Lithuania 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]

Surnames Historical Development[edit | edit source]

  • Before record keeping began, most people had only one name, such as John.
  • As the population increased, it became necessary to distinguish between individuals with the same name. The problem was usually solved by adding descriptive information. John became John the smith, John the son of Matthew, John the short, or John from Heidelberg.
  • At first surnames applied only to one person, not to the whole family. After a few generations, these names became hereditary and were passed on from generation to generation.
  • Surnames developed from several sources. For example:
    • Occupational (based on a person’s trade, such as Carter or Smith)
    • Geographical (based on a person’s residence, such as Drayton or Debenham)
    • Patronymic (based on a person’s father’s name, such as Jones, son of John)
    • Descriptive or nickname (such as Joy or Child)
  • The nobility and wealthy land owners were the first to begin using surnames.
  • Merchants and townspeople then adopted the custom, as did the rural population. This process took two or three centuries.

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]

  • A child in Lithuania is usually given one or two given names.
  • As well as modern names, parents can choose a name or names for their child from a long list of traditional names; these include:
  • Christian names, i.e. Biblical names or saint's names.
  • Lithuanian common nouns or hydronyms used as names.
  • There are popular names constructed from the words for celestial bodies (Saulė for the Sun, Aušrinė for Venus), events of nature (Audra for storm, Aušra for dawn, Rasa for dew, Vėjas for wind, Aidas for echo), plants (Linas/Lina for flax, Eglė for spruce), and river names (Ūla, Vilija for River Neris).
  • invented names from literature.
  • names of Lithuanian pagan deities and mythological figures.
There are some popular names of gods and goddesses from Lithuanian mythology that are used as personal names, such as Laima, goddess of luck, Žemyna, goddess of earth, Gabija, goddess of fire; Žilvinas, a serpent prince from the fairy tale Eglė the Queen of Serpents, Jūratė, goddess of the sea, and Kastytis, from the legend about Jūratė and Kastytis.
  • A distinctive practice dominated in the ethnic region of Lithuania Minor, then part of East Prussia, where Lithuanized German personal names were common, such as Ansas (Hans), Grėtė (Gretchen), Vilius (Wilhelm) among Prussian Lithuanians. Some of them are still in use among Lithuanians.
  • Lithuanian male and female names are distinguished grammatically.
  • Almost all Lithuanian female names end in the vowels -a or -ė.
  • Male names almost always end in -s, and rarely in a vowel -a. If a masculine name ending in -a has a feminine counterpart, it ends in -ė, e.g. Jogaila and Jogailė.[1]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

Additional sources are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Lithuanian name", in Wikipedia,, 6 March 2021.