Oxford University Press is pleased to announce publication of The Dictionary of American Family Names (3 volumes; "DAFN"), edited by Dr. Patrick Hanks, formerly of Oxford English Dictionaries, now an adjunct professor at Brandeis University and a consultant at the Berlin Academy of Sciences in Germany. This massive undertaking is the result of more than ten years collaboration by 30 of the world's leading names scholars. DAFN marries the best of traditional etymological and historical scholarship with the latest developments in computational data analysis, to shed new light on the notoriously volatile field of family names. It explains the language and culture of origin, history, frequency, distribution, and other important facts about over 70,000 American family names. Coverage is based on computational analysis of frequency as well as historical importance. Over 85% of all Americans will find an entry for their surname in DAFN.
As part of the project, a computational correlation of surnames with forenames in the 1997 electronic telephone directory was carried out, shedding new light on the origin of doubtful names. For example, the surname Dam was found to correlate with many more Vietnamese forenames than Dutch and Danish ones. Names of uncertain origin were further checked against newly available on-line databases such as the 1880 census and the International Genealogical Index, confirming for example the Dutch origins of the American name Aswegan. All well-established Americanizations of European names are recorded in DAFN: for example, Lashway (from the French 'dit' name Lajoie), Yanke (from a pet form of Dutch Jan 'John'), Dusenberry (Dutch van Doesburg, denoting a person from Duisburg), Cashdollar (German Kirchthaler), Rainwater (German Reinwasser 'pure water'). Where possible, precise historical details of such changes are given.
Over 100 pages of introduction bring together essays by the main contributors on naming practices in the world's leading languages and cultures.
DAFN is an endlessly fascinating quarry for historical linguists as well as for historians and genealogists. It is an important resource for students, inspiring interest in the study of both comparative linguistics and American history from the starting point of each student's own family name.