Mangano Search

Mangano's -- We're Everywhere!

Where did the name Mangano come from?

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:

  • Patronymic        Based on the name of the father
  • Occupational     Based on a person's occupation
  • Geographic       Based on the city or town where a person lived
  • Descriptive        Based on physcial characteristics of the person or on a nickname
  • Estate                Names take from a person's land holdings, like the name of a manor or farm

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.


Surname Fun

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.

  • Mangano  The most common meaning is a catapulter, most likely an occupation derived from protecting a fortress during times of battle. We like to imagine those first Manganos were aggressive, valiant catapulters of flaming or spiked objects aimed at doing damage to the enemy.
  • Balsano   Variation of Balzano, possible nickname meaning strange or odd. Now we’re talking about our family!
  • Battaglia  Derived from battle or fight. It was used as a nickname for a combative person. Again, now we’re talking about some of our ancestors! Or, it can to a topographical name for someone who lived at a place remembered as the site of a battle. Presumably where the combative person combatted, so to speak. We could read into the name even further:Perhaps the battles were not always military in nature, but land disputes, personal disputes, strained marriages, etc.
  • Bellanca  Beautiful hip. Right. These folks had beautiful hips. Hopefully we lost something in the  translation on this one. Enough said or I’ll get myself into trouble.
  • Cannella  A dweller where bent grass grew. Grass bent by stampeding cattle or brisk winds?
  • Cerniglia   Derived from the Sicilian cirniglia, the word for a grain sifter or winnower. Hmmm. There must not be much winnowing going on here in America – I think that word is obsolete.
  • Ippolito  The name of several minor early Christian saints. Interesting note:  In Greek mythology, Hippolytos was a young man who rejected the incestuous advances of his stepmother Phaedra. Another hmmm. We're liking the minor saint idea a little more than the Greek connection.
  • Mancuso  Nickname for a left-handed or maladroit person, derived from mancus which means one-armed, defective or maimed. Hope there were a lot of lefties in our family.
  • Medici  One who practiced medicine.
  • Monachino  A dimunitive form of Monaco, as in the country. Perhaps there were Grimaldi’s in the family line?
  • Pecoraro  A sheep or goat keeper. Plenty of those in our family.
  • Pellicanno  One who has the characteristics of a pelican. Ouch!
  • Rotolo  One who made or wrote on scrolls.

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.