Patronym as a part of East Slavic names
In the work for our clients for whom we do genealogical research, we often use the concept of “patronym” when referring to the name of a particular ancestor of a client. We claim that thanks to the patronymic (middle) name we know the name of the ancestor’s father, such as Anna Lukiyanovna Zelonka means Anna, daughter of Lukiyan Zelonka.
In response to our reports, we often receive messages like this one, from our dear customer Scarlett.
Ok, it is all very confusing. I will try to find a video or something that can help with names over there! I don’t understand how their middle name becomes added to and shows that they are the children of someone exactly. The “Lukiyanovna” is very confusing, as it doesn’t tell me how that’s required or is part of her maiden name. If my daughter had to take my name as a middle name and then add “-ovna” she would be Rayna Scarlettovna. Haha”
This message also made me laugh because it reminded me of when I was a little kid and faced the patronymic phenomenon and had the same questions.
It is quite understandable that the East Slavic naming customs may seem confusing to our customers, as they are very different from how names are formed in their respective country. So we decided to explain what this phenomenon is and how it works.
Everyone in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus is supposed to have a tripartite name which consists of First Name, Patronymic Name and Surname.
The patronymic name of both boys and girls is based on the first name of the father and is written in all legal and identity documents. Single mothers may give their children any patronym.
The patronymic always follows the first name.
The patronymic is formed by a combination of the father’s name and suffixes. The suffixes -ович (-ovich), -евич (-evich) are used for a son, -овна (-ovna), -евна (-evna) for a daughter. For example, if the father’s name was Иван (Ivan), the patronymic will be Иванович (Ivanovich) for a son and Ивановна (Ivanovna) for a daughter, if the father’s name was Андрей (Andrey), the patronymic will be Андреевич (Andreyevich) for a son and Андреевна (Andreyevna) for a daughter.
The patronymic name is obligatory when addressing an elder person, a person of higher social stance and/or on special occasions such as business meetings. For example when a pupil addresses a teacher, he/she is obliged to use both first and patronymic names – Russian: Марья Ивановна, могу я спросить…, lit. ‘Marya Ivanovna, may I ask…’. Not using patronymic names in such situations is considered offensive. As a rule, parents of students also use this form, communicating with teachers.
Let us turn to history.
The connection of a person with his clan was customary to show in ancient times and not only among the Slavic peoples. Mostly it was expressed by mentioning the father in the name of the person.
The first form of patronymic used by the Slavic peoples sounded like this: Vladimir, the son of Gleb. If the question was about representatives of the princely family, the name indicated almost the entire genealogy: Prince Vladimir of Kiev, for example, was called thus: Vladimir son of Svyatoslav, grandson of Vsevolod, great grandson of Oleg, great grandson of Svyatoslav, great great grandson of Yaroslav, descendant of the great Vladimir.
Later the patronymic acquired the form formed from the name of the father with the help of the suffix -ich. For example, Vladimir Sviatoslavich.
The modern form of patronymic formation with suffixes -ovich, -evich entered into use in the 15th century, but, initially, this form of patronymic was used only in relation to representatives of the princely family and the higher estates.
The rest of the estates used either the old form, such as Foma the son of Petr, or used the suffix -ov or -ev. For example, Foma Petrov, Yakov Grigoriev. In this variant, the patronymic is like an answer to the question, “Whose are you?” – I am Petr’s (son).
In the olden days, patronymics could be formed not only from the name of the father, but also from the name of the mother. Probably this happened when the child had no father, or for some reason the head of the family was a woman. Today, the patronymic is given only by the name of the father.
Despite globalization and unification of language norms, the Slavic tradition of using patronymics persists both in official speech and in everyday life. For example, colleagues in informal settings may call each other only by patronymic, and using a shorter form with suffixes -ich, -ych (as our ancestors did): Kuzmich, Palych.
This specific feature of Slavic names is very helpful in genealogical searches.
For example, from the birth entry of Nadezhda (see original excerpt from the birth entry below) we know that her father’s name was Andrey Petrov Korotyshevsky.
The patronym “Petrov” means that Andrey’s father’s name was Petr (Petr+ suffix -ov). This information gives the clue to the next step of the research. We need to look for a birth record of Andrey Korotyshevsky, whose father’s name was Petr. Since we have no other information about Andrey, such as the exact date of birth, this information is crucial for identifying the correct birth entry of Andrey Korotyshevsky. As male relatives usually lived in the same area and civil records usually contain several people whose names and surnames match. In this case, it is easier to find the correct entry if you know the name of the father.
Excerpt from the birth entry
No. 52 28 May/3 June
Names of the child: Nadezhda.
Title, first name, patronymic and surname and religion of parents: Andrey Petrov Korotyshevsky, a nobleman of the village of Kozhan-Gorodok serving as conductor of the Luninets brigades, and his lawful wife Olga Albinova, both Orthodox Christians.