Welcome back to Surname Saturday at Discovering Latvian Roots!
Where did our surnames come from? That is always a question that we wonder. Since most ethnic Latvians got their surnames relatively recently (in terms of the entire scope of human history), a number of these stories have survived, so I’m going to share some with you!
These stories come from the book Uzvārdu došana Vidzemes un Kurzemes zemniekiem (The Giving of Surnames to Peasants of Vidzeme and Kurzeme) by Kristaps Upelnieks, published in 1938.
In 1826, when the people of Vidzeme were given surnames, many people in Patkule parish ended up with unusual surnames ending with “ons” (Naktons, Rudzons, Kviešons, etc.), which aroes in this manner: The estate scribe had the surname “Laimons”, and after the giving of surnames he added “ons” to the ending of every other Patkulian surname. The people of Patkule do not use the “ons” ending in conversation.
-Submitted by A. Maldups in Patkule.
When I read this story, I immediately went to the revision lists for Patkule estate and yes, this is very much the case. I looked at the 1826 revision list, and, out of 46 names, 29 ended in “ohn” (the old style for “-ons” or “-onis”) and 7 ended in “ahn”, which could be a related ending. While this is not the “every Patkulian surname” described in the anecdote, it is pretty close, and also a significant percentage, because I have not seen the surname ending “ohn” so regularly or often, so this is an interesting story to explain it.
The -ohn surnames, written as they appear:
(*Petersohn is starred because it is a patronymic-style surname, rather than one of the peculiarities we are examining here, but it does technically end in -ohn as well, so I’m mentioning it for clarity’s sake.)
Many of these names are quite common, when you take away the “ohn” ending – Egle (Egglohn), Grauds (Graudohn), Kaņeps (Kannepohn), Kviesis (Kweeschohn), Miezis (Meeschohn), Rudzis (Rudsohn), Saule (Saulohn), Zvaigzne (Swaigsnohn). Did the scribe do this so that the names of the people of Patkule would look different from other Latvian surnames? Or was it just his hubris regarding his own surname that he wanted to project on to others? That part we may never know.
Do all Latvians with surnames that end in “-ons” or “-onis” originate from Patkule? I don’t think so, but it is not a particularly common ending outside of its appearance in the “-sons” of patronymic-style surnames, so if you’re stuck and your surname does end in a non-patronymic “-ons” or “-onis”, then you can always give the Patkule records a look to see if your ancestors can be found there.