What can be more natural than that we should desire to know something relating the origin of our surname; when it arose, who first used it and why. A few comments on the origin of personal names, however, is first in order.
Primitive personal names doubtless originated soon after
the invention of the spoken language, although the date of their
first use is lost in the darkness of ages preceding recorded
history. For thousands of years thereafter, first or given names
were the only designations that men and women bore. In the beginning
of historic times, when there were relatively few people and
man knew his neighbor, one title of address was sufficient. Gradually
however, with the passing centuries and the increasing complexity
of civilized society, a need arose for more specific designations.
- While the roots of our system of family names may be traced
to early civilized times, actually the hereditary surname as
we know it today, dates from a time not much earlier than nine
A surname is a name added to a baptismal or Christian name for the purpose of making it more specific and of indicating family relationship or descent. If classified according to origin, most surnames fall into four general categories: (l) those formed from the given name of the father; (2) those arising from bodily or personal characteristics (The Bunns-meaning good people); (3) those derived from locality or place of residence (the Hyatts-possibly the Bunns); and (4) those derived from occupation (the Bowers-Bauers - meaning servants of the soil or farmers).
Slaves and other dependents frequently took the name of their masters. For example, many of the early Bunns in America drifted to the Southern states. The late Charles Bunn of Peoria, prominent stockman and breeder of Shetland and Hackney ponies and Hampshire hogs, told the writer of this volume the following story: "one time, I was in Memphis, Tennessee, and between trains having time on my hands, I thought would take a walk. Soon I came to Bunn's Clothing Store. Since l was proud of my surname, Bunn, I reasoned that I would walk in and get acquainted with perhaps a distant cousin. I walked in all right, but I was surprised to meet a big colored man, as black as the ace of spades.