Family Names and Place

I am in the process of making an offer on a house.  This involves a house inspection, or course.   And who is recommended for that task?  Someone named Nico DiStefano.  Nico DiStefano??  What kind of name is that? Clearly this is not West Michigan or Pella, IA!  My combined 28 years in those places taught me to pronounce and spell names like DeVries, Van Klompenberg, Zandstra, and van Dijk. In fact, in Pella, if you divided the phone book in half, S-Z would make up the second half due to the many Vs and Zs amongst the Dutch-American population. Not a Curry to be found anywhere.

I don’t know when I started to play the game of guessing family geographic origins based on family names.  Whenever it was, as a geographer this has evolved into interpreting individual’s place within the framework of the larger migration patterns in North America based on their names.

My sensitivity to names came early.  I grew up primarily in a town with Croatians who came to work in the factories and mines of central Illinois.  We knew the Petrovich sisters, and others with names like Tomlionovich, and Yerbic.  There were no Currys except us.

I went to college in Minnesota and had four David Johnsons in college with me. I had two roommates–an  Ostazeski and a Spence–they both married Johnsons.  And I knew a Carlson who married a Carlson.  And then there was Olof Olson.  I decided to take a Swedish language class and ended up being one of three out of a class of 30 who did not have a Swedish name. One had a Swedish mother and the other had had their name changed when they “got off the boat” from Sweden because their family was one of many, many Andersons onboard.  There were no Currys except me.

When I worked southern Louisiana I had to learn French names and spellings.  Boudreaux, Voisin, Billiot, Solet, and even Bourgeois, but no Currys there.

And now I am in Massachusetts where Irish, Italian, and English family names abound. But where do I find Curry except in the spice isle?

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