Much like the surnames of other countries and ethnic groups, the origin of Italian surnames can mostly be summed up in a few different categories – Patronyms (son of Pietro “Di Pietro”), Occupational (“Contadino = farmer”), Geographical (“Genovese” = from Genoa), Personal Traits(“Russo” – red hair, “Basso” = short) and Nature (“Colombo” = pigeon). I’m finding a heavy emphasis on the patronyms though, probably due to the great variety in how they are used. A great many of them are based on short forms, and nicknames – for example Cecchetto is derived from Cecco, a short form of Francis or Francesco.
Some areas of Italy also used an alias – “detto” – much like French Canadian “Dit” names. The purpose of these was to distinguish between different branches of a surname.
Here’s my Italian surnames, so far:
De Grandis – Personal Trait “large”
Lucato – Patronymic “son of Lucca”
Ambrosi – Patronymic “son of Ambrogio”
Cecchetto – Patronymic “son of Francesco”
Tognon detto Magiollo – two patronyms, Tognon is from Antonio and Magiollo from a very old given name “Magiolus”
Peron detto Basso – Patronym, based on the name Peter, plus Basso “short”
Morianti – Entirely made up for foundling orphans. Exploring it’s possible origins though, “Mori” is of the same name family as “Moro”, and “Morosini” – the name of a largish family from the area and the surname of a DNA match. There is also a Morandi family in Castelfranco Veneto. Whether or not you would make up a surname so close to an orphan’s real family name though, is questionable.
As I was leafing through pages in the civil records, I started noticing some familiar names, people I know from near me, locally. Being fairly exotic names, I checked a few to see whereabouts in Italy they can be found, and overwhelmingly they were concentrated around Venice. It then dawned on me that Castelfranco Veneto is a twin city to Guelph, Ontario – a city where I currently spend 5 days a week. I already obviously knew Guelph had a large Italian population, but apparently many here descend from Castelfrancians as well! What a coincidence.
A few other surnames that caught my eye just for being interesting, in the Castelfranco area were Rebellato, Del Dio Loco, Squizzato and Stangberlin.