Friday, August 3, 2012

The Importance of Being Lewis

There are some names in families that are carried on generation after generation. Following some of my more recent posts about Lewis Fitzgerald, one of my maternal second great grandfathers, I was reminded by my cousin, and author, Pamela Gaull, that Lewis is also an important name in my paternal family.

So I decided to check my genealogy database on the number of individuals named Lewis and their relation to me. Currently, I have 12,660 individuals in my database covering both my ancestral family and that of my wife. Using the custom report feature in RootsMagic 5, I found 36 men who were named Lewis. Interestingly enough, I found that there is an even split of the Lewis name between my wife's family and mine; eighteen men named Lewis in my Hadden family tree and eighteen men named Lewis in Ellen's Wagner family tree.

There are different versions of the origin of the name Lewis offered on the Internet. Two of the more popular origin versions indicate that the name derives from a Scandinavian word meaning 'famous warrior' or 'glorious ruler.' I suspect my father, who is a Lewis, would be happy enough with that, particularly as the alternate origin suggested is that the name is from a Norwegian word, Ljodhhus, apparently meaning 'sounding house,' a place where men who took the depth of the sea were housed.

As stated previously, Lewis was an important name in my ancestral family. My father is a Lewis, named after an uncle named Lewis. I was named after a Lewis in my mother's family, Lewis Fitzgerald Foley, although you won't find Lewis in my name. Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was commonly known as Gerald Foley, so I was given the Gerald name.

My third great grandfather was Lewis McKenzie, a crofter in 19th century Cluny, Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, my fourth great grandfather, was also named Lewis McKenzie, an inn keeper and farmer at Old Mill, Coull, Aberdeen, Scotland. In fact, my family tree contains six men named Lewis McKenzie. I am directly descended from three men named Lewis while the remaining fifteen men are uncles or cousins.

It seems that until you really look at the popularity of a name in your family, it can easily go unnoticed, possibly due to the spread of time and generations.

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