Press enter after choosing selection

History’s message: Just do the job and leave your name!

History’s message: Just do the job and leave your name! image
Rights Held By
Ypsilanti Historical Society
OCR Text

The Ypsilanti Historical Museum is more than a collection of ancient artifacts and historical data; it is a collection of people.

Imagine the late Peter Fletcher assembling a group in the Archives meeting room which included Jack Miller, Ray Barber, Eric Maurer, Todd Barker, Patsy Chandler, Gary Clark, Virginia Cooper, Peg Porter, and Cheryl Farmer. What might be the focus of such a meeting? Does the list of their names offer any insight into their commonalities?

Their surnames might hint at the meeting’s agenda. They could be tracing family histories back to occupations or crafts that were the origin of their surnames or cognomens.

William Holden, in a 1974 article in Mid-West Tool Collectors Association’s publication [What’s in a Name?], offers this explanation: “In early days many a man was not known by a surname. Rather, his identification was associated with his occupation or craft. Each hamlet and town had a miller, for example, who operated the mill for grinding the grain. If his given name happened to be “John”, he was referred to as “John the miller” to distinguish him from “John the carpenter”.

Times change and literacy expands. Written records demand an accounting of who’s who. “Fred the cook” was shortened to “Fred Cook” and the surname “Cook” went on to designate generations afterward.

Herewith is a starter list of surnames found in records at the Museum or Archives whose names likely have come from the talents of their ancestors. Some remain the same in current usage; others need some explanation due to language and fluctuations of craft or talent:

Archer - soldier with bow and arrow
Barker - tans hides with bark
Bellows - bellows-maker, operates forge
Boardman - cuts timber
Boomer – hobo or explosive population
Bowman – see Archer
Brewer – like Matt Greff at the Corner
Brewster - female brewer (Rene Greff)
Carter - transports merchandise by cart
Cartwright - makes carts
Chandler - candle maker or purveyor of
nautical supplies
Clark – clerk
Cooper – barrel maker
Crocker - potter
Currier - processes leather after tanning
Cutler - makes knives and scissors
Draper – curtain-maker
Falconer - raises and trains falcons
Fisher – fisherman
Fletcher – arrow maker
Forrester - lumberman
Fowler - traps small birds
Gardner - cultivates vegetable garden
Glazier - glass worker
Glover – glove-maker
Goldsmith – jeweler/craftsman
Hooper – makes hoops for barrels.
Horner - made utensils from horn
Keeler - barge tender
Loomis - loom maker
Mason - stone cutter
Maurer – iron maker
Miller (Mueller, Moeller, Muller)
- ran the grain mill
Minor - miner
Naylor – nail-maker
Packman - peddler
Pearlman - deals in pearls
Pittman works in the pit with a pitsaw
Porter – carries and delivers
Roper – rope-maker
Sandler – sandal-maker
Seaman – crews on a ship
Shearer – shears sheep for wool
Slater – a roofer from the quarry
Smith - blacksmith
Stoner - mason
Tanner – makes leather from skins
Taylor - tailor
Thatcher – roof-installer
Tyler - makes and sells tiles
Wagner (Waggoner) - makes wagons
Wainwright – wagon-maker

Photo captions:

1. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…
-William Shakespeare


Ypsilanti Gleanings