Armenia Personal Names
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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.
Online Tools[edit | edit source]
Surnames[edit | edit source]
- Typical modern Armenian last names (family names) end with the originally patronymic suffix -յան (reformed orthography) or -եան (classical orthography), transliterated as -yan, -ian, or less often '-jan'. Example: Petrosyan, meaning "issued from Petros", akin to the English name Peterson.
- Some Armenian last names bear the suffix -նց ([nʦʰ]), transliterated as -nc, -nts or -ntz (as in Bakunts or Adontz).
- Some Armenian surnames have a suffix -լի ([li]) preceding the -յան/-եան suffix. For example, Sivaslian and Vanlian refer to the cities of Sivas and Van, respectively.
- Other Armenian surnames have a suffix -ճի ([ʤi] or [ʧi]), transliterated as -ji/dji or -chi/tchi, preceding the -յան/-եան suffix. Names such as Kebabjian and Kahvejian refer to kebab and coffee merchants, respectively.
- The suffix -ցի ([tsʰi]) denoted a geographical provenance, e.g. Movses Khorenatsi (from Khoren) and Anania Shirakatsi (from Shirak).
- The prefix Տեր ([ter]), which comes from how one addresses a priest, is typically Armenian. It might be followed by a space or attached directly to the root. If someone possesses a surname containing "Der" or "Ter" it usually signifies that this person has a patrilineal ancestor who was a priest.
- The roots of names ending with -ian/-yan are typically first names, such as Petrosian "issued from Petros", Simonian "issued from Simon", etc. When the name ends in -lian or -(d)jian, the root is expected to refer to a location or a profession, respectively. Thus, the etymology of Vanlian is literally "issued from the man from Van" and that of Kebabjian is "issued from the kebab merchant".
- However, an ancestor's occupation will not necessarily contain the suffix -(d)ji, thus Vardapetian/Vartabedian (Վարդապետյան/-եան) translates as "issued from the vardapet", Bjishkian (Բժիշկյան/-եան) as "issued from the doctor" and Keshishian (Քեշիշյան/-եան) as "issued from the priest".
- The -ian/-yan suffix may also, but more rarely, attach to an adjective denoting a quality. Thus, Bzdigian/Pztikian (Պզտիկյան/-եան) translates as "issued from the small (man)", Medzian/Metsian (Մեծյան/-եան) as "issued from the tall (man)", Ganantchian/Kanantchian (Կանանչյան/-եան) as "issued from the green, i.e. young (man)".
Surname Changes of Immigrants in the United States[edit | edit source]
As Immigrants moved into English-speaking countries, their surnames were impacted in a variety of ways.
- Most of the time the surname spelling changed to accommodate the different phonetic spelling in the English language. In other words, the recorder tried to write the name the way he heard it.
- Surnames may also have been translated outright into English, sometimes with a slight twist.
- Within the community, such as the local parish, immigrants may continue to use the original name, while at the same time using English-language equivalents when dealing with local government, census takers, and other English speakers.
- Different branches of the same family may adopt various surname spellings.
- Prior to 1900, formal surname changes documented in local court records are relatively rare.
- During the early 20th Century, especially the World War I era, surname changes are recorded more frequently, as immigrants or, more often, their children, tried to adopt more neutral surnames.
Given Names[edit | edit source]
According to Armenia's National Statistical Service, the most commonly used names for newborn boys in Armenia, as of early 2012, were Davit, Narek, Gor, Hayk, Alex, Erik, Arman, Samvel, Tigran, and Aram. For girls, the most popular names were Nare, Milena, Mane, Ani, Anna, Anahit, Mariam, Elen, and Mary.
Traditionally, Armenians have used Biblical names of Greek, Latin and Hebrew origin, such as Abraham, Hakob (Jacob), Hovhannes (John), Petros (Peter), Poghos (Paul), Madlene (Magdalene), Yeghisabet (Elizabeth), Tamar, etc. 
For Further Reading[edit | edit source]
FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]
Additional sources are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog: