Luisa Rivera and Garcia, Titina Feliciano and Rivera, Leon Garcia and Feliciano, Ceiba, 1945
Yes really, your Bisabuela probably had three surnames. Puerto Rican surnames can seem a bit confusing, but it's actually a gift.Puerto Rican genealogy is simplified with the use of exponentialseveralsurnames.Puerto Rico used the Spanish practice of using both parents' surnames. A child born is given a first and middle name and then the father's first surname, followed by the mother's first surname. (e.g.Maria Luisa Rivera Garcia.) You can find it written with or without the wordjmeans 'and' between the two surnames. (e.g.Thomas Rivera and Castro.) Upon marriage, a Puerto Rican woman could add her husband's surname by adding the wordvonmeans "of" before her husband's first name. (e.g. Maria Luisa Rivera García de Feliciano orMaria Luisa Rivera and Garcia de Feliciano.)
For the average American, this may seem like a mouthful, but for a genealogist, it's a practice that's extremely useful for a variety of reasons. First, because it's easy to track a person over time in different documents. Second, it helps in sibling searches if you want to build a larger family tree. Third, if you discover cousins or grandchildren living in the house, you can do some research to find out who the parents are by tracing back the two last names. And of course the most obvious thing is that there is no problem finding girls names! It is surprisingly easier to trace back further generations when the mother's name is already known.
If you look through the Puerto Rican censuses, you'll find that the homes outside of the metropolitan areas (San Juan, Santurce, Ponce, Bayamon) don't have addresses. (I explain that on another page.) Most of Puerto Rico was rural, and groups of families populated the villages and towns. They often start a home right next door and down the street from parents and siblings. So if you find an ancestor by looking at the before and after pages, chances are you will find siblings. How? By looking at the two last names! Of course you have to compare it to the ages to make sure it makes logical sense. As the villages and towns were relatively small, you will find that there is seldom more than one family with the same two surnames...unless a group of brothers marries a group of sisters. For example: if sisters Juana and Belen Diaz and Rodriguez were tomarry brothers Luis and Jose Rye and Labour All children have the surnames: diaz and rye. This happened in my own family, but I had already found the sibling pairs in the 1910 census and then found them with their children in the 1930 census. Confusion avoided!The Puerto Rico Census is available online for 1910, 1920 (limited), 1930 and 1940. If you use the names as a guide, you should be able to collect quite a few relatives!
Another purpose of studying Puerto Rican surnames is to provide you with insight into your deeper past. Puerto Rican surnames can reveal the location in Spain or Portugal or anywhere else in the world that different parts of your family hail from. Unfortunately, our Indigenous and African names will forever remain a mystery, but DNA can help determine this.
Surnames can also reveal a little more about the founding of cities in Puerto Rico. Not all Puerto Rican surnames are Spanish and this revelation may be key in creating your family tree. I explain this further down this page, under the lists of surnames. There is a list of Puerto Rican surnames that are not of Spanish origin.
Now that you have figured out naming practices and how easy it is to find your ancestors in documents, you may be curious as to where the names came from and what they mean or mean about your family. Much can be discovered in Puerto Rican genealogy from the history of surnames. The first thing to consider is that surnames or surnames only became common in the Middle Ages.They began in France around 1000 and spread to England and Scotland with the Norman invasion.
Spanish surnames came into use in the Middle Ages when the population grew and it became necessary to distinguish between people with the same given name. Before that, people had no use for surnames. They lived in communities so small that it was unlikely that people would have the same First name.As communities grew and people migrated, it became necessary to distinguish between people with the same first name. This started the use of epithets. Abyname eventually became what we know as a surname or surname. An epithet is a non-hereditary surname, often beginning as anickname(nickname) given to a person to describe a person in some way. These epithets, originally given to a single person, were the most common type of surname used throughout most of medieval Europe. However, these surnames would change from generation to generation, making it difficult to keep track of family relationships. As the Middle Ages progressed, individual epithets gave way to inherited surnames, so that it was no longer a literal designation, except by accident.These surnames became permanent in the 1400s.
inheritance of the surname
Surnames were originally given to a single person to distinguish two or more people with the same given name. These surnames changed over the generations, making it difficult to keep track of family relationships. Over time, people stopped changing surnames from generation to generation. The first people to do this were often the nobility and royalty of an area. TheCastilian The 16th-century double surname system didn't become common across Spain until the 18th century, although you'll find that it came to Puerto Rico quickly primarily because of theRoyal Cédula de Gracesin 1815. This brought a large influx of immigrants to Puerto Rico in the 19th century.
