The use of surnames can be traced to Chinese Emperor Fu Xi in 2852 B.C. He insisted on giving his subjects first and last names for census purposes. As forward-thinking as that may have been, the practice had no staying power beyond his reign and it eventually died out.
During ancient Greek and Roman times, names based on a place or origin or clan were developed, but used inconsistently. During the Roman Empire, family names similar to modern surnames were used regularly, but they lost popularity, perhaps as a backlash to Roman imperialism, as the Roman Empire fell and Christianity spread throughout their former domain.
As any experienced genealogist will tell you, the use of surnames before 1000 A.D. is a bit dicey, and before 500 A.D. they were rarely used, at least not in an official capacity. After 1000 A.D., surnames slowly came into vogue again as the world population grew and the use of additional name identifiers helped differentiate between people with identical Christian names. The most common identifier during this time was the use of a person's father's name to further identify him.Scandinavian countries customarily used the father's name as a surname as late as the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, Ander's son Hans became Hans Andersson. Thor's daughter Jutta became known as Jutta Thorsdattir. Versions of this naming convention were quite popular throoughout Europe, including Italy.
Eventually surnames expanded beyond paternal identification and began to include location, occupation, and physical description. At first, surnames did not remain stable from generation to generation, but were assigned to each individual. For example, Giovanni Mancuso might name his son Daniele Pecoraro. Over the years, spelling changed, meaniings wree modified or became obsolete, and the application and spelling of the surnames was dependent on the discretion of the writer.
By 1500 A.D., surnames were an accpeted and usual part of people's names throughout Western Europe. Interestingly, the custom of a woman adopting her husband's last name at marriage is rarely required by law in any country. Historically, many women never adopted their husbands' last names, especially if they were from a wealthier class or high social rank. In such cases, often the husband took on his wife's name.
There are five basic types of surnames:
Most references say that the Mangano name originated in the Catania province of Sicily, but many surnames have more than one origin, as is the case with Mangano. All Italian surnames end in a vowel. Additionally, the Mangano surname may well have been spelled differently hundreds of years ago. Language changes, carelessness and a high degree of illiteracy (sometimes a man himself did not know how to spell his own name) compounded the number of ways a name might be spelled. Often the town clerk spelled the name the way it sounded to him. Some spelling variations of the Mangano surname Mangiano, Mangana, and Manganos.
We decided to look up the meanings of some of the Italian surnames from our own associated family members to see what they could tell us about our Italian ancestors. Here’s what our research tells us.
Have your own name descriptions you’d like us to share with us? E-mail them to us and we’ll add them to our list here.