It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Steve Pickthall.

There don't seem to be very many occupations that start with the letter "Z" - despite checking a number of on-line sources, I found only Zigarius, Zinc Worker, Zincographer, Zitherist, Zoetrope Maker, Zincographer, Zoographer, Zumologist and Zythepsarist. You may not be surprised to hear that I have not found any people with these occupations in my place which is New Fishbourne a small village in Sussex. We have not been offered any blogs for this letter from members which suggests that other places don't have people with these type of occupations (if there are, we would love to know in the comments).

It is thought that surnames (or last names) come from a number of origins:

  • Patronymic or Matronymic - handed down from or inherited from the father or mother (or sometimes the mother's parents) or names that are a contraction of "son of x" such as Johnson or Evans
  • Personal attributes - descriptive names such as Short, Brown, Young, Long, White.
  • Locational - where a person lived or came from for example York, London, Field, Hill, Fleming
  • Adoptive - on marriage or taking the surname of a rich relative or powerful local lord (maybe in an attempt to win favour or reject one's existing family?)
  • Using second personal name as a surname - for example John Jacob (although these may be patronymic instead)
  • Occupational - Archer, Thatcher, Gardener, Smith or Cook

Looking through the A-Z blog for this year there are so many occupational terms that have become surnames - Salt, Farmer, Judge, Clerk, Master, Porter, Nurse are just a few of them, there are many, many more. Some are easy to identify such as Baker, but a number refer to occupations that are generally obsolete such as Fletcher (a maker of arrows in case you wondered).

So as we come to the end of this year's A-Z challenge I would like you to think about how the names of occupation have influenced and contributed to the surnames we come across in real life and more importantly in the places we study. I would also like to thank all those who have contributed to the success of this year's challenge.

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