Castilian denotes from Castile (in and around Madrid), the language known internationally as Spanish, which is distinct from other languages spoken in Spain such as Catalan, Basque, and Galician.* You'll find that many names betray the medieval origins of your ancestor (eg.Ochoa-Basque nickname meaning "wolf";Alfaro-City in La Rioja, Spain;Picasso– Catalan word for magpie.) This is particularly useful when doing DNA testing, for reasons I will explain in theDNA page.
*(On another page there is a gallery with maps of Spain. There you will find a short translation of the language map.)
Most surnames fall into the following categories: Patronymic, Locative, Metonymic/Sobriquet, Professional, or Religious. Patronymic surnames are taken from the father's given name. Local surnames indicate a geographic or topographical (landscape) location. Metonymic or sobriquet surnames are descriptive and come from a specific nickname. Occupational surnames indicate work, rank, or position in a particular community. Religious surnames reflect positions, places, and items related to the Catholic Church. Rather than listing surnames alphabetically, as most surname dictionaries do, I have listed them by the categories just described.
For surnames derived from a language other than Castilian, the language is indicated in <chevrons>, unless it is a locative surname in which the language of the indicated country or region should be derived. Also, to distinguish between the predominantly Castilian surname categories, I have included a list of surnames that are not Castilian but are Basque, Catalan, or Galician/Portuguese. Since Puerto Rico was inhabited by peoples from countries other than Spain, I will also include lists of Puerto Rican surnames that are of French, Italian, German, and English origin.
In the <chevrons> you may see the identifierGermanic. Long before the Romans came, the VisigothsSuebiand other Germanic peoples lived in the Iberian Peninsula. The language did not survive the introduction of Latin, except for first names. As in many cultures, many first names were passed down through families and eventually became patronymic surnames. These surnames conceal references to the past Germanic tribes of Spain.
Included the following listsonlySurnames found in Puerto Rico. I encourage you to message me if you have a last name that you would like included. I have used a variety of sources assuming surname origins, as well as my own research. All names found here are my own brief statements from the various sources with no explanation or alternative meanings.
This system of Spanish surnames uses the name of a person's father as that person's surname. Sometimes the parent's name remained unchanged (as inMateo,Alonso,AndGarcia),but frequently it was used with an appended suffix meaning "son of". This includes -ez, -az, -is, -oz at the end of a name. So if there were two people named Martin living in a village, then one could be Martin, son of Rodrigo (Martin Rodriguez)and the other might be Martin, son of Lope (Martin Lopez).The only major disadvantage of this system is that the surnames would change with each generation. For example if you had Lope who was the father of Martin who was the father of Jesus then the full names of Lope's son and grandson would beMartin LopezAndJesus Martinez.Occasionally sons took their father's surname while daughters took their mother's (matronymic) as inJuliet of Alma.
Many patronymic surnames in Puerto Rico are not of Spanish origin. Many Italian/Corsican surnames end inI, due to the medieval custom of identifying individuals by the plural name of their clan (the a-Isuffix in Italian). For example,Gennaroof thePellegrinofamily would be calledGennaro degli Pellegrini(Gennaro of the Pelligrinos). Eventually most of the possessive parts ("the") were dropped. However, many Italian surnames remained permanently pluralized, ending in "i". In some cases, the surname may end with-hadinstead of-Iwhich points to the diminutive meaning "little". For example,Pieretto, is the diminutive ofPierosimilar toManuelitois diminutive ofManuelin Spanish.
In (brackets) I have included an English equivalent where appropriate. In the <chevrons> I have indicated the language of origin, if not Castilian. After the semicolon I've included the etymology of the word, if known.
See the page for more information on names entering Spanish via German
People were also named for places where they lived, either in the past or in the present. When family names began, people were rarely named after the village they currently lived in, but after they left and moved to a new place, they were named after the village they had previously lived in. SoJuanwho used to live in Burgos became known asJuanaus Burgos.As surnames became commonplace and necessary due to population growth, surnames eventually became family names passed down from fathers. Over time the articlevon(of) was then often omitted. While the list of place names is longer than any other category, many of the place names come from natural landscapes.
Many of the following are place namescounties.Adistrictis closely associated with a district. Many villages and hamlets are no longer inhabited. Spain has a somewhat complicated structure.SeeMaps of Spainfor a closer look. is also helpfulthis listof villages, towns, municipalities, cities, provinces and regions of Spain.
You can deduce that the regional language of the place is the derivation. In many cases you will find the name that has caught on is the Castilian form of the place such asowl, thevillage in Galicia. In Galician it isOwlThat is, the current form uses the spelling and pronunciation of a Castilian speaker rather than the native language spoken in the region (Catalan, Aragonese, etc.).
While many surnames were direct uses of the name of a village, town, city, or province in which a person lived, some surnames were derived from how others referred to them. A demonym describes a group of people in one place. It can be used by the people who all belong to a specific place, or by anyone to describe people who all live in a specific place. Like Cubanos - people from Cuba, Venezolanos - people from Venezuela and so on.
Another form of a place name occurs when people are named after a geographical or scenic feature near or on which a person lived, e.gSerrano(hill),Rios(Flow),Away(Wiese),Acosta(coast), Andfrom the sea(from the sea). Places with an asterisk* can also be found as real place names listed above.
A third type of Spanish surname found is a surname given to someone based on their characteristics. These characteristics can include a person's hair color, height, skin color, and weight, such as: e.g.:Delgado(thin) andRubio(blond). The traits could be personal and given based on personality traits or skills.Bravo(violently) andCortez(polite). Surnames that are animal names also fall into this category, since they were usually assigned to people who shared characteristics with the animal they were named after (metonymic). So someone calledVacationcould have been big and slow like a cow.Examining the following names, one can read into them in a number of ways.
The fourth category of Spanish surnames could also be classified as a subset of personal characteristics. This category of surnames are surnames assigned based on the occupation or position of the surname bearer in a particular community. Some common examples of professional surnames are: Chickensero(Mason),Cabrera(goatherd),Müller(thousand).
next to theCastilian Spanishwe all know and loveCatalan, Basque, Galician, Asturian and Valencianlive and do well in Spain. All but Basque are Romance languages derived from Latin. Because of this, the languages appear very similar in spelling and the root origins of the words are mostly the same. However, there are cases where words differ by language or region. When thinking about surnames and when they were used, remember that Spain was not unified and today's provinces were still separate kingdoms. Because of this, the origin of the names can be a clue as to where your ancestors may have migrated from.See language map.
The surnames listed below are also listed above by surname type category. I have provided the following list for those interested in seeing surnames by language to make connections between places and families. Immigrants to Puerto Rico often settled together and it is clear that many surnames come from the same mother tongue and thus indicate the origin of the families.
We know, of course, that old stories are often pondered about being Italian, Corsican, French, English and other ethnic groups. There are areas in Puerto Rico that are known for certain groups forming communities. As in the southwest of the island. The areas of San German and surrounding communities had a heavy influx of the aforementioned immigrants. Just like in the United States, immigrant enclaves grow and become large, thriving communities that eventually blend into the existing community. While these families may have immigrated from Italy, Corsica and/or France, their future generations became proud Puerto Ricans. The following list includes Italian, French, and other surnames found in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that surname practices in France and Italy are very different than in Spain. Especially with patronymic surnames. I recently added an English surname and will add to the list upon request.
If you're looking for a specific name, just drop me a line in the form at the end of theover sideand I will add it to my research list!
The following list includes Italian, French, and other surnames found in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that surname practices in France and Italy are very different than in Spain. Especially with patronymic surnames. I recently added an English surname and will add to the list upon request.
Let me explain, while most Puerto Rican surnames come from Spain, there are quite a number that didn't. Think of famous Yankee, Bernie Williams, and beloved Roberto Clemente's mother, Luisa Walker. Their surnames are clearly English. The meaning of these surnames is easy to find, but the origin of how these names ended up on the island is a genealogical mystery! Although the vast majority of Puerto Rican surnames can be found in one list or another due to the different languages, there are a few whose history will be quite difficult to uncover. I discovered that some surnames originated on the island.
I believe this onekreolischSurnames happened for several reasons. First, many immigrants who were not from Spain ended up in Puerto Rico. Searching through documents, you will find many French and Italian surnames, as well as, although much fewer, German, Irish, and English surnames. As these immigrants settled and learned Spanish, it's easy to see how the original names might have changed based on pronunciation. Imagine the transcription problems that would arise if a native French speaker said their name in Spanish to a native Spanish speaker unfamiliar with French. This doesn't even take into account the different Spanish accents or speakers of other languages spoken in Spain. This would have been exacerbated by my second theory: illiteracy. New immigrants to Puerto Rico, coming from all parts of Europe, may not have been literate. In this case, they would not know the spelling of their name and would have to rely on communication and understanding between them and the person collecting information for immigration, residency, birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as land registry and census records. In many of these cases, names are recorded using the phonetic spellings of non-Castilian native speakers.
An example of this is two surnames in my ancestryLarakuenteAndvagabond.Both are not very common on the island and are rarely found (unrelated to PR). I've researched them for years. The origin of both names is not known in any of the published surname origin books. According to theDictionary of American Surnames, Oxford University Press, the results are:
- vagabond- Spanish (Puerto Rico): unresolved. Compare Lamboy.
- Lamboy- Apparently of Hispanic origin: unexplained. This name also occurs in France.
- Larakuente-Hispanic (mostly Caribbean): unclear.
I found the current one in my family recordsvagabondas well asLamboy, LaBoy.According to theAlien Register 1815-1845Men are calledLabady,Labor, AndLabrouyall are reasonably similar to the current onesvagabondLast nameThe wayalso occurs in Puerto Rico. In Spanish, the letter v is often pronounced /b/, so it can be concluded that the spelling has changed due to the pronunciation. In the same records aLarracontrefound. All of these names come from immigrants from France to Puerto Rico. Based on my research, family histories, as well as my DNA results, I can conclude that two of these immigrants were the originators of the surnamesvagabondAndLarakuente. I will provide a list here of names whose origins are uncertain but most likely originated in Puerto Rico and are still common on the island and are not common outside of Puerto Rico (other than the mainland US) these surnames may be also be listed above. I will of course continue to research in hopes of finding the real story for the surnames where there is no reasonable or safe meaning. For now I will list the most current information and reasonable theories.
I will provide a list here of names whose origins are uncertain but most likely originated in Puerto Rico and are still common on the island and are not common outside of Puerto Rico (other than the mainland US) these surnames may be also be listed above. I will of course continue to research in hopes of finding the real story for the surnames where there is no reasonable or safe meaning. For now I will list the most current information and reasonable theories.
*Puerto Rican surnames:
August - Variation of the personal name Augusto; holy, venerable <via Latin>
Aldamuy- possiblyfrom Aldemünde, Carballo, Bergantiños, Galicia <Galician>
Arrigoitia- out ofStrict, Dorf in Busturialdea, Bizkaia, Baskenland <Basken>
Bithorn- possibly fromBaden<Dutch> or religious - see above-
braces- probably an accidental mix-up ofBrassettiAndworker, both variants with the same meaning <Italian>; small arms
Brignoni- Possibly from Brignone <Italian> from Brignon, village in France
dieppa -Italian form of Dieppe, a village in Normandy, France
Esqulin- possibly fromL'Esquilin,one of the famous Seven Hillson who founded Rome
cooked- variant of the French surnameclothing; little guy
Graniela- variant of the Italian surnameGranillo; small grit - used to describe someone who had pockmarks or other blemishes
Jiminian -variant ofTwinsfrom Gemignano; Twin <via Tuscan>
Jusino- Variant of Justino, which is a diminutive of Justo; simply fair
vagabond-possibly fromLamboyorThe way
Laracuente / Larracuente- possibly from the French nameLaracontreor fromrocket
Opportunity -believed to beFfrom Spanish'Chance,' 'Time'; Opportunity
In any case -out ofIn other words,a small village in Guadalajara, Castile-La Mancha
I drink -different spelling of villagePihem, Hauts-de-France
slow it down -
Rieckhoff- variant of the German surname Reichhoff; rich + hope
Tosado - variant of the Italian surnameScissors; sheared
Vivoni- out ofVivonafrom Bivona, Sicily, Italy
Völckers- variant of the German personal name,Volker; people + army