of so many European surnames are uncertain, we will employ a forensic approach to put together etymologies for them using accessible tools, such as foreign language and place name dictionaries. One session.

Dr. Jack Shreve is an historical linguist who holds a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and has 32 years of teaching experience at Allegany College of Maryland.

Materials List


  • Elsdon C. Smith, American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company (December 8, 2009). ISBN#: 978-0806311500.
  • Additional handouts will be distributed by the instructor.

First Reading:

  • For the first class, please read the first chapter - “Classification of Surnames” - in Smith’s American Surnames, pp. 1-40.

This class is part of the Newberry’s Adult Education Seminars Program. Learn more about our registration procedures